“Where you live should not decide, weather you live or weather you die.” -Bono
So here we come to the next question in our ‘you asked’ series: Why are some people given a good life and others a bad life?
As usual, let me give the short answer and then we’ll unpack it as we go along. Simply put; God in his grace give life to all things, including and especially human beings. He then, in a breathtaking move, leaves it to humanity itself to determine if it will indeed share creation evenly or not.
It is of course extremely challenging to type something like this, sitting behind a desk in one of the most extraordinarily blessed countries in the world; Australia. We really have had it so good for so long.
In the beginning of Acts we see a classic text describing the birth of the Church in a small community. It is important to realise that what this really is describing is what happens when God’s kingdom flows into the here and now (That is what a Church is). If this is the case, it also serves as an example of what the world would look like if the Kingdom of God was embraced everywhere:
Acts 2:42-45 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. (emphasis mine)
Compare that with Bono’s statement above: “Where you live should not decide, weather you live or weather you die.”
This is a moral assertion. Therefore proving that we are moral beings, moral beings aware that something is not right. If we can recognise inequality as wrong whilst having the means to do something about it, that makes us morally responsible for it. Not God.
The moment we assert that there not only is inequality among the worlds population and that it is largely our responsibility, the above question becomes: “Well, ok, so if we have mucked up the world to the point where there is such inequality, then why does God allow it to continue?” This I think is the more interesting question. It’s interesting because we’re finally ready to hear why God acts the way he does rather than simply question it.
Here’s my crack at an answer:
The two things that are happening here and the two things that seem to draw people deeper into a relationship with God throughout the entire Bible is humility and obedience. I believe that one of our biggest spiritual problems is that we do not see these two things as gifts, but rather ‘boxes that need to be ticked.’ The truth is however that even our opportunities to respond to God are gifts from God.
They are gifts because they are provide pathways towards the greatest gift of all….knowing God. Although all of us are called to engage in both humility and obedience, the extent to which these have to be practised of course depends on our context. Here is where the ‘growth areas’ are in a community.
To the blessed/wealthy/rich, God grants the gift of a greater call to obedience and sacrifice. Through which the practice of those gifts these people experience the presence of God.
To the poor/needy, God grants the gift of humility and acceptance. Through which, the practice of these gifts, draw them closer to the presence of God.
In this way, the poor teach the rich how to receive a blessing from another whilst the rich ideally teach the needy how to rely on the generosity of God and foster a resolute obediance.
That is what is happening in Acts 2. The wealthy are exercising obedience to be generous and the needy are exercising humility to accept the blessing.
I have often marvelled how in our wealthy western context how many church people I know can be extremely generous and yet when they are in need; struggle enormously to allow people to bless them. This is because by and large our communities are not balance in our exercising of the above gifts.
Let’s zoom out for a moment and look at the entire world. If these gifts were exercised what would it look like? What if the wealthy nations saw generosity as their top priority? What if developing nations saw humility and stewardship as their top priority? The answer is none would have unmet needs not simply because their needs would be being met, but because humanity would be learning to trust and rely upon the God of creation.
Us who are rich must learn the art of generosity. Us that are not, must learn the art of receiving. We all must learn the art of seeing the practical as pathways into the spiritual.
And that folks, is why Jesus doesn’t just go ahead and solve everything, because to do so would rob us of the experience of seeing him work through the gifts he has given us.
So if you’re a Christian leader, resist the temptation to simply run in and solve everything. Rather connect the person with the need to the person with the solution and watch them grow in their awareness of God’s grace together. It’s one of the greatest pleasures we can experience.