This week’s money and stewardship devotional from the four Gospels* is from Luke 11:46, and is about ground level social justice.
Jesus replied, “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.
This morning at the gymnasium a Christian women friend was talking to me about the financial struggles young people have. She came across as very judgemental to me. She was an expert, in her eyes about the financial stress young couples have trying to make ends meet. In her mind, most of the time, both the husband and wife both work outside the home, is because it is a decision to have a higher standard of living.
I reminded her that when I graduated from college in 1983 the average cost of a nice house was under $100,000, and our rent was $200. Today housing costs dominate much more of one’s budget. Health care didn’t cost what it does today; when our daughter was born in 1989 our total out-out-of-pocket cost was less than a $100 for all of my wife’s and daughter’s care from the beginning of the pregnancy until we brought them both home from the hospital. Multi-thousand dollar health insurance deductibles are common today. In addition, gasoline and food is nearly triple what it was 30 years ago. One of the big effects of the recession is many people’s income has stagnated, or people drained their savings during long periods of unemployment. Once people did get back to work, their salaries are no where what they used to be. Even worse, are people working in manufacturing, they have fewer jobs to fight over, forcing many of them to earn minimum wages.
Luke 11:46 was a picture of Jesus talking to “Experts in the Law.” This meant, people who had a high religious position, and of good education and intelligence, and income who sat in judgement of other people. In modern times, this is the average well-educated, politically opinionated person. Basically, this is you and me, and almost every other American. We are all experts in politics, religion, social programs, economics, education, and work. When we see people struggling financially, or receiving government help, or two working spouses; we judge them or society for their situation, for their bad decisions, lack of skills or whatever reason we can come up with.
Everyone has a strong opinion on how to help others, but how many of us “lift one finger to help them?” When we don’t, do we “load people down with burdens they can hardly carry?” The burden of judgement can be heavy, yet the load lightening word of encouragement to people struggling can be life-sustaining. On one side of the social justice argument, some say we help strugglers enough, with government programs, while others say, we just need to increase taxes so that we can help them more. Jesus didn’t get involved in this age-old argument; I think Jesus is calling us to NOT SAY (judge), but DO SOMETHING to help them. I can’t recall Jesus ever asking government to step in, but he often calls you and me to help other people one-on-one, not just by paying taxes or writing a check to a not-for-profit (which is good, and I don’t condemn that).
Jesus is talking about Ground Level Social Justice. You and me getting our hands dirty, helping people to carry their burdens. We got help when our children were young, when my parents babysat our children so my wife could work a part-time job. People at church were willing to help me budget and learn financial skills. Our church had a Benevolence Ministry; it provided counsel and financial help to those caught in financial crisis. What can you do? The book, When Helping Hurts, by: Steve Corbett, Brian Fikkert says there are 5 essential keys to helping people get out of financial difficulty (or preventing them from experiencing it): 1) Employment assistance (such as resume writing, interviewing and work skills) 2) Financial counseling and classes 3) Loving and supportive community, like churches offer, especially through small groups 4) Financial assistance (help with bills and food pantries), but only coupled with the preceding 4, and 5) Entrepreneurship, or helping people start or grow a business, or start one yourself, that may eventually create good paying jobs with benefits.
There are literally hundreds of programs in your church and community that help people with these 5 areas. This is ground level social justice in action; it helps people and it builds a strong and loving community where you live.
*A chronological examination of any verse that involves money and stewardship, attempting to see the new light that Jesus shines on money in His ‘for-us’ but selfless, grace filled, Holy Spirit empowered, and Kingdom oriented positions. This is the fortieth post in this series.