Saturday, June 3

Opinion Saturday

I've decided to make the latest Opinion question about something I've been thinking a lot about lately. For starters, let me say that I believe no one was born to live for him or herself. I believe we each have a purpose-- an obligation to reach out to each other. But here's my question. Assuming we are here to help each other, how do we know HOW MUCH we are supposed to do?

Let me be clear: I am not talking about 'earning' my ticket to heaven through sheer saccharin sweetness. (I don't believe that ANY human, no matter how well intentioned, can be perfect all the time, and because of that I am so grateful for God's grace to cover my faults.)

What I am talking about not really even about religion. It is about recognizing the common humanity of those around us, seeing needs and sharing our blessings. Most of us probably have a pet project or two that we help. Maybe we contribute the the food pantry every year, or donate old clothes to Goodwill, or whatever. But at what point do we say, 'I've done enough-- the rest of what I have, I'm keeping for myself. '

Say a person tithes to their church. Is that enough?

Or supports a kid or two from Compassion International?

Or volunteers at the soup kitchen on Christmas Day?

Or volunteers at an orphanage for 3 months?

Given the staggering need of people around the world, is there ever a point at which we can say, 'my duty to others is done'?

I'll take comments on this till Monday evening, and announce a winner Tuesday morning. Hit me with your best thought.

23 Comments:

At 8:12 AM, Blogger Laura said...

Last summer, my husband and I were leaving a restaurant after a date night and as we walked out, there was this man sitting on a bench, very obviously homeless. We said hello as we passed by and he said hi and "how are you?" We responded with something like "fine" and asked how he was doing and he said "despondent." We weren't quite sure what he meant (never having heard the word before) but asked if he was hungry and could we buy him dinner. He said yes and thank you and we went in and paid for his dinner and said it was nice to meet him and goodbye. We were kind of quiet as we got in our car to drive away and something just didn't feel right. We talked about if this is what Jesus would do - give someone something to eat and walk away with a handshake. We got home, looked up the word despondent and found it to mean hopeless and conveying deep sadness. We turned around immediately and went back to the restaurant. I think we kind of scared him when we asked if we could join him for dinner but he agreed and we had a wonderful conversation that ended with us offering to meet him again the next night for dinner, same place, same time (around dusk since he didn't have a watch). We also asked if we could bring anything for him and he asked for a list of things, such as a bag, some books, clothes, a belt, etc., very humbly and not at all with any sense of greed. We went shopping that night and came the next night ready for more conversation and dinner, but he never showed up. That summer, in this desert heat, about 130 homeless people died from being outside for such a long summer. We think of him often and wonder what happened to him and know God had a hand over his life, as he did our hearts when he turned us back around after we thought we'd "done enough" in buying him dinner. Who knows what it did for that man, our company at dinner, but it changed our hearts when it came to how much we give. It isn't about amounts of money or time or stuff given. To us, it's about our hearts. We give where we see a need. We're never "done." I still don't feel like we do enough sometimes, but I also know that God has put each person in different places to meet up with different opportunites and people. God will meet each person's need according to His plan, regardless of whether we participate or not. I just want to be a part of what He's doing and hope that our eyes and heart are always open enough to see and meet the needs He places in front of us.

 
At 9:28 AM, Blogger Everyday Mommy said...

Honestly, I find it impossible to seperate this question from "religion", though I find that word to be meaningless. Religion is man's attempt to "be good enough", to "reach up to God". We are finite, but we serve an infinite God.

When asking myself, "When is my duty done?" I'm reminded of what Christ said,

"Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me."

To volunteer, to tithe, to give $20 a month is merely a droplet of our obligation to His children. Christ emptied Himself for us. He gave His all. He gave His very life. We are to be immitators of Christ. He commands us to take up our cross. To do this we must lay down our lives, denying ourselves. This eclipses merely tithing or volunteering. It is an emptying of self. We do this out of thankfulness and worship to our Creator Who became sin on our behalf. We do it as a response to the price which He paid.

God's grace is not merely the mortar which fills in the gaps left by our faults. His grace is the unmerited favor that delivers us from sin, which ultimately leads to death. His grace is the Good News of the Gospel.

Christ did not come to make bad men good. He came to make dead men live.

 
At 9:31 AM, Anonymous shannon @ rocks in my dryer said...

Really, this isn't an issue I can separate from my faith in Christ. You are right, that the needs in the world are overwhelming, and Scripture is clear that we are to serve and serve and serve beyond what we feel like we can do. But as for determining how much is enough? That's where that precious Still, Small Voice comes in. I trust that God will urge me clearly to act when I need to, and He faithfully does. And I know there will be other times when, though I feel compassion for a need, He will urge me to "move along" and allow someone else to meet it. And I wish--OH, I wish--sometimes that there were handwriting on the wall distinguishing between those two times. But there's not. Just the still, small voice. Which basically means I need to listening very, very carefully.

 
At 10:12 AM, Blogger MomEtc. said...

I'm not sure I really have an answer, but I agree with what "everday mom" said!

 
At 10:27 AM, Blogger Islandsparrow said...

I'm with Shannon - the needs are enormous and we, on our own, can hardly make a dent. But if we team up with what God is doing by listening, and being sensitive to His leading, then we will do the things that will last - the good works that he has prepared for us to complete. I don't want to miss them and I also don't want to waste time doing things that He hasn't called me to do, even if it looks like a good thing. I'm counting on the truth that He will lead us into those things if we are open and sensitive to His Spirit.

 
At 11:22 AM, Blogger txmommy said...

I don't have any cosmic answers. I do know that I am very blessed. I have good health, many children, a husband with a good job, a lovely home, a free country, a car, a pool, AC, enough food, clothes for my family, time enough to have hobbies. To show my gratitude to my Heavenly Father, who blessed me with these things, I try to be obedient. To me that means I try and help others, to use all that I have and all that I am to build His kingdom and serve His children. With that in mind I guess it's never enough. You do all you can each day, and the next do it again. Some days you "do" more than others, but hopefully at the end of life you've done enough.
Not enough just to earn a reward, but the best you can just because.

 
At 11:36 AM, Blogger Queen Beth said...

Jesus asks us to clothes those that neeed it. Care for those who need it. Feed those who need it. And so on. But he does not give an expiration date in those scriptures. I think we are done when God takes us from this earth. So I believe we are never done giving to those who need it. And it's up to us to find out how God wants us to serve or give and we have to be willing to respond!

That's my 2 cents!

 
At 11:48 AM, Blogger Juliabohemian said...

I think God leads us to do what he thinks we are capable of. For instance, I have fibromyalgia. There's no way I could handle homeschooling or having 8 kids. For you that is realistic because of WHO you are.

I am an artist and God uses me ALOT in that arena. I think the whole thing is very individual. The key is to have eyes to see and ears to hear what His plans are.

 
At 12:25 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

Oh man, I'm having to pull out my bible for this one!
My hubby and I have thought over this ourselves often and my opinion is:
"The more radical we are with God, the more radical He is with us"
Now:
". . . a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world [read: family, home, kids] - how she can please her huband." 1 Cor 7:34
That means to me that once we are married and/or with kids we are responsible by and under God for the well being of them (hubby, kids) and when pouring out our lives we CAN NOT neglect this!
This often happens in ministering families: so to that extent, I believe we have a limit.
Yet if you could, and if you would just POUR.YOUR.SELF.OUT for God . . .
My hubby says - "That's crazy, what if everybody did that- sold thier home, gave away everthing they owned . . !!!"
Yeah, what if they did?!?!
But welcome to the real world God created; God has created us to be a part of that, and he has called us to a SPECIFIC OBEDIANCE.
Like the parable of the talants in Matthew 25:14-23 DO NOT MISS that the man gave each servant "according to his ability"
He knows what we are capable of giving/doing, and - like John the Baptist and other modern day christian that have given up everything, pouring themselves out for Jesus - some are able to go crazy christian, Jesus freaky, like that!
But, like my hubby, like most of us, we won't, don't, can't go that far.
If you look at what the man said to the servant that got 10 for his 5 talents (vs. 21) and what he said to the servant that got 4 for his 2 talents (vs. 23) you see that it is THE SAME! ITS NOT ABOUT QUANTITY!
It was the servant that SAT ON IT, and did NOTHING that got into BIG TROUBLE!
It's about obediance.
On the spectrum we DO have a range we can give and God DOES prompt us to that through the Spirit, and He WILL ask us to go JUUUST A LIIIITTLE BIT more than we feel we can. Why?
Because as Laura mentioned "it changed our hearts", "it's about our hearts". Sure God may and does use our giving and actions to further his kingdome, but it shapes US!
1 Sam 15:22 "to obey is better than sacrifice"
- To OBEY is better than SACRIFICE -
Do you think you would be able to obey God like Isaiah did and run around naked for 3 years? (Isaiah 20:1-3), not me!
Like the calling on our lives; some are called to their communities, to prayer, to minister to thier own families and children - others to the muslums, to the poor/homeless, to the jungle tribes, to the deaf :-). The point is one isn't more right, more righteous than another, but equal to God's calling to OBEDIANCE.
So it isn't how much are SUPPOSED to do, but what CAN you do? Like Everyday Mommy said "We do this out of thankfulness and worship to our Creator . . . We do it as a response to the price which He paid" What does love for Him, and Thankfulness prompt you to do? And with an honest question like that - you WILL get an honest answer from the Spirit, and then what to do but OBEY?
Hey, but when in doubt, go radical!

 
At 2:07 PM, Blogger Jen3 @ Amazing Trips said...

Simply put - when does your soul feel full? I always try to give the BEST of me. Whether I'm doing Meals-On-Wheels, picking up litter during a walk around the neighborhood, or giving a meal to a homeless person. Sometimes, all it takes is making eye contact with a stranger and saying "hello".

 
At 2:32 PM, Blogger momteacherfriend said...

I believe if we wake up everyday asking "Lord, show me who it is you want me to be a blessing to this day?" We will change our world. For if each day we our intentional in making a difference then we WILL make a difference. And bless a whole lot of people along the way.

 
At 3:44 PM, Blogger ksl said...

I want to thank you so much for choosing this topic. I was throwing myself a big pity party and being very selfish when I came over to your blog today, and after reading it my whole outlook on life quickly changed. I put a link to you on my blog and I hope you don't mind. Thank you again.

 
At 4:47 PM, Anonymous dollymama said...

You know, I think that for especially compassionate people, it may never really feel like "enough." I know that for my husband and myself, we mourn the fact that we don't have more money...to give away!! We have so many places that we would want to give more to if we could. When we have fun conversations about "What I would do if I won 20 million dollars" or whatever, it is hilarious how much of that revolves around giving it away.

I think that it's helpful to know that God looks on our heart. When I give, sometimes I start out thinking of an amount I can give easily. Then I usually challenge myself to give more....an amount that makes the giving actually *hurt* a little bit. Something that really feels like a sacrifice.

I think that if I see needs and have the means to meet that need, but decide that I've "done enough" already, then I have a heart problem and the Lord knows it.

Many times we are unaware of a need and I don't think we can be held responsible for those.

I know wonderful people that have a very high income, and yet they live like they don't--living in an old house that they fix up on their own with thrift, they drive used cars that they got a good deal on, there is nothing fancy about their life. Yet they GIVE a ton of money to ministries and people that they care about. They are letting their investments go to the things they really value. They are very inspirational to me.

I think that it is good to keep in mind that we have certain things God has given us to do, and not to let those things slide in the name of helping others. Sometimes it is easy to feel all thrilled with ourselves about doing good for others, but we may not be even doing what we should be doing at home. Gotta have a balance....

 
At 5:10 PM, Blogger Carol said...

It is good to think in literal terms about feeding the hungry. EM's quoting Matthew 25:45 is right on target and we should be ever mindful of the Lord's calling us to help others with our resources.

But our resources aren't just material. If Jesus is the "Bread of Life" like He says He is, then can the "hungry" that we are called to feed not also include those who don't know Him?

It's not always a matter of how much we are to give, but also what we are giving and, to an even greater extent, the motives behind our giving. We can give of our money and posessions until we have none left and are homeless and destitute ourselves. But that action is less than garbage to God if we are doing it for show, for a ticket to heaven, to prove how righteous we are to someone - ourselves, maybe?

I believe we should give - of our time, our goods, our energy, our gifts - to the point that it becomes a sacrifice; that is, we have to give up something in order to give that much.

But I don't see how giving anything can be for the right reasons - from a pure heart of love for the Lord and His children - unless it is placed on our hearts by the Spirit.

 
At 10:37 PM, Blogger ABC Momma said...

It's a cycle for me. I can give and give for a while but then it seems like I am the needy one--I need to be recharged--and then I can give again.

There's also a time and season for everything. I can give in limited ways now as I have little children on my hip, and then I can give in more ways when my children are grown (I hope). But I shouldn't underestimate the service I am giving society as I try to teach my children right from wrong.

 
At 11:08 PM, Anonymous lammyann said...

I sure hope I can convey my feelings about this topic... but PLEASE realize that I do agree with everything that has already been said....
I find that many women allow guilt to keep them unbalanced in their acts of Charity.
I am a woman who has, in the past and more than once, found myself consumed with helping EVERYONE that I nearly lost myself and family. I found I allowed others to hold me in 'spiritual blackmail' meaning---one knowing what I believe & live, and he/she taking advantage of my charity...and generosity...
and my inability to find balance was leathal.
We can only give of our lamps if our lamps are full.
Pray to find balance... and once you find balance, pray to continue to keep it.

 
At 11:10 PM, Blogger Blessed Beyond Measure said...

Christ used the example of the widow who gave all she had; she gave sacrificially. I generally give out of my abundance, rarely sacrificially. I believe we are called to be his hands and feet daily, to be sometimes the only Bible anyone will ever read, and to live lives that give sacrifically of our time, efforts, talents, gifts, and money. We're never done because there will always be those out there to be redeemed, and those who are but need to be "the one" as Toni (sorry no link here) put it. Sometimes I give of my time, efforts, etc. to a group cause, and sometimes its just taking the time to listen to a four year olds version of a story, or calling my 93 year old mother-in-law and talking to her about the weather. Christ didnt heal everybody, went away alone at times, so its going to be hard for us to know where to set limits; for that he left us the Holy
Spirit to guide us - daily. I don't have it all figured out - I just know I have a lot more to do, beginning when I get up tomorrow morning.

 
At 10:34 AM, Blogger DVE said...

I read somewhere that our generosity is not measured by how much we give, but by how much we keep. In light of the poverty and suffering around the world--and the fact that those of us living in the first world benefit economically from much of that poverty and suffering--that statement seems particularly a propos. I think the answer to your question involves learning to live simply, rejecting the emptiness of consumerism, and cultivating an awareness of the way the rest of the world lives and why. Not that I've figured any of that out yet. It's a process.

 
At 12:10 AM, Blogger tam said...

Almost 20 years ago I was standing by myself, in line, in a homemade-fast-food place.

I was going to spend my last five dollars on one of the best burritos in town. I had worked hard all day. I was tired. I didn't want to cook. Payday was not for a couple of more days.

As I stood there in my own head, thinking my own thoughts...a man walked in the door. He was very thin. He wore an ill-fitting black suit. He had long thin black hair. He was of a cultural decent that to this day I still can not pin down.

His body wore the burden of great sadness. He began speaking to the small group of us standing there waiting to order our food or receive it. About 12 of us.

His story was that his five year old daughter had been killed in a car accident. He and his wife and the girls siblings were devasted. He spoke quietly, deliberately and humbly. They were very poor people he explained. They had no money to bury his daughter. He was hoping to collect just enough to provide a proper buriel for her.

Everyone stood there motionless for awhile. It seemed forever. My own brain caused me to be frozen as well. I was trying to discern whether this man qualified as a truth teller or story teller just trying to bum a few quick bucks to go get high or drunk.

One or two people gave a few dollars. He almost wept. Bowed his head to each of them and quietly uttered "May God bless you, thank you." and he left.

Here was where I got caught. I had been taught there was no Jesus. I had been taught Christianity was a cruel, judgemental religion.

If this man was touting God's blessings then surely he is like all the others around here who beg at every corner. Besides, it's my last five dollars and I need dinner don't I? I deserve it don't I?

Yet, my heart was tugging at me and scared. This is an opportunity for something. Something so much bigger than me. I had no idea what was going on but I sensed I had lost this opportunity. I had somehow failed this test.

I immediately ran out the door to catch him. To give him the last of my money and to go with out a purchased meal that night. I ran out the door and he should have been only a few paces ahead of me. He should have been within arms reach.

He was gone.

I ran to the next place of business which was about 50 feet away. He had not been in there. I ran across the street to check with those businesses. Again. No man. No story.

I knew at that moment that I was supposed to have given of myself.

I knew at the moment he put his hand on the door knob to leave the place I was, that he was not a mere human.

I was supposed to have done something that night that meant more than giving a destitute and distraught man five dollars.

I was to give some hope to others in that room that needed to witness others giving without thought that he could be lying or wanted to rob us of more than we offered.

I was to provide hope for me that I was not as bad as I was thinking I was at that moment in my life.

It has never occured to me that this man might be anything less than an angel whose task was to provide an opportunity.

An opportunity for hope. Not just for the recipient. But for the providers and the watchers.

SHOULD we decide that what our "works" or "deeds" have been or are enough? I, myself, for me..., believe I must trust my instincts. Stand up against conventional fear and wisdom. Stand true to myself.

I thank God above that those instincts are not driven by the Holy Spirit and my courage comes from God above.

There will be times that I do not give. I pray, there will be more times that I do. Flesh willing or not.

 
At 12:16 AM, Blogger tam said...

AHH! MAJOR type-o in the second to last sentence of my "post/comment"...

I meant to say the "my instincts ARE driven by the Holy Spirit"

Jeez louise...NOT not driven...

Absolutely driven by God and His Holy Spirit...

Ok...I hope everyone reads this update! jeesh

 
At 8:24 AM, Blogger Jenn said...

when is it enough? When you can't do anymore.
This will be different for each person, since we have different abilities, and resources.
I don't think I am even close to doing "enough" though.
To whom much is given, much is expected.

 
At 2:36 PM, Blogger Avery said...

(Luke 18:22) When Jesus heard that, he said, "Then there's only one thing left to do: Sell everything you own and give it away to the poor. You will have riches in heaven. Then come, follow me."

How much is enough?

(Luke 18:22) When Jesus heard that, he said, "Then there's only one thing left to do: Sell everything you own and give it away to the poor. You will have riches in heaven. Then come, follow me."

over half of the world lives on less than $2 a day

(Luke 18:22) When Jesus heard that, he said, "Then there's only one thing left to do: Sell everything you own and give it away to the poor. You will have riches in heaven. Then come, follow me."

half of the world suffers from malnutrition

(Luke 18:22) When Jesus heard that, he said, "Then there's only one thing left to do: Sell everything you own and give it away to the poor. You will have riches in heaven. Then come, follow me."

25% of the world has no shelter to call "home"

(Luke 18:22) When Jesus heard that, he said, "Then there's only one thing left to do: Sell everything you own and give it away to the poor. You will have riches in heaven. Then come, follow me."

25% of the world has no supply of food

(Luke 18:22) When Jesus heard that, he said, "Then there's only one thing left to do: Sell everything you own and give it away to the poor. You will have riches in heaven. Then come, follow me."

17% of the world has no access to safe water

(Luke 18:22) When Jesus heard that, he said, "Then there's only one thing left to do: Sell everything you own and give it away to the poor. You will have riches in heaven. Then come, follow me."

The average cable bill for an American family is over $50 a month

(Luke 18:22) When Jesus heard that, he said, "Then there's only one thing left to do: Sell everything you own and give it away to the poor. You will have riches in heaven. Then come, follow me."


the averag meal at a fast food joint is over $5

(Luke 18:22) When Jesus heard that, he said, "Then there's only one thing left to do: Sell everything you own and give it away to the poor. You will have riches in heaven. Then come, follow me."


many drive their 14mpg SUV's at $3 a gallon right past the very people living for less than $2 a day every day on their way to work.

(Luke 18:22) When Jesus heard that, he said, "Then there's only one thing left to do: Sell everything you own and give it away to the poor. You will have riches in heaven. Then come, follow me."

the fact that you are reading this from your own computer means you are in the top 10% of the world's elite

(Luke 18:22) When Jesus heard that, he said, "Then there's only one thing left to do: Sell everything you own and give it away to the poor. You will have riches in heaven. Then come, follow me."

only 10% of the world has a college education

(Luke 18:22) When Jesus heard that, he said, "Then there's only one thing left to do: Sell everything you own and give it away to the poor. You will have riches in heaven. Then come, follow me."


80% of the world lives in substandard housing

(Luke 18:22) When Jesus heard that, he said, "Then there's only one thing left to do: Sell everything you own and give it away to the poor. You will have riches in heaven. Then come, follow me."

solons are charging over $100 for a haircut

(Luke 18:22) When Jesus heard that, he said, "Then there's only one thing left to do: Sell everything you own and give it away to the poor. You will have riches in heaven. Then come, follow me."

people are paying it

(Luke 18:22) When Jesus heard that, he said, "Then there's only one thing left to do: Sell everything you own and give it away to the poor. You will have riches in heaven. Then come, follow me."

when is it enough? when have I done enough to improve the world?

when they place me in my grave I will stop trying to make the world a better place. Hopefully I will have enough people following me and walking in my same steps that my efforts will not be missed.

Show me you faith without works, and I'll show you a dead faith. I work not to prove my faith, or to earn my salvation, I work because of my faith and because of my salvation.

James 2:14-26 Dear friends, do you think you'll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? (15) For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved (16) and say, "Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!" and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup--where does that get you? (17) Isn't it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense? (18) I can already hear one of you agreeing by saying, "Sounds good. You take care of the faith department, I'll handle the works department." Not so fast. You can no more show me your works apart from your faith than I can show you my faith apart from my works. Faith and works, works and faith, fit together hand in glove. (19) Do I hear you professing to believe in the one and only God, but then observe you complacently sitting back as if you had done something wonderful? That's just great. Demons do that, but what good does it do them? (20) Use your heads! Do you suppose for a minute that you can cut faith and works in two and not end up with a corpse on your hands? (21) Wasn't our ancestor Abraham "made right with God by works" when he placed his son Isaac on the sacrificial altar? (22) Isn't it obvious that faith and works are yoked partners, that faith expresses itself in works? That the works are "works of faith"? (23) The full meaning of "believe" in the Scripture sentence, "Abraham believed God and was set right with God," includes his action. It's that mesh of believing and acting that got Abraham named "God's friend." (24) Is it not evident that a person is made right with God not by a barren faith but by faith fruitful in works? (25) The same with Rahab, the Jericho harlot. Wasn't her action in hiding God's spies and helping them escape--that seamless unity of believing and doing--what counted with God? (26) The very moment you separate body and spirit, you end up with a corpse. Separate faith and works and you get the same thing: a corpse.

 
At 9:23 AM, Blogger smartmama said...

this is a subject i am passionate about- i think living and working in countries (and see many things that the average person would consider horrific) causes some healthy mental confusion and disruption when it comes to what is enough--and our priorities-- I have often felt if we each donated even a few hours a week and our God given talents to different causes (non profits, service- whatever) how incredible would our world be- instead we get to lulled into TV, and buying $100 jeans I am insistent we will travel as a family to many parts of the world so my children can appreciate what they have and the moral obligation to do more and help-- they are accountable for all they have and the wise use of it

 

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