The World is Not Local
By Mike Stickler
7 If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them.
8 Rather, be openhanded and freely lend them whatever they need.
9 Be careful not to harbor this wicked thought: “The seventh year, the year for canceling debts, is near,” so that you do not show ill will toward the needy among your fellow Israelites and give them nothing. They may then appeal to the Lord against you, and you will be found guilty of sin.
10 Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to.
11 There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.
Over the years I have been involved with many initiatives to help the poor, both in local communities and in the developing world. Often these are in response to a disaster or unforeseen circumstance that has befallen suffering victims of hunger, homelessness or disease.
It never fails that, when public attention is drawn to others across town or across the world, there is always someone who says ‘we should be taking care of those nearby home first.’ On the face of it, that option seems reasonable. But, I’d like you think about it a bit deeper today.
Those of us who live in North America live in one of the most idyllic cultures in the history of man. We have clean water, working sewer systems, and heat, and electricity—available to all of us. There is not one who cannot access reasonable food and healthcare. For the most part, it comes down to the choice of whether and how we want to partake in the blessings of our wonderful culture in particular situations.
At this point, some might say, “But Mike, there are so many poor, needy, and disenfranchised here, your statement could not possibly be true.”
But it is.
I have seen first hand some of the most impoverished places in the US and Canada. Yet, even in these, the services I note above are available to all. (That’s the issue, then, isn’t it—accessibility and availability? Often, our poor just don’t know how to or might even refuse to access these provisions.)
On the other hand, I have also traveled in the developing world where clean water can be a luxury, where proper sanitation is not available to all. I’ll never forget the first time I saw a 5-year-old boy squat and defecate on a city street because a bathroom was not available.
Have you ever heard of a North American walking 15-20 miles just to get their children to a handful of rice? ... where it saps every ounce of strength from the parent’s body so the child might survive? These are just some of the conditions in which much of the world’s population lives.
When you take the basic pain that so much of the world lives in,
... then magnify it across the globe with natural or man-made disasters, or
... intensify it locally with a child suffering from a physical disability, or
... exacerbate it with a disease like AIDS that spreads through an entire culture primarily because of superstition and lack of education, ‒in these places, life and hope are nearly non-existent.
I believe people who say we must only take care of those within our communities have a very shortsighted view of the world ... of their ‘neighbor.’ And I suspect they don’t understand the generosity of God and His love for His Creation ‒ the people of the world. He has gone to great lengths to meet the spiritual and physical needs of all those suffering. His heart breaks, as should ours, for the condition of all humanity.
Today’s Generosity Challenge: Today I’d like you to do a bit of Internet research and answer these five questions:
1) What is the average daily income for someone living in the developing world?
2) What’s the average lifespan there?
3) Why don’t families in the developing world practice birth control but, instead, raise large families?
4) Describe the day-to-day menu of these people.
5) Describe the average person’s living situation in the developing world.
6) BONUS QUESTION: Now, compare and contrast your findings with your lifestyle.
7) DOUBLE BONUS: What could you do‒even in a small way‒about ‘your neighbor’ in the situations in which you’ve just found them?
Write them down here.
About Michael Stickler
Mike is an author, radio host, and a highly sought after motivational speaker. His best-selling book, A Journey to Generosity, is widely acclaimed throughout the Christian community. He is the publisher of Generous Living Magazine and writes for the Christian Post, 'A Generous Life' column.