the topic of charity has been on my mind quite a bit lately. to my shame, it’s a topic i am not terribly well-versed in. by that i mean, it is not something that comes naturally to me (as it does for some), and, thus, it is something i do not have as much experience in as i wish i had.
but, there have been a number of recent events that have reminded me of the importance of giving. particularly to anyone who considers themselves to be a follower of Christ.
my introduction to blood:water
last winter i had the fortune of attending a christopher williams concert. he’s an incredible musician who makes a trip to our neck of the woods at least once a year. what he can do with a single drum is incredible.
i always appreciate musicians who share about their own faith between songs. christopher williams is one of these musicians. at one point during his performance, still beating his drum, eyes closed, he began sharing with us a bit about a program some of his friends had started. his friends just so happened to be the band jars of clay (one of my favorites, by the way, with lyrics deep enough to swim in). the program they started up was called blood:water mission. he explained how, during a trip to Africa, the band had experienced the local people’s overwhelming need for clean water. how they routinely walked miles and miles on end, each day, just for clean water. the kind of clean water that flows freely from my faucet (if they’re lucky), the clean water i take for granted every single day.
he went on to describe how the goal of this program was to put clean water in place for such people, eliminating the need for such rigorous daily trips. defending against disease that comes from unsanitary water conditions. and then he punched me in the stomach. not literally, but close.
he had this to say:
“for every $1 donated to the blood:water mission, one year’s worth of clean water will be provided to someone in need.”
my own purchases in terms of clean water
i couldn’t believe it. and i still have trouble with it, to be honest. $1 means so very little to me, and yet it could do so very much through this program. and then i began putting this into terms of my own purchases. for instance, for every $3 latte i purchase, without thinking twice about it for that matter, i could be providing clean water for someone for three years. incredible.
and i don’t say this to guilt anyone, except, perhaps, myself. rather, i tell you this to explain how this information affected me, and how it continues to affect me.
not long ago i was visiting a good friend of mine, ryan, and we were chatting over coffee. the $3 coffee in hand sparked this memory, and i shared the story of the blood:water mission with him, and how incredibly selfish i felt for enjoying a latte that could just as easily have provided clean water to someone desperately in need. i also explained how i had began thinking of my own purchases in terms of potential clean water for those in need.
he then told me about the bowling alley that sat a few stories above our heads, and how the cost to play one hour’s worth of bowling there could provide a group of 75 people with clean water for an entire year. or clean water for one person’s entire life. and it was at that point that i began feeling sick. sick of a world that turns such a blind eye to others’ pain. and a world i’ve become so accustomed to.
riding for clean water
after a few months, though, the brutal truth of this point soon faded amongst life’s busyness.
thankfully, it was again brought to my attention when i heard of a bicycle ride across the united states to raise awareness for the blood:water mission. among a number of other riders was don miller, author of the book blue like jazz and another good friend of the band jars of clay. (to those unfamiliar with the book blue like jazz, i strongly encourage you read it. in fact, go get it now, read it, and then come back. i’ll wait). done? good. great book, huh? this book has changed the way i look at my relationship with Jesus Christ. it also changed my perception of what it looks like to be a Christian in a world so full of pain, and a culture that tries so hard to paint politics and religion in shades of white and black, when more often that not their true colors shine forth in shades of gray.
don developed a blog devoted to sharing with readers everywhere stories from the road (although they’ve since finished the ride, you can read about the ride here). check it out, there are some great stories of people touched by this mission, including a woman who, when told about the purpose of their mission, decided to give $20 to blood:water. don later found out this same woman had just had her car repossessed earlier that day.
Christianity and charity: common-sensical giving
i am so thankful i decided to attend that concert last winter. it brought more than just good music to my soul. it brought a reminder that there are needs in this world outside my own. my selfish heart and desires often consume this reality, and it was a crucial reminder for me.
many years ago i remember reading something CS Lewis wrote on the topic of Christian giving, something that has stuck with me ever since.
he wrote, “if our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, i should say they are too small. there ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charities expenditure excludes them.” (Mere Christianity, p. 86)
oh, if that were only the case for my life! alas, it is not. in fact, it is far from the truth. so far, in fact, that the opposite is true: there are charities i would very much like to give to, charities with needs of critical importance, yet my own selfish desires and corresponding expenditures do not allow me to do so.
and yet, the culture we live in tells me i am ‘normal.’ it is perfectly acceptable to spend more on coffee in a given month than what i spend on providing clean water, warm meals or educational supplies for those in need.
but what does that do for our testimony? what does this lifestyle tell those friends, family members and co-workers who we so desire to taste and see that God is good when we do not honor Him with our giving? when we simply pass by those in need on the opposite side of the road? when we fail to put our money where our mouth is, so to speak?
oh, how many times i have felt like that rich young man who approached Jesus and was confronted by his attachment to material wealth! for, if we were only to see clearly how rich and how deep the glory of God is, and how much a relationship with Him is worth (it is immeasurably more valuable than anything else this world has to offer), then how shoddy and how worthless our material wealth would seem, and how common-sensical it would be to take every opportunity we have to give it up to help others. to show those in need the love of Christ in a very real way. to be His hands and His feet.