Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in
one pretty and well preserved piece, but to skid across the line
broadside, thoroughly used up, worn out, leaking oil, shouting …
“GERONIMO!” – Bill McKenna, professional motorcycle racer
Sometimes it might seem like the goal of the Christian life is to be “safe”and “responsible.” It might seem like we’re supposed to follow all the rules and dot all the “i”s and cross all the “t”s so that everything is in its place and all is well with the world. Actually, that sounds a lot more like being a Pharisee than being a Christian.
I’m with Bill McKenna: Christians should live in overdrive, planning to use up every last ounce of energy and love on behalf of Jesus who gave us everything. Imagine what the Church could do if we had that kind of passion. Imagine the fun we’d have! Some of the things that lukewarm Christians do are pretty amazing. On-fire Christians could make the world into a new place. The dents we could make in problems like poverty, hunger, genocide, and alienation from God would be incredible. Big dents. It would move solutions to these problems to a completely different level.
One place where we look for safety is money. Having money makes us feel safe. We think if we have enough money, everything will be fine. After all, money provides access to enjoyable things (like good food, nice houses, video games, toys, cell phones, etc.) and necessary things (like health care and books – okay, maybe books are not a necessity, but they’re close). We think that if we have enough money, we can have anything we really want, even though we repeat the cliché that “money can’t buy everything.” Actually, we are more likely to use the modern version of that statement, “Two tickets to the concert — $250. Dinner in a nice restaurant — $197. The look on your date’s face when you propose marriage – priceless.” I’ll leave out the plug for MasterCard at the end because that ruins the point. When the plug for MasterCard is included, what the commercial really invites us to believe is the lie that you can’t have the “priceless” things unless you get the “pricey” things ahead of time. But we know the truth. Your child is more likely to smile because of the cardboard than because of the expensive toy inside the cardboard. Much of the time, money can’t buy satisfaction, much less safety.
Yet, money can make a profound impact for good in the world. Money can do amazing thing. You’ve heard me say this before, but it is something that bears repeating: If every Christian in the United States tithed (that is, gave 10% of their income), we would have enough money to feed every hungry person in the world. That’s just the Christians in the U.S. giving 10%! “If Americans who identify with the historically Christian church had chosen to give 10% to their congregations in 2016, rather than the 2.17% given that year, there would have been an additional $172 billion available for work through the church. If those members had specified that 60% of their increased giving were to be given to international missions, there would have been an additional $109.3 billion available for the international work of the church. That would have left an additional $36.4 billion for domestic missions, including poverty conditions in the U.S., and this all on top of our current church activities. One source estimates that an additional $70 to $80 billion a year could address the basic needs of the poorest people around the world. Additionally, $5 billion a year could end the estimated 5.9 million children under five dying around the globe each year.” (These numbers are from empty tomb, inc., a group that studies Christian giving. Go to http://www.emptytomb.org to learn more about the possible impact of Christian giving.)
Can our giving make a difference? Yes! Does our giving make a difference? Just ask the people in communities in India, Haiti, Angola and Sierra Leone where donations from Trinity have helped dig or refurbish wells. Clean water makes a huge difference in people’s lives. Your gifts to Living Water during the Advent Conspiracy have had a huge impact on people’s lives.
Time is another gift that we’ve been given and one that even money can’t get for us. But the quality of the time we have improves when we spend it doing the things that we were made to do: worshiping, doing meaningful work, enjoying God’s creation, eating meals with others, loving people, serving those in need. Think about sharing some of your time with somebody in need. Maybe visiting a nursing home or tutoring a kid in Hartford or going on a mission trip to Alaska or Africa. The potential impact is more than we can dream. You’ve all heard stories about lifechanging experiences – and a lot of the life-change happens to the people who are the ones that are “giving.” Just talk to any of the people from Trinity who went to Alaska, New Orleans, Appalachia, Haiti, South Africa, Chile, the Philippines, or Nicaragua to help people in need. Talk to any of the people who volunteer to tutor children. Talk to the people who visit nursing homes. When you share some of the time you have been given, lives are changed, one by one. And it is a wonderful, God-blessed thing.
All too often, we get the feeling that “I can’t do anything,” or “I can’t make a difference.” Those are the lies of Satan. The truth is that God wants to work through you. The Holy Spirit can empower you. The love of Christ can be real in someone’s life through your voice and your hands. For us, as Christians, that is the reality: God works through us.
So, ask God to help you live a little dangerously. Ask God to take away your reluctance and your fear. Remember how much Jesus loves you and ask him to give you the joy of serving and giving. That is why we give and serve and love others: because we know how much God loves us, and we can give and serve out of gratitude and joy. Don’t give and serve out of guilt – you won’t last very long. You’ll burnout too soon. Just remember how much God loves you. Remember Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross for you. Remember that the Holy Spirit is in your life, is in you. Then jump on that motorcycle and ride for God’s kingdom.