Nearly a year ago, I went to an event at church one Saturday evening with my parents and sister. Every winter the church has a wild game cooking event, where the men make dishes with wild game and everyone can sample the food. When we went to the event in February of this year, a silent auction was also held to benefit a young woman who used to be a member of the church and who is battling cancer. Local businesses donated items for the auction and a lot of the community came to the event. This church is not a mega church; average Sunday morning attendance is around 350. In the end, nearly $40,000 was raised in one night between the silent auction and people just reaching selflessly into their own pockets and bank accounts and helping this young family. Nearly $40,000 in one night given to one family in need. It was so inspiring to see such generosity. That is what it looks like for a church to be the hands & feet of Jesus in a big way. That’s what it looks like to show the love of God to someone. It was beautiful and I felt blessed to have witnessed it.
In contrast to that, a friend texted me a photo today of an event she & her office had been invited to by a local church in a neighboring town. They were given a card that reads – You are invited! Christmas Gift Card Giveaway!! It goes on to give the time & place of the “worship experience” when this will happen. Powerful Drama! Open to EVERYONE! Must be present to enter! This church will be giving away $1,000 in gift cards that morning. There will be five $100 gift cards and one $500 gift card.
Already this bothers me. It just seems bizarre to lure in the masses with the promise of the shot at money. But what I learned next put me over the edge.
The gentleman who came to invite my friend and her coworkers to the Christmas Gift Card Giveaway went on to tell them that there are several needy families in their church and he asked if they could possibly each give a few dollars to help meet the needs of those families.
I’m sorry, what? What?! I don’t understand. There is a disconnect. This is absolute nonsense. Why is this church missing this? Are they confused? Because I am most certainly confused. Call me crazy, but I’m thinking common sense would tell this church that if they have $1,000 at their disposal right now and there are families within their own church in need, help those families. Meet those needs.
Money talks. I know. This is America. Money talks, but you know what talks louder and resonates longer? Meeting a need.
This church may give away a $500 gift card to someone who comes to their big event. That person might be a mom who will buy a designer purse for herself and/or an X-Box for her teenage son. That church member will still be hungry, and that is absolutely shameful. In fact, it’s not only shameful, it’s embarrassing.
I have a feeling that even in 2014, “I was hungry and you gave me something to eat” would trump, “I was bored and you gave me an X-Box” every time. I think a kid would forget where his X-Box funds originated a lot faster than a family would forget who put food on their table when they had none. I think if a need was met, that would reflect God’s love and show His true character, and isn’t that the point?
Jen Hatmaker says it best in her book, 7.
Static has always surrounded the Christian life; so much threatens to distract us from the main point. People have always preferred details and complications and rules, but when Jesus was pressed, He said (Jen translation), “Love God and love people. That’s pretty much it.”
Sometimes the best way to bring good news to the poor is to bring actual good news to the poor. It appears a good way to bring relief to the oppressed is to bring real relief to the oppressed. It’s almost like Jesus meant what He said. When you’re desperate, usually the best news you can receive is food, water, shelter. These provisions communicate God’s presence infinitely more than a tract or Christian performance in a local park. (Or, may I add, a Visa Gift Card Giveaway.) They convey, “God loves you so dearly, He sent people to your rescue.”
I guess that’s why “love people” is the second command next to “love God.” And since God’s reputation is hopelessly linked to His followers’ behavior, I suspect He wouldn’t be stuck with His current rap if we spent our time loving others and stocking their cabinets.
Indeed. Church, let’s represent Him well. Please, let’s don’t miss this.