For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder. 2 Cor. 12:20
One thing I felt while living life in Uganda was the painful and disorienting disparity between a world of privilege (the U.S.) and a world where basic resources and opportunities are absent (electricity, water, consistent internet access, education, proper nutrition, clean air air and sanitation, transportation, etc.). The swirl of emotional and intellectual responses include frustration, anger, sadness along with the perplexing questions and faint determination to bring about improvement in the living conditions and expectations of the disadvantaged. Here at home, I drop my children off at birthday parties in beautiful neighborhoods filled with affluent and dearly loved friends and then drive to our neighborhood where boards over windows are more prevalent than well manicured lawns. Even store fronts have hand painted names directly on the bricks of the building rather than more sophisticated and professionally created signage as they display their wares (from furniture to dresses) right out on the sidewalk or parking lot. As I was pulling out of our street the other evening to run an errand, a woman carrying at least six grocery bags was walking home. Seeing her load and the nature of it (milk and bread could be identified through the plastic), I assumed she must be close to her destination. I offered to drive her home, which she gladly accepted. I was shocked to discover that she lived at least two miles from the spot where I picked her up! This long walk carrying groceries is her daily norm.
A life of privilege (owning a car, having access to beautiful swimming clubs and top notch education, being connected to people with influence and power) is in itself a very good thing. It is good to have the luxury of choice when it comes to diet (organic, all natural, local, gluten free, etc.) and the extra time to exercise and the resources to provide children with enriching activities like sports, the arts or trips to museums. It is bad to be dependent upon public transportation, to have limited access to real food, to be offered more behavioral management in school than engaging, curiosity stirring explorations. Ellie, age 9, made this observation the other afternoon: “It seems like the kind of school you get to attend really comes down to the family where you are born . It kind of seems like it all comes down to money.” And at the end of 12+ years, it isn’t mysterious which children will be more qualified for limited university spots or competitive, white collar jobs.
Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this theLord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. 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. Deut. 15:10-11
The poor will always be with us. Poverty and suffering of all natures will not be eradicated until all things are made new, until sin is eradicated and until all hearts are fully sanctified and glorified. The problem isn’t mainly “the poor” or “the privileged”. The problem is mainly my heart. The poor, the disenfranchised, the primitive business methods and run down scenery hold a mirror up to my heart, reminding me that just like Adam and Eve, my first consideration is always Me first. The same can be said about many of the disadvantaged, who often equally regard themselves as entitled to their desires regardless of the legality of their method of attainment. Poverty is simply a glaring symptom of a world of Me firsts. Likewise, there is nothing inherently evil about affluence and privilege, but the fact that our hearts turn to it, cling to it, demand it and trust in it for abundant life, and no more rationally than a golden calf. The disparity between the resourced and the under-resourced is merely a symptom of the disparity between my heart and His, a heart that takes life (mine) and heart that gives life (His).
For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. James 3:16-17
God is orderly. God is peace loving, impartial, full of mercy and good fruit. The throne in God’s Kingdom is already taken, therefore everyone else can settle down and trust there will be manna enough to go around. We will love generously as we have been generously loved. We will serve enthusiastically as we have been sacrificially served. We will be one people under one Kingdom. Shalom…peace and harmony between all created things and their Creator. The disparity destroyed.
If it will be so on that Day, might we begin tasting samples of it now as well? With man, this is impossible. But with God, all things are possible. Oh what good news!
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Rev. 21:1-6