Social justice · Spiritual growth and healing

My wealth problem

Can I share with you a little of my struggle with wealth?

And no – I don’t have the problem of being a millionaire or anything like that. But there are issues in my mind relating to how wealthy I am compared to, well, most people outside of the Western world.

“Join the club,” you might say. We’ve heard statistics like these a million times:

Total Percentage of World Population that lives on less than $2.50 a day 50%
Total number of people that live on less than $2.50 a day 3 Billion
Total Percentage of People that live on less than $10 a day 80%
Total percent of World Populations that live where income differentials are widening 80%
Total Percentage of World Income the richest 20% account for 75%
Total Number of children that die each day due to Poverty 22,000
Total Number of People in Developing Countries with Inadequate Access to Water 1.1 billion
Total Number of School Days lost to Water Related Illness 443 million school days

*Taken from http://www.statisticbrain.com/world-poverty-statistics/ – March 2012.

It’s become almost fashionable to share the stats, as if by sharing them you may as well have fixed the poverty problem. So what’s our alternative to endless stat listing? Guilt tripping. ‘You’ve heard the figures, so what are you going to do about it? You’ve seen the hungry faces. Surely your heart goes out to them. Do something if you have heart!…’

Not that I think there’s anything wrong with moving pleas for help – in fact, they can be quite effective. But sometimes in our zeal to promote the poverty problem, we can miss the journey of the heart behind giving.

I’ll tell you what my problem is. I’m in this endless cycle of being moved to give, then realising that I can’t give to everyone or I’ll go broke (though of course not in the true third world sense)… and afterwards, the cause leaves my mind. Then I might give to another, smaller cause, feel better about myself for two seconds, then be convicted again that I’m really not doing enough, and that what I paid for my McDonalds lunch could have fed a low-caste Indian family for a week… and so on and so forth… Guilt, guilt and more guilt.

And I tell you what. Guilt achieves nothing more than perhaps short, knee-jerk reactions. Guilt won’t solve the poverty problem. Or any real problem for that matter.

Do you want to know what I think the solution for wealth guilt is? Discovering what you’re passionate about and sticking to it. Committing to it boldly.

Technically, we could solve the poverty problem overnight – we all know that. But really we can’t because there are too many people stuck in a cycle of tortured thoughts and no action, like I have been.

Well, the first thing I’m going to do is scream ‘Enough!!!’

OK… so I might not be quite that dramatic. But I’m certainly going to put a big ‘Stop’ sign in front of the endless internal povery-wealth analysis and say: You know what God? I’ve deliberated long enough. How do you want me to give? What am I passionately against? What cause am I passionate for? How much will I offer financially to this cause, and how much will I give spiritually? Or physically perhaps.

Here are some things that might really get us worked up:

Domestic violence

Human trafficking

Physical and mental disabilities

Cancer

Homelessness

The global AIDS epidemic

Maltreatment of animals

Youth suicide

And the list goes on… Just Google any of these and you’ll see a whole list of relevant charities.

But it can’t end with Googling. Or watching that teary DVD. Or sending yourself on an around-the-world guilt trip. I know from experience.

It has to start with realising the battle we actually do face. We face constant opposition to giving selflessly. Think about it. You’ll be watching an ad from World Vision one minute, then the next you’ll see a ‘You’re worth it’ ad for hair conditioner. Or the new Cadbury chocolate. Or the latest Justin Bieber album. Jokes, I don’t really struggle with this temptation…

Not that there’s anything wrong with pampering yourself, or Justin Bieber (lol)

There are so many things God has given us to take pleasure in. But if life is purely hedonistic, it’s zapped of its meaning I think – when God is subtracted anyway.

So for me, I need to realise the battle, stare it down, and claim that God will help me give to the cause that is right for my heart and my passion. Or the charity that I feel really connects best with what I’m concerned with.

Not that I’m wanting to imply this is right for you – because only you will know what your interest is – but I found this cool website recently (http://sevenly.org/) from a charity which sells newly designed T-shirts every week that both help promote and donate to a cause. I bought a T-shirt through Sevenly to help with the domestic violence issue, and people sometimes ask me about the shirt, which offers a chance to talk about the issue, and perhaps promote the charity. It’s a start anyway.

Usually change is made in baby steps. If you’re convicted about a particular issue you might like to map out the steps you’ll take to helping the cause. No-one needs to tell you, or guilt you, into giving. But if you feel inspired, or moved, or excited about a particular issue, ask God to expand it in your heart. And act on His promptings.

Giving in any form, in my opinion, is best done not out of duty, but by people who know they are deeply loved by the God of the universe. And who realise that every single thing we own is really His. We can’t hold on to any of it when we die.

May we each find our causes, or callings – and truly give from a heart of excited, passionate appreciation of how much we really do have.

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31 thoughts on “My wealth problem

  1. Thx for the thoughtful article! I have often struggled with this wealth problem and you articulated it so well! It’s so true that we don’t own anything but everything is from God. May He help each of us to give generously with discernment, as good stewards should.

  2. Hi Alison 🙂

    It’s Sharon from playgroup! What a lovely post! I, too have been struggling with the same issue and just so encouraging to read someone else’s thoughts on this… feels better that I’m not the only one! hehe.. thanks for the encouragement and for the things to think about….

    See you next Friday!

    1. Hi Sharon! Great to see you here! Yeah I think we all struggle with the feeling we could be doing more. It’s such a discernment issue I think. Thanks for your encouragement 🙂 (see you then!)

  3. I’ve felt this guilt and anxiety when faced with one need after another–seems like everyone has their hand out and I have a limited amount of money. But the guilt ended when I realized that God only expects me to do what I can, not what I can’t, or don’t have the money for. We give what we can, do what we can, and realize that God will prompt others to give.

    1. That’s a real revelation I think. It frees us up to think it’s not all up to us, but God will prompt as the needs arise.
      Blessings to you,
      Ali

  4. Thank you for helping us get rid of the guilt and discern what God wants us to do. 🙂 I love how He led you! God bless you as He leads you on!

    1. Yeah, discernment is key I think – and He is so amazing when we just open up our hearts and minds to His guidance 🙂 Thanks Debbie, and you too!

  5. I can definitely relate….but then I realised that even Jesus said the poor will always be with us. It’s not just about money. I truly believe God does give us an abundance so we can help other but I don’t believe we will solve poverty. Because there’s more to poverty than money….it’s a bondage thing as well. Some people are literally in a cycle of constant poverty because of their thought life…..they may become millionaires & lose it all in one day. I have never experienced third world poverty but I do understand what it’s like to have the feasting & famine mindset. To be so happy to have wealth that you spend it all and then to experience a sort of famine agian….a constant cycle. There are many great causes and we are definitely called to be God’s hands & feet. But we must always remember our main calling & that is to share the gospel. Because this world will not get any better until Christ comes to reign and the hearts of men are changed. The world is still under the curse of sin & it’s groaning in pain……ah but someday soon this place will be brand new & no one will hunger.

    I hope this doesn’t sound like I’m against helping because truly I am all about helping & I do. I just wanted to add a bit of perspective because I know what it’s like to beat yourself up with guilt. It’s definitely all about how God leads you personally. We are to be wise. I have gotten myself in bad situations before because of my zeal to help others. I didn’t use any discernment. We can’t help everyone like you pretty much said.

    I really like World Vision as far as overseas help….but also there is so much in my own city….shelters & such. Sometimes giving time is just as important as giving money.

    Anywho, sorry if I sound preachy & you probably know all this. Your thoughts just sounded so familiar to my own at times 😉

    God bless!

    1. This is really helpful Amber – I agree with you. I think people need Jesus first, and change and empowerment are more likely to flow from that foundation. I think we can over-emphasise poverty solutions/ humanitarian causes at the detriment of the gospel being spread – which is, as you say, where freedom begins. Very well said, thanks heaps for your wise insights. God bless xx

  6. oh and another note…..there are some organizations (World Vision may be one of them) that do teach people how to farm & take care of themselves. I really see a lot of value in that method. You know what they say about if you give a man a fish as compared to teaching him to fish. In American poverty I think a lot of people have no clue how to handle finances. People really need to be taught certain skills. We have definitely learned the hard way & are still trying to change our mindsets on money.

    Oh they’ve come up with this nutrition bar that can nourish a starving child in a couple of weeks. It’s called plumpy bar I think…..has peanuts etc in it. World Vision is using it. I got a letter today….pretty kewl.

    1. Wow, it’s really interesting to hear about the plumpy bar – how amazing! And the teach a man to fish idea makes so much sense – if we’re not empowering people to make changes in their own lives, then it’s just endless handouts with no long-term change.

  7. Great post! I think about this a lot. It seems at every grocery check out, or in front of the stores, there’s someone wanting money for something. Of course I can’t help everyone, but I have to admit, I do feel like a jerk when I tell them,”no thank you.” They look at me like, “what, you can’t spare a dollar to help a child with muscular distrophy?”

    In November, my Cub Scout den spent two hours packaging food for Feed My Starving Children. The boys really enjoyed it and I think we all felt good that the packets would keep someone from going hungry, at least for that day. I do support a local women’s shelter, mostly by donation. (When I find great sales, I’ll buy clothes to donate. I leave the tags on, so they know they are new.)

    I like the Sevenly site idea and will have to check it out. You’re right that giving is best done willingly and I also look for God’s guidance into what more I can do – I know I can do more.

    1. Yeah, there’s always the tension of knowing we can probably do more, and guilting ourselves for not giving to everything. It’s good to hear about what you’ve enjoyed doing, as you’ve been led. I love the idea of donating new clothes, that’s lovely!

  8. hey…i’ve been following your blog from my mobile and enjoyed your thoughts immensely. i am from Thailand, a country that used to be (or still is) “the third world” or “a developing country”…as the west calls us. i am also a person who works in an anti-poverty organization. and i must tell you first that i am grateful for a person like you, who allows God to use you as an instrument of advocacy. 🙂 God stirs the passion in your heart so you may be able to follow His heart.

    i guess a person can consume so much about poverty from TV, internet or magazines but eventually ends up sitting before a TV screen or a magazine page with a hungry-looking child…feeling too overwhelmed. and, at last, deciding to walk away from what he just watched and going on about his routine.

    one thing i learned from working directly with the poor (Compassion International) and living amidst the poor, i must say that we are not taking the word “poverty” seriously. and we misinterpret the scripture Jesus talks about “the poor will always be with us”. because of this scripture, we do not expect to end any poverty at all…because…well, what would be the point if we work hard to help an african child knowing that he will never leave the poverty cycle. all that we do will end up a charity work…satisfying a handful of people with money to feel less guilty. the irony is that though the rich thinks that the poor will continue to be poor…that the poverty is too overwhelming for us to help them, the poor has a different idea. despite the hardship, the harsh living environment and the gruesome financial difficulty, the poor has hope and is pushing for the better.

    what we need to consider is “do we still think the poor will always be with us?” if the answer is yes, then, we need to expect more…because expectation leads to determination…and determination, transformation.

    thank you for the last paragraph that awakens us to respond to God according to His love for mankind and to what He has given us to steward. there’s another website i’d love for you to check out. it started out as a movement based on Isaiah 58 and now has become an organization >> http://www.live58.org/

    they are doing a monthly fast and donating money to different causes in different countries throughout the year.

    God bless you, dear friend. thanks for posting this again! 🙂

    mink

  9. Hi Mink
    Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. I appreciate the encouragement too.
    I like what you say about expectation-determination-transformation. How can any of us better our lives if we don’t expect them to be better. If we don’t have hope… And I think part of the solution to poverty (material or spiritual) must be in the ‘wealthy’ offering hope, showing how circumstances can be different, and inspiring people. But if we aren’t inspired by the change God can make, how will anyone else be?
    I like the word stewardship, and whatever way we look at it, we do have a responsibility here on earth to use our resources well. But again it’s a matter for individual discernment. Taking a look at what we have in our hand to give today, and beyond. Asking God to ignite our passion to spread His fame and be a blessing while on earth – because we’ve been blessed with so much.
    Thanks for the link too – I always love hearing about the work of Compassion, and I like this ‘host a screening’ idea a lot! Will see what comes of it.
    It’s been great to discuss the issues 🙂
    Thanks again friend in Christ 🙂
    Ali

  10. Interesting, and I’m afraid I’m a bloke so don’t get sucked into the “guilt” thing.
    Here’s challenge for you, quit giving anything to faceless organisations, and “buying stuff” which means you help slightly but get something back.
    Let the Holy Spirit guide you to give to individuals within organisations that need help. Visit people in the persecuted church and see what they are prepared to sacrifice in Christ’s service.
    Look at a map of the world, see if you’re giving on a local or global perspective. I know folk who have been shot at for sharing the Gospel, and others who been rejected by their families for choosing to follow Jesus.
    Spend some time with folk who are passionate about saving lost souls, helping battered wives – give what you can – and come away enriched!
    If all else fails make up for folk like me who maybe give, but don’t pray with tears.
    Oh, sorry this sounds like a lecture!
    My experience has been that reading, watching a video, and getting newsletters is no substitute for getting involved and being a practical encouragement.
    Am I forgiven?
    S

    1. Nothing to forgive S – awesome advice to reflect on! You’re right, guilt must be a mainly girl thing! Getting involved and becoming moved to action by walking alongside people in ‘real’ situations – profound and refreshing 🙂

  11. A quote from Helen Keller has helped me deal with my guilt is this:
    “I can’t do everything, but I can do something” So, I’ve chosen what I can do, and I try to do that well and say no to other things.

    I like how you said “May we each find our causes” because we do each have different passions.

    Wonderful post!

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