Monday, September 21, 2009

Boxes, Bills, and Benevolence

Untitled Photo © 2009, by Jillian Lee

“Jesus looked him hard in the eye—and loved him! He said, “There’s one thing left: Go sell whatever you own and give it to the poor. All your wealth will then be heavenly wealth. And come follow me.” The man’s face clouded over. This was the last thing he expected to hear, and he walked off with a heavy heart. He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and not about to let go. Looking at his disciples, Jesus said, “Do you have any idea how difficult it is for people who ‘have it all’ to enter God’s kingdom?” (Mark 10:21-23)

“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God (Luke 6:20).”

“Zacchaeus just stood there, a little stunned. He stammered apologetically, “Master, I give away half my income to the poor—and if I’m caught cheating, I pay four times the damages.” Jesus said, “Today is salvation day in this home! Here he is: Zacchaeus, son of Abraham! For the Son of Man came to find and restore the lost (Luke 19:8-10).”

“Across the world, 1.3 billion people live on less than $1 a day; 3 billion people live on under $2 a day; 1.3 billion have no access to clean drinking water; 3 billion have no access to sanitation; 2 billion have no access to electrical power (Sweet, p. 104, 105).”

Last week I spent $15.76 at Staples on 10 file boxes to put my files and old school notebooks into. I drove in my car to get these boxes. When I returned to our townhome, I packed the boxes with the lights and the ceiling fan on while listening to Pandora radio on my desktop computer; it was streaming through my high speed cable internet connection. I then stored the boxes in a closet and threw all the trash and unwanted files and notebooks away, to be picked up later by the trash collection company on Tuesday.

One of 1.3 billion could have lived for 16 whole days on just what it cost me to buy those boxes.

My car is worth $8,228. The gas costs $46. a week. Insurance is $656. a year.

Every month our electric bill runs us about $108. and our cable, phone, and internet service costs about $190. We pay roughly $1100. a year in neighborhood association dues which includes our parking, lawn care, and snow and trash removal.

If you only add the numbers that I just mentioned above, someone could live for 10,343.76 days at a $1. a day. This equals to about how long my wife has been alive, around 28.3 years. This is equal to some people’s entire lifetime in the third world, poverty stricken, parts of the world.

I wonder how many people could live for how long on what we spend in a year if we were to calculate an entire year’s budget total. What if we lived more simply or with someone else and actually made some of this living happen?

I spend around $55. just on coffee, sugar, and creamer every month. This does not include any stops to Caribou Coffee or Starbuck’s. That is 55 days of life for someone, every month.

The Bible says nothing about not smoking cigarettes or drinking coffee. However, if you smoked a pack a day for a year for 30 years, it would cost you around $54,750., about an average American living in Northern Virginia’s yearly wage, just above our “poverty level.” That translates to around 150 years of life for people who live at a $1. a day. This is about two to three average lifetimes, maybe more if you are smoking a pack a day or if you live in a third world country.

This is yet another reason why I do not smoke cigarettes. Coffee is my drug of choice.

The Bible does say something to us about loving our neighbor as ourselves: Jesus said, “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them (Matthew 22:37-40).”

Jesus also said, “It’s easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye than for the rich to get into God’s kingdom (Mark 10:24-25).”

One of my favorite verses that I focus on when I worry or want to get all worked up about how I am living and how I can best serve, and follow God, and help those who are in need, is Matthew 6:33, which says, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” I am left wondering, “Am I seeking God first? How well do I love God? Do I desire Jesus more than His blessings? Do I love others and myself enough to seek first His kingdom? How can I love my neighbor if I don’t love God or myself; if I love riches over God, or if I don’t love God above His blessings?”

If the poor are blessed and have the kingdom, and we are so “rich,” where might God be leading us?

Seeking His riches, His kingdom, and His blessings amongst the poverty of this world’s riches,


Works Cited

Untitled Photo © 2009, by Jillian Lee

Peterson, Eugene H.: The Message : The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs, Colo. : NavPress, 2002, S. Mk 10:21-23

Peterson, Eugene H.: The Message : The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs, Colo. : NavPress, 2002, S. Lk 19:8-10

Peterson, Eugene H.: The Message : The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs, Colo. : NavPress, 2002, S. Mt 22:37-40

Peterson, Eugene H.: The Message : The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs, Colo. : NavPress, 2002, S. Mk 10:24-25

Sweet, Leonard I. Summoned to Lead. Grand Rapids : Zondervan, 2004.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. electronic ed. Grand Rapids : Zondervan, 1996, c1984, S. Lk 6:20

The New King James Version. Nashville : Thomas Nelson, 1982, S. Mt 6:33

1 comment:

  1. Nice post! I think the way you are looking at your expenses is very important and compassionate. I always wonder, however, if different costs of living are being factored into those analyses. I remember when I visited Bulgaria about ten years ago, you could get a 7 course meal, with wine, for less than 10 dollars -- something that in America would cost you well in excess of 150, even 10 years ago. The same holds true for more daily purchases, like coffee. What things cost to us is not directly translatable to what they cost in other countries. Just a small thought.