This morning, we went with a group of friends to tour the JESUS HOUSE with Director, Mike Bateman. As we walked through to get a better understanding of what they do there and how we could serve, we were collectively struck with how much HOPE there was with the residents. The Jesus House is not just a homeless shelter. They offer much more than just a roof over people’s heads – they offer the HOPE of Jesus and loving people to support with a true spiritual transformation.
Wherever we went, Mike asked the residents to stop and share their personal story if they were willing. Not only were they willing, but one gentleman stopped as he walked by, joined the group while another was sharing his testimony and then shared his as well. The stories had a common thread: life was not what it promised, family broke down, drugs and alcohol took over, had no hope.
After we finished the tour, the group stood in the parking lot to pray together and discuss areas we might be called to help. There were so many needs that it was easy to get bogged down into analysis paralysis and risk doing nothing. So, we decided to serve and take on most urgent needs of the Jesus House first (by the way, they need socks & underwear for adult men & women if you want to help!).
I asked a gentleman in the group what he thought about the tour. He responded by saying that he felt a bit guilty about all he had, when these people had so little. This is one of the things that I have noticed in my own life. We can get easily bogged down with two words: NEEDS and WANTS. It seems like our wants can easily turn into needs without us even noticing. For example, my son wants the newest iPhone. Just yesterday, he said he needed a new phone. My answer to him was that he didn’t need a new phone, in fact, he didn’t need a phone at all (which quickly ended the discussion on his part). It’s true… apart from using the phone when he is driving & is in emergency situations, he doesn’t really need a phone – especially since all his friends have one anyway and he could use one of their phones.
Before I get too harsh about my son’s perceived needs, I should address my own as well. I don’t really need anything at all. God has provided what we need and more. We have been blessed beyond the basic necessities of life, such as food, shelter, clothes. Why then is there such a desire that grows in our hearts for more, more, better, faster?
According to the US Census (2014), the average median income for a family in the United States is $52, 250. Business Insider did some calculations and found out what you needed to make in order to see if you were middle class or not per State (in Oklahoma, it was under the median at $45,690). Pew Research found that “the income groups are defined as follows: The poor live on $2 or less daily, low income on $2.01-10, middle income on $10.01-20, upper-middle income on $20.01-50, and high income on more than $50” – this means that if you make $34,000 for the family, you are in the top 1% of income earners in the world. If you don’t want to look at the discrepancy of cost of living in the world, then you can use their income calculator to find out where you fit into the United States’s income class.
If you don’t agree with how the numbers turn out, then consider this: If you have more than one car, you are wealthy. If you have a cell phone and big screen TV, you are wealthy. We don’t see things that way. Instead, we want to compare ourselves to our neighbors and then wonder why we don’t have enough to take that trip to Europe like so and so is doing. Dave Ramsey, author and financial expert says there’s a difference between being poor and broke. He says poor is an attitude, while broke is something you are passing through. Some people have a poor state of mind. They constantly feel like they need more: money, cars, next best thing. They hunger and thirst for something and don’t realize what they have is a spiritual hunger that only Christ can feed. It’s a spiritual thirst that only the Living Water, Jesus Christ can quench. This is a part of being poor in spirit.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” ~ Matthew 5:3
Sometimes, we need to step back and do something outside of ourselves to see our own situation. It’s eye-opening to go to a place where people had been living on the sidewalk or in their car and now have a place to lay down their head at night and eat three meals a day. Not only is it a visible reminder of material things you have (which can be taken away) but also of the spiritual blessings like peace that have come your way from God. I found myself being thankful for having a loving two-parent family, of having a loving spouse and children. These are the things that come to your mind and help you sift out the material things that clutter up your brain.
In the Bible, Matthew, Mark and Luke’s Gospel tell about the Rich Young Man (Mark 10:17-31). The man comes to Jesus and asks what he needs to do in order to have eternal life. They have a dialogue where the man says he has kept all of God’s commandments but wanted to know what he lacked. The Bible notes something really interesting here “And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.”
Jesus knew what was in the young man’s heart. He knew that he was keeping a religious checklist to work his way into the kingdom of heaven. What the young man didn’t know was that Jesus delivered a one-two punch: 1) sell all you have 2) give to the poor. Jesus isn’t asking all of us to do that. HOWEVER, He does know what you keep in your heart as #1. If that isn’t Him, you will get called out on it. There are many things we say in order to justify not following God first. We say noble things like “I’m doing this for my family” or “I can give more to charity this way.” Those may be true, but your family may not need that new TV or the trip to Cancun or other things. You may be able to give more money, but the time you are taking to gather all that cash maybe taking away from something you could be doing to serve God. It starts in the heart and from the heart comes your attitude towards what you might need and what you might want.
Today was an attitude-adjusting day for me. I am saying all these things to you because these are things I struggle with personally as well. I hear that voice whispering in my ear that I need this thing or that thing to make me happy, when the real truth is that God has given me all I need and I know that He will continue to do so daily. Amen.
So if you find yourself running on a hamster wheel of work, or running after things of this world, stop for a moment and think about where your heart is. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also ~ Matthew 6:21