Living Comfortably

from Oct 22, 2011 Category: Articles

Is it wrong to live as comfortably as we do, while people are starving in other parts of the world?

It is most certainly wrong to not at least ask the question. It should at least jar us a bit. We ought at least to check our hearts when we see starving children in Africa on our 60 inch televisions.  Then, however, we need to set aside the emotional response, and see what the Bible has to say.

First, the Bible says quite a bit about our obligation to, at least among the brethren, feed and serve those in need. Matthew 25 reminds us that our failure to feed the hungry and clothe the naked is a failure to serve our Lord.  Calloused hearts have no place in the Christian life. Neither, however, does guilt manipulation. Neither does adding to God’s law. God has given us instruction in the formation of the nation of Israel as to how the poor and needy need to be helped. Poor tithes are established. Gleaning laws are established. Jubilee is established. What is not established, however, is either the wrongheaded notion that the poverty of one person is the result of the prosperity of another, or the backwards idea that to live beyond some arbitrary level of comfort is a sin against God and man.

When God established His design for caring for the poor of Israel note first that He did not establish a progressive tithing system. While certainly the more prosperous were to give more than the less the prosperous, they were not called to give a higher percentage of the wealth God had entrusted to their care.  They were called instead to enjoy the blessing of God with clean consciences.

This does not mean, of course, that one might not, whatever one’s level of prosperity, give more than God requires. What it does mean, however, is that no man, through guilt, and no state, through force, is free to require a man to give more than God requires. One famous evangelical asked years ago if Jesus were on earth today would He drive a BMW. He thought not, and I tend to agree.  He thought such would be too ostentatious for Jesus. I think He might prefer a Mercedes. 

One need not feel guilty for what God has given you, save for two reasons. First, if your gain is ill-gotten, by all means feel guilty. If your prosperity is the fruit of stealing from others, lying to others, repent. Second, if your prosperity was earned through serving others in the marketplace there yet remains one thing- you need to give thanks to the Master who owns all things. Our prosperity isn’t our due, but God’s good grace. He is not pleased if we take it for granted, nor if we look down our noses at it.  

Do not judge your brother if he obeys God’s law, no matter how God has chosen to bless him. Do not be ashamed, if you are obeying God’s law and God is blessing you.  Do not close your heart against those in need. Instead give freely, and be certain to give thanks.