In my college years and early adulthood, I was an idealistic intellectual. Reading philosophy and sociology books for fun, I believed we could achieve a utopian society if only society leaned more toward libertarianism. Later in life I realized even personal liberties required boundaries so that your liberties do not encroach upon mine, and vice versa. I have learned there is no quick fix.
Life is infinitely complex, and it seldom offers simple solutions. However, that doesn’t stop us from seeking them. But for us to find the solution, we have to be able to identify the problem. That is often not a straightforward process.
A former newspaper editor and reporter, I can’t resist following the news. With fascination I have followed the Occupy protests throughout the country. People are upset. That much is clear.
On the radio one recent morning, a spokesman from the Occupy Wall Street crowd expressed the group’s intent: They were anarchists wanting change. What kind of change, they didn’t know, but it was their goal to express the need for change, not to bring it about.
As strange as it may sound, that man isn’t so different from the rest of us. He’s discontent, though he doesn’t really know why, and he has no idea how to fix it, but he knows something has to change.
Many of us go through life like that – feeling that restlessness, that longing, that sense that there’s something more. One day my pseudointellectualism fell flat on its face, and I was confronted with the something more for which I had sought, and that was God.
Four centuries ago, Blaise Pascal said it well: “What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself.”
Much of the emptiness we feel comes down to one of three things: a lack of a relationship with God, a failure to rely upon Him, or a failure of His Church to exemplify Him.
We seek to replace God in our lives with our own worthiness or the worthiness of all we have surrounded ourselves with. But those things fall short because created things are but a dim shadow of the Creator. (For a fuller discourse on faith in Christ, check out the March 14, 2011, post: http://halffullandoverflowing.blogspot.com/2011/03/whats-in-name.html.)
This tendency is true not just of people who fail to acknowledge God in their lives – who fail to put Him at the very core of who they are – but also of people who do trust and follow Him. The simultaneous pressures and delights of this world crowds out a central devotion to God, and our trust gets unconsciously shifted to things or people or circumstances that we know deep down will eventually change.
But there’s another side to this, and that is the failure of God’s Church to be the body of Christ. People look to other people and often to government to meet their needs because God’s Church isn’t stepping forward to do what He commanded it to do in terms of benevolence: care for the poor, the widowed and the orphaned.
“He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and He will reward him for what he has done,” Proverbs 19:17 says. “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world,” admonishes James 1:27.
The universal Church needs to step it up and be the hands and feet and mouthpiece of Christ in a dark and miserable world. Our neighbors are looking for relief where they have been conditioned to look for it, when God and His Church are the solution to what ails them.
Just yesterday I read a story about how the stumbling economy is bringing about decreased giving in our churches, and our churches are decreasing in benevolence, instead spending money on buildings and programs that will keep their giving base happy. So they give to the givers so the givers will keep giving.
But here’s a news flash: This whole concept of an uncertain economy is nothing new. Paul wrote about it a couple of thousand years ago in 1 Timothy 17-18: “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.”
What does that look like for you? Well, only you can answer that based upon God’s call in your life. First off, all of us are called to support the local church, whether that church has a strong benevolence program or not. Beyond that, I have some advice for you from Proverbs 3:27: “Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act.” Maybe that means giving a bag of groceries to a needy family, supporting a child in a third-world country (www.compassion.com) or offering tutoring to underprivileged kids.
Whatever it means, let’s be the church God intended us to be, and let’s cry out in unison, “Occupy my heart, Lord!” Remember that whatever our problem, He is our solution.