The Challenge of Giving

I think the American church has a huge challenge ahead for us. Doing good and social action has become the cool thing to do. Celebrity social action has moved from guys like Bono, who are just known for doing stuff like that, to Brad Pitt, Alicia Keys, Madonna, Oprah . . . and on and on the list goes. Celebrities and famous people have always contributed a great deal to the greater good of humanity, but it seems like the current cultural milieu is especially ripe with this philanthropy.

Is the church ready for this? We are slowly losing our uniqueness, people are stealing our bylines. Helping the homeless and the less fortunate – isn’t that our tag line? How are we to interpret the good being done in the name of humanitarianism? How are we to respond? I think there are a couple of responses needed.

First of all, Christians must continue to see the world through the discerning eyes of Christ. Much as in my previous post in regards to environmentalism, the current “do good” campaigns are often self-serving. Idol Gives Back. It’s encouraging to see neighbors contributing to such worthy causes, but much as we see in churches, often we are quick to write a check, but seldom to we do things to address the deeper seeded issue. The whole concept of creating an “American Idol” is materialistic and reeks of classism. Writing checks is a helpful thing and it creates some revenue to begin to address the social ills that are oft-highlighted. However, it creates a deeper social conscience to actually make a long-lasting impact.

Last night I had the great priviledge of attending a local township zoning appeals meeting for a business deal our church has gotten rigged up. WOW internet cable wants to build a relay station behind our church building in order to service the surrounding township. After listening to the first item on the list last night, fifteen minutes of discussion about a sign variance request, it was the cable companies turn. They made their proposal, two hours of discussion past by, and they voted against it 3-2 meaning several thousand dollars won’t be coming our way and the area will continue to have only one provider and their consumers will continue to get gouged.

What does that have to do with anything? I’m sure we’re wondering where that came from. Well, I couldn’t help but think during this meeting of how we’ll never move forward in helping solve the world’s problems our local governments are spending hours discussing the kinds of signs being erected, the specific type fonts they will be using, the height they will be placed at, the concerns for future growth and expansion, and on and on they went. Common sense flew out the window. It was too obvious to see that erecting a 10 foot building that won’t really be seen by anyone behind our church building brings a great advantage to thousands of homeowners because three guys didn’t want to see it happen. It illustrates the real muckiness of the problem.

Everyone likes to sing and talk about changing the world, but that’s as long as that won’t cramp my style, won’t affect my life style. And therein is the problem. Feeding the hungry and clothing the naked and bringing clean drinking water around the world, and improving working conditions in third world countries and purifying our breathing air all will take some sacrifice and life change. But that can all wait can’t it? Will I get to talk to that cute blonde chick Brooke if I call Idol Gives Back?

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