I work for an organization that specializes in releasing children from poverty, so this subject is not only personal but familiar. But just because poverty’s impact is constantly on my radar, doesn’t mean I understand it anymore than the next person or that I (or anyone I work with) have figured out how to “fix it.” There are some days, in all honesty, that the more I know and learn about this epidemic, the more insurmountable it feels.
In searching for a new understanding and vantage point on the subject, a thought came to mind that may be a little unconventional. By this I simply mean that, more often than not, it feels as though the Church is looking for the list of things to do as opposed to understanding what it is that we are supposed to be. In Romans 7, Paul says that we are released from the law and are now under grace. The Law is representative of all the things we used to do when we were captive to earning salvation. But grace released us, prisoners to the law, from the bondage of earning redemption; grace lavished salvation over our souls at no cost; outside of anything we have done, beyond what we would ever be capable of doing.
In chapter 8, Paul writes it this way: “For the law of the Spirit of Life (grace) has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” Again, the “law of sin and death” are those laws which, while the Lord gave us as standards, the church (in my opinion) has made ultimate; and they are no longer standards and guidelines for living or being, but are rather absolutes for doing.
Why the emphasis on doing versus being? I’ll tell you. I think that the misunderstanding and mingling of the two is, at the core, the problem that birthed poverty.
To “do” or the act of “doing” according to Webster means to “perform, execute, or accomplish.” According to our very action-oriented, output-obsessed society, these are all good and praiseworthy things. The equation seems to be busyness = productivity = holiness. But won’t the well run dry at some point? If you are only ever and always doing this and that, at what point and where do you renew your source of energy, passion, vision, direction, etc.? When do you stop to remind yourself the reason behind all the doing? Because if you are anything like me…the reason behind much of what I have done in the past morphs into a less-than-noble form of habit.
On the other hand, to “be” or the act of “being” means “to exist or live; to belong.” Call me crazy, but that sounds a heck of a whole lot more appealing than “doing.” To “exist” is something that happens outside of your own ability or will. If you exist, it is because Someone created you to exist at this appointed time and in the appointed place where you while you read this. In other words, it is outside of your control; you had nothing to do with it.
A few of my favorite verses have to do with this very subject. For example Philippians 1:6 says that “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ.” So not only is God doing the “doing” but is in fact a continual process. Our role: to simply be. Be available. Be obedient. Just be.
The other verse that relates to this is found in 1 Thessalonians 5. After giving a list (Remember, I didn’t say that we weren’t give a list of to-do’s, I just said that they are not ultimate; they are not bigger/better/more important than our relationship with the Lord) in verse 16-18—“rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in all circumstances”—Paul then says in verse 24 “He who calls you is faithful and He will surely do it.” So again, God does the “doing” and we are called to “be.”
So here’s my take. If we, believers, seek the Lord wholly and completely, above anything and everything else, would not the natural outflow of our hearts, minds, bodies, money, time, etc. be spent on and given to those things, people, places for which the Lord is absent? If we were so utterly consumed, from the inside out, with the Word and the Holy Spirit, would not our sole desire be to be Christ to those who do not know Him? Would not we feel totally compelled to share Him in the way we live, as testimonies, in the darkest places?
I think we would. But being pre-occupied with “doing” these things, instead of letting them naturally pour out of us, takes the divinity and sovereign control out of the hands and responsibility of God. In other words, I wonder if, in our “holy intention” we don’t steal from the Lord what is rightfully His (i.e. our complete surrender and total obedience) and make it look like what we think it ought to look like. And in doing so, we actually accomplish less. We get overwhelmed. We get confused. We run out of resources. We run out of time. We run out of ideas. We run out of strength to press on because our strength is never enough. In relying on ourselves, we find our attempts unfruitful, broken, and ultimately, we find that they fail.
So let’s connect the dots then to poverty.
If we, as a body of believers, stopped striving in our own ability and strength to be the hero of different situations and circumstances, and instead simply allow Christ, dwelling within us, to do what He wants through us by our simple obedience…how much more might He be capable of doing by our being?
If we are to look like Jesus in our living and being, then shouldn’t we compare ourselves to Him? Fine, let’s start with the obvious. When was the last time you fed someone on the street?
Jesus fed 5,000.
I don’t look like Him. Do you?