Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Tale of Two Neighbors

I'm probably going to get in trouble over this. My neighbors on either side of me have something in common: they recently lost their homes. Both houses burned to the ground — a pretty much total loss.

But the neighbors, and their situations, are not that much alike.

The man on the right has a good job and makes a good living. His family has some savings, good credit, and good insurance. The initial loss was terrible, but after a couple of days they were able to get some money from their insurance company. Combined with their savings (and probably a little on the credit card), they've been able to get a hotel room and buy some clothes. The house will be rebuilt, and it looks like they're going to come back from this pretty OK.

The man on the left has been out of work for two years. His family was already on the verge of losing their house. Their savings have been depleted, their insurance has lapsed, and their credit is ruined. They literally have nothing but the clothes on their back.

The family on my right needed a little help right after the fire — a place to spend the night, some clothes to wear to go shopping, and a shoulder to cry on. The family on my left is going to need a lot of help for a very long time.

Given my finite resources, where should I focus my efforts — and money?

Here's where I get in trouble: The family on the right is Japan. The family on the left is Haiti.

Right now Japan is a shambles. They need man-power and materiel to manage the crisis, help the injured, and deal with a few damaged power plants.

But as the "donate to help Japan" links start appearing, a voice in my head keeps whispering, "They're the third richest nation on Earth."

I keep beating the drum of discernment in generosity: We have to use our finite God-given resources wisely, to make them stretch as far as they can, and to use them in ways that do not further harm the recipient. To think about how and to whom we should give.

I'm not denouncing, decrying, or accusing. I simply ask that we all consider this question: Given the great need in the US, Haiti, Indonesia, and all the other places we're investing our resources, how much can and should we give Japan?

I'm totally open to have my theology or my grasp of the facts corrected, but this is the way my thinking is going these days. And maybe I just need more sleep (we're babysitting a two-month-old for a few days).

What do you think?


Annette said...

good questions. Can't say I know the answer to that.

Tigress said...

I never thought of it that way. You make some very sound points that shed new light on the topic. I think you already know where you are called to give :)

Random Thoughts said...

God loves the rich and the poor and His compassion is equal in each case. He doesn't weigh how He responds to us by how many friend we have or by how much money we make. When we call He answers. Japan needs the Lord. They are one of the most spiritually needy people in the world. We need to love on them as much as we do Haiti where there is much more Christianity available. But mostly because they are all just people who are scared and shocked and in need right now. Later will take care of itself.

Nancy said...

Take a nap...*: ) Let your dreams be sweet! Many times God will speak to us through dreams...a closer neighbor may need your help tomorrow...When in doubt waiting is always the best choice.

Carla said...

Excellent post, what a clever metaphor!

I do not believe that giving aid to a neighbor should be conditional. I did not deserve to be saved by Jesus' grace, neither did Mother Theresa, and neither did the murderer on death row, but by accepting Christ we all have been saved- though our human minds would rather determine who deserves it. You keep mentioning our finite resources. I really think so many ministries fail because they refuse to believe in the supernatural power of God. Jesus multiplied the loaves and fish to feed the 5000 and He told us when He left that we can do greater things in His name. I think if we give with faith in Jesus, our finite resources will be multiplied so that we can come to the aid of both our neighbors.

I would have to disagree with Nancy that when in doubt waiting is the best choice. Sometimes we pray about things we know God wants us to do, "to let God's power show", but God always has to work through man and if He speaks to us to help some in need we need to move quickly. When others suffer because someone tarries, there is no message of Christ's power. I've been the recipient of someone's prayer when I was struggling and my cupboards were bare. I asked for groceries and received prayer, I don't believe that's what Christ meant.
Great discussion.

ChrisB said...


I don't think love should be conditional, but in everything -- including expressing that love -- we must be as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves.

They need immediate help, and I'm glad we're giving it. But this about the longer term aid that we are so good at giving, even when it is not wise.

But I whole-heartedly agree that me should never just sit and watch while a real need is in front of us. You might like this piece: Prayer and Action.

SeLFs said...

"""Excellent post, what a clever metaphor!=Carla""""
¶--aNy oNe stimulaTeD tO giVe tO JapaN=
shouLd doubLe the amounT aNd giVe 1/2 to Haiti..
(give 'till it hurts')

blueeyedgoddess7 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
ChrisB said...

Comment policy: "No profanity, please." Comment deleted, sorry.