Poverty is so hard to see
When it’s only on your tv and twenty miles across town.
Where we’re all living so good
that we moved out of Jesus’ neighborhood.
Where He’s hungry and not feeling so good
from going through our trash.
He says, more than just your cash and coin,
I want your time, i want your voice.
I want the things you just can’t give me.
So what must we do?
Here in the west we want to follow You.
We speak the language and we keep all the rules...
even a few we made up.
Come on and follow me,
but sell your house, sell your SUV
sell your stocks, sell your security
and give it to the poor.
What is this?, Hey what’s the deal?
I don’t sleep around, and I don’t steal.
I want the things you just can’t give me
Because what you do to the least of these
my brothers, you have done it to me.
Because I want the things you just can’t give me.
-The Rich Young Ruler by Derek Webb
And despite the simplicity of the truth, I'm left feeling conflicted.
I really do love people deeply, and most of the time, generosity is an inherent response (though my motives aren't always innocent). My heart is ridiculously soft, pliable, sensitive, compassionate. But my unweildy pride and greed (thinly disguised as good and honest hopes, dreams, ambitions, plans) have grown up around it...twisting and intertwining like gnarled roots. They somehow convince me to just not care. To pretend to be ignorant to the depths of the poverty around me, to justify my choices by comparisons.
I really like to be known as a person that cares about social justice. To be 'all about' peace and love and anti- consumerism, materialism, and corporate america, and Western values that promote self advancement...at any cost. But to be completely honest, I spend so much of my time imagining an even better life for myself... time and money to travel, a bigger house with more space to entertain, a 'study' with room for all our books to be stored in elegant book cases, dressers for our bedroom made of real wood, a dining room set with matching chairs (instead of our hand-me down, wobbly table, and chairs the wrong color....poor me, right?), a porch, a fireplace, a whirlpool tub, a washer and dryer like the ones all the cool people have...(I'm already feeling that familiar buzz of pleasure just imagining it all again...) There are uglier ways to put it. When I'm altogether truthful, I'll call it covetousness, greed, lust.
At a dinner party once, Jesus said to his hosts, "You are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy--full of greed and wickedness! Fools! Didn't God make the inside as well as the outside? So clean the inside by giving gifts to the poor, and you will be clean all over."
I can do that...I give gifts to the poor. Pretty generous ones (...I like to tell myself). But they're still gifts that don't really hurt, or stretch my budget. Ones that allow me to maintain (maybe even upgrade from time to time) my lifestyle.
And to someone else with a similar fortune to mine, He said, "There is still one thing you haven't done. Sell all your posessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then, come follow me."
"...I want the things you just can't give Me."