I’ve been thinking about writing this article for a couple months and I knew the direction I wanted to go. I had my ideas together and arranged, but I kept putting it off. I always put stuff off. This morning I was taking a shower and I knew what to write. Not purchasing a waterproof iPhone case has kept the shower my most inspirational spot.
The holiday season of 2013
This year for our staff Christmas party one of our stops was to visit a home in Detroit. This home was on the corner of an obviously rough, dilapidated neighborhood. A young couple felt the burden to open a home for children that were in and out of the foster-care system, providing a safe, loving and nurturing environment to these kids that knew no stability. This home was breathtaking, full of so much character. You could almost feel the history inside the freshly painted walls and stained wood floors. Energy.
After hors d’oeuvres the husband rounded everyone up and sat us down so he could share some of their history and passion. I remember being gripped with the burden for the lost children in Detroit having the nation’s highest foster-care rates. There are so many kids without stable homes to live in. The thought overwhelmed me.
Something he said that evening rang in my head for the next months and even now to this day. He said something to this effect, “As Christians we believe that abortion is wrong. We fight it. We vote for people that will fight it. We speak out against it. But how many of us are willing to step in and relieve the burden of a young woman’s unplanned pregnancy? In other words, can you be outspoken against something but not offer support or a solution for a person making this decision?”
That notion sparked something in me. It pushed me to question some of the ways I’ve acted and believed my whole life. It set me on a journey to, what I feel as I look back, grow in my ideas on what the Bible calls, “the least of these.”
As the months passed this new burden was becoming annoying and unbearable. I didn’t know what to do. Something I teach in the Get Whole weekend class is that the Spirit guides us and nudges us; He never nags or pressures us.
Why was I so bothered?
Once you see a problem you want to fix it. I have a 6 person family and two cats. We don’t live lavishly but we enjoy some comfort. We eat out, we don’t track our gasoline usage or monitor every single expenditure. But after the bills are paid, I don’t see how I could make much of a dent in this issue. My time is not much different, it’s always spent.
One morning, in the shower, I was thinking about this and all the sudden something dropped into my soul.
Aaron you are a male, a white, straight male that comes from a relatively privileged background and you have a voice, a following, a stage to speak from. You can speak out for the least of these.”
I understood. It was a lightness, like the weight I was feeling was lifted off the shoulders of my mind. That weightlessness didn’t last long as I thought about this path. Not the easiest undertaking.
Changes to my point of view
My parents both grew up in church but didn’t have much use for it. It wasn’t until their mid-twenties that they really found God for themselves. Their lives changed almost instantly — like a miracle. They moved toward what I would describe as an evangelical, spirit-filled, conservative Christian experience that believed in divine healing and the infallible, literal reading of scripture. These ideals shaped me and I’m thankful for them. I grew up with a great foundation.
I want to be careful here and make sure its understood that in sharing the finessing of my worldview that I don’t mean to speak disparagingly about my roots. I’m thankful for my roots and realize that everything that shapes us should be a springboard into the next thing. I may not agree one hundred percent with some of the ideas I used to hold but I’m an adult and realize that we all are entitled to our viewpoint, even differing ones. When we shut down opposing views instead of listening and pondering it shows insecurity. Defensiveness is a really bad chauffeur.
As I close out this article, let me share an example of a change in my point of view. I believe the basis for our beliefs should be founded on scripture. The problem comes in when we don’t look at scripture holistically: the background from the writer, the audience and the historical period that it was written in. At times we can read a scripture and take it at face value and it can be helpful but other times we make scripture say something that it was never meant to say and this retards our understanding on a subject.
Just get a job
The Bible says in Thessalonians 3:10, “If you don’t work you shouldn’t eat.” In my thinking this verse easily and simply applied to the “lazy people that take food stamps when they should very well get a job.” As a young man even as young as a 10 year old I was always working. I had lawn cutting jobs then in 6th grade I started cleaning the church. In my high school years I worked as many hours as was legal in America for my age and did side work for electrical and carpet cleaning companies. In other words I always had multiple jobs.
I didn’t understand why anyone, other than the disabled, couldn’t be like me. And that is the kicker: why can’t everyone just be like me? We do this all the time and its ugly. Let me be clear: I don’t believe socialism has all the answers and I don’t believe capitalism is the answer either, as it can push one down so the other can rise up.
There’s multiple ways to look at Thessalonians 3:10. The Bible was written to a mostly agricultural society. In the Old Testament God gave very clear instructions to farmers. They were to harvest their crops and leave a certain percentage on the plants so the poor and widows could gather and sustain themselves for free. This is a scriptural basis for the American welfare system. It could be said that if one is not willing to work by gathering these left over foods then they shouldn’t be entitled to eat. Simple right?
What isn’t so simple is what is required to get a job in America in the time we now live. There are many barriers not to mention the lack of role models for a large section of our population. To get a job you need to have transportation and an address. To have both of those you need insurance and money. To have money you need to have a job. I grew up with both the means and the role models.
Compassion for the least
A while back I saw a documentary that followed a young black girl through this very struggle. She had a baby when she was 16. I know, just don’t have sex and you won’t have a baby. Well you had sex right? So really you just lucked out and didn’t get pregnant, but I digress. She wanted to work so she set out to find a job. She didn’t have a car but she did have an address. The problem however was that to get to the bus stop, to get to the job she had to walk thru some very dangerous areas where girls regularly were raped. She couldn’t afford a car because she didn’t have a job.
So the cycle of poverty continues. But hey, just get a job! After all, the Bible says if you don’t work you shouldn’t eat. The Bible has more things to say that would seem to contradict this literal, non-holistic Thessalonians reading.
Matthew 5:42, “Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.”
Luke 6:30, “Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again.”
Isaiah 58:6-7, “Is not this the fast that I choose: to…share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?”
Are you like me?
Now that I’ve introduced myself and my thoughts I wonder if maybe, just maybe you feel like I could be introducing you as well. If I struck a chord, both good or bad feel free to comment below.
There is a world full of the least of these, marginalized, judged and kicked aside that are crying out for help. Our background, our wealth, our stable environment, or innovative minds should push us to act on behalf of those that are stuck in this world’s system and are not able to lift themselves up on their own.
Peace & wholeness on your journey!