How Do We Change This Horrible System

Sometimes I feel sick to my stomach when I hear stories about how little it takes to help someone, and yet they remain unhelped. Rob Bell tells a story about this women who got a small business loan and how it transformed her life and her families life and was able to provide for the people under her care and it was all because of this loan. The loan’s worth; $75. I then think about all the seventy-five dollar purchases I’ve made in my life and feel sick about how brutally I’ve spent it. Here are some of the things I’ve spent $75 on:

– T-shirt and Jeans
– Monthly Car Insurance
– 24 DVD Series Seasons 1-5
– Groceries
– My bi-monthly web hosting fees
– Cable and Internet
– Dinner at a fancy restaurant for Rachel and I

After looking at that list, I surprise myself at my lack of energy I put into spending my money wisely. I could very well blame it on my lack of knowledge, because it is true, even if I did want to give a small business loan to someone to help kick start their life, I wouldn’t know where to begin. I could blame it on our culture, after all when we live in our culture it is just more expensive and we have different needs. I could blame it on many things, but all my justifications are coming back to haunt me. I just started reading “Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger” by Ron Sider. I’m one chapter in and I’m floored by some of the statistics like this one:

“UNICEF estimates that the total cost of providing basic social serves in the developing countries, including health, education, family planning, and clean water, would cost $30 to $40 billion per year. The rich of this world spend more than this on golf each year.”

How are we as Christians supposed to live in a way that we live justly and not just merciful. I want to help the rejects and the products of a systems that injures and spits out broken people but now more than ever I want to help change the system. How are we to do it? I feel that Jesus holds the answer, but I’m way too nervous to actually do what he says. I’m way too good at justifying it to myself that what Jesus says really isn’t what he means either. He doesn’t actually want us to sell everything we have and give it to the poor does he? I’m feeling convicted yet lost at the same time. I know my lifestyle needs to change even more and I know that there is such a long way for me to go before I actually start affecting the system, but I don’t know where to go next. I’m broken at the state of our world, it hurts to see people in agony and it makes no sense that I am so happy. I want to use my position, my gifts and my talents to actually change this system that hurts so many but I don’t know where to start.

“Imagine what one quarter of the world’s Christians could do if they became truly generous. A few of us could move to desperately poor areas. The rest of us could defy surrounding materialism. We could refuse to let our affluent world squeeze us into its consumerisitic mold. Instead, we could become generous non-conformists who love Jesus more than wealth. In obedience to our Lord, we could empower the poor through small loans, community development, and better societal systems. And in the process, we would learn again this paradoxical truth that true happiness flows from generosity.”

Looks like a good start.

10 Comments

  • Rob Bell told 1 story. How many people get loans and nothing comes from it? In our amazing western culture 1 out of 10 people that start a business actually succeed (success measured by “getting by”).

    Just because one person found a market and made it work on $75 doesnt mean we should drop money on every poor sap that comes my way.

    Alot of people are poor because they dont want to do anything about it. Those keen go getters will eventually get theres. Those people that sit around and expect the world to open up and take pity on them will get theirs as well: nothing.

  • There are hundreds of millions of micro loans given out to people (especially women) all over the world and the system is working beautifully. Loans of 75, 100 to 500 dollars.
    Careful that you don’t compare many of the poor that we have probably come in contact with in our country to the billions of poor in countries that you or I have never come in contact with.

  • Do you really think all those people in poverty stricken countries are poor because there lazy? I dont, not one minute. There are a lot of eager people out there.

    Why dont we address a bigger issue?
    Government.

    Heres a story.
    Today I was picked up at the airport in Fort McMurray. A Pakistani gentleman rushed to my side, picked up my bags and placed them in his back seat.
    He drove me to my hotel an I asked him to stay for a minute so I could check my bags. He got out of the van (keep in mind its 25 below here today) and checked them for me.
    I asked him if he wanted a coffee and we sat and chatted as they got my room ready.
    We got back in the taxi and he told me all about his family and life in Pakistan. (We had a lot in common; he loves Liverpool).
    The drive from my hotel to the refinery is about 35 minutes so we covered a lot.
    Heres a recap of his life:
    He was a Chemical Engineer (they dont just hand those degrees out).
    His wife was a teacher and they have two kids. So why is a chemical engineer carrying my bags? Because his government is corrupt and shitty.

    Turns out he was made in Pakistan; good job, good income: good life. Only problem is his government was unpredictable. Go on strike; get killed. Step out of line; get killed. People started fighting people; innocent people were being killed all over. He suddenly realized that it wasnt a place he wanted to raise his kids. He didnt want to raise his family in a place that offered superficial security.
    So now he drives a cab. Hes poor but he appreciates his freedoms. His life now consists on making a better life for his kids.

    We can give loans to people in poor countries all we want but unfortunately, their government can give and take an opportunity as quick and we reach in our pockets and hook someone up with $75.

  • Ron. Are you arguing against yourself? Cause your not arguing against me, you just repeated what I said in my post. Here is what I said.

    “How are we as Christians supposed to live in a way that we live justly and not just merciful. I want to help the rejects and the products of a systems that injures and spits out broken people but now more than ever I want to help change the system.”

  • Being Bolivian, being from a country with one of the worst governments in the world and one of the highest rates of poverty, I would argue that government is not the solution to these problems. The problem does not lie in the structure, but in the people. I’ve seen so many people place all of their hopes in political leaders, and do nothing themselves to change the country. Although I agree that a government should provide for its people, I would argue for a bottom-top model. The Church is the most important tool in the world. Change people’s hearts and lives with the gospel, and other things will follow. Government does not change people, people change governments. Maybe I am too idealistic, but I do think that Jesus was all about people-change, not government-change.

  • Some of the greatest leaders who have changed the world rallied the people not their governments

    Ghandi.
    Jesus.
    etc.

    Thanks for the comment Mike.
    The question is though, how as a people do we change corrupt systems. Cause while we want to think our system even here in North America is amazing, there is still so many corrupt things in it. Is it really as simple as not buying Nike as some want to make it seem? I feel like its deeper than just that, I just don’t know what it is.

  • Nathan, Great Post. I read Sider’s book a while ago and it floored me completely. I sometimes find myself in these types of countries for work, talking and hearing the stories of all kinds of people. A few months ago I was in Central America and saw first hand how two women transformed their own lives and that of their families through a micro-loan. They now bake bread (which tasted quite nice) for their community. They are a success story; should we assume that all or most are successes, no. Should we then throw in the towel and continue to purchase jeans and DVD’s when we know that the same money has the potential to save….no.

    Ron, if you are unsure if the money is getting there, do your research and find a good NGO (you’ll like the Non-government aspect of NGO) that you believe in, and support their work. You aren’t going to change the world with seventy five dollars, but we’ll be a lot closer with a sewing machine in the hand of a desperately poor woman in the Phillipines, than with a new pair of pants from the mall.

  • What if I bought those jeans to minister to the poor?
    I’ll look into an NGO tonight.
    Cheers.

  • I just happened to be reading Richard Foster’s chapter on Simplicity from the Celebration of Discipline last night, and thought you might find this helpful when seeking the balance between materialism and asceticism:

    There is misery today from a simple lack of provision just as there is misery when people try to make a life out of provision. Forced poverty is evil and should be renounced. Nor does the bible condone an extreme asceticism. Scripture declares consistently and forcefully that the creation is good and to be enjoyed…

    “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.” (Matt 6:25-33)

    Focus on the kingdom produces the inward reality, and without the inward reality we will degenerate into legalistic trivia. Nothing else can be central. The desire to get out of the rat race cannot be central, the redistribution of the world’s wealth cannot be central, the concern for ecology cannot be central. Seeking first God’s kingdom and the righteousness, both personal and social, of that kingdom is the only thing that can be central in the Spiritual Discipline of simplicity.

    I know you’re not talking about asceticism per se. However, sometimes I catch myself wanting to just get rid of it all, and while it may be good to do some purging, if I were to be living as simply as I envision, I would surely use that as a platform to increase judgementalism. “If I give all I own to the poor, but have not love…”

  • That’s a killer quote!
    Thanks James.

    There is also a chapter I’ve read in the spirit of the disciplines by dallas willard called “is poverty spiritual” and it is right along the same lines. I think the conclusion that both these guys are coming to is that poverty for the sake of poverty is harmful and irresponsible, we need to see the meaning behind ‘selling all our stuff and giving to the poor’ or whatever we are doing, the point is two fold from what I see. The poor needs certain stuff and we need to be free of too much stuff.

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