My husband called me the other day while he was at work and said he had heard something truly sad. Thinking he was being sarcastic, I laughed and asked what it was that was disheartening. He said that a friend of his had just confided in him that he only eats twice a day because he can't afford three meals. Ouch, no longer laughing. Upon further discussion, J realized the extent of the situation this friend is in. He is so far in debt that he feels hopeless, he is behind on every payment, and is about to be without a place to live. We haven't know this guy all that long, but he knows that we are Christians. Maybe he told J these things just to get it off his chest, maybe he told him because he knows that we are praying folks, or maybe he told him because this young man is part of our mission. J asked if I would be ok with this man living with us if he can't find another place to live. He wasn't asking to get permission, because I don't call the shots around here, he was feeling convicted to help and wanted to know that I was on board.
My response, I truly believe, was the evidence of God working in my heart. I was suprised by the words I said, as I said them. "We can't be in his life, proclaiming to be Christians, and desiring to share the gospel with him if we aren't willing to share our home and our food. He can stay as long as he needs to until he gets caught up. Rent free. Let's do this, let's love him." Then I stopped because I was both excited and scared at hearing God working.
J knows me. He knows that I like my space, I like things the way I do them, I don't like intruders in my space or time, and I have never been good with roommates. It was a major adjustment to living with my husband and actually learning to be a civilized human being with him. He knows that it would be hard on me to have anyone living with us, and both of us are asking God to work in our hearts willingness to see our house as His, not ours. So he asked if I was sure. After the gulp of selfishness finally went down and settled in my stomach I finally said that I was sure, then got off the phone an freaked out.
Then God reminded me of the miracle work that he has done in our lives in the last 3 years of marriage. When we got married we had more in our combined debt than I was making in a year. Within months of getting married we bought a house. Thankfully God gave us wisdom in buying our house, but with the added mortgage we now had more debt than I would make in 7 years, not including interest. And that is assuming that we would live off of my husband's income and take every penny I made and use it to pay off debt. So we made a plan to get out of debt in 5 years. We went to budgeting classes, read books, and started making adjustments to our lifestyles. The place we were most convicted is that we were not giving to the church. So, we started giving even though it felt counterintuitive to give when we didn't have extra.
Then about a year into marriage we felt God leading me to leave my job. Whether it was to get a different job or to stay home and actually care for my home and husband, that wasn't clear, but the need to leave was. Through much fear, hesitation, and disobedience, we finally realized that God did have a plan for us, that included future and hope, and that He wouldn't lead us where it was impossible to follow. Even if it was hard, it wasn't impossible. So, we were challenged to see the difference between what we needed and what we just wanted, and started eliminating luxuries. For a while we lived off of mac & cheese because we just couldn't afford more than that. Theoretically we could afford it, but not if we wanted to be out of debt. And every time we felt like we had made great strides in our finances, God convicted us about our giving, that it wasn't sacrificial. We don't care for the oppressed, the needy, the orphan, the widow, or even the messengers of the gospel, as much as we care for comfort. We should, but we don't.
We still have the mortgage, but the other debt is a third of what is was 3 years ago. We must be geniuses, we should write a book about how smart we are to do so good! Or, instead do we have a great God who has richly blessed us so that we can be a blessing to others? Maybe it isn't a book of "How to Get Out of Debt with 10 Simple Steps," but it is a life of saying "We've been there, we know your hurt and shame, let us introduce you to a God who gives us all things that pertain to life and godliness, even financial wisdom."
And it is even one step further of seeing how far God has brought us, and looking for more ways to give up what we think we need for the sake of the desires of His heart.
This is giving sacrificially to help those in need. This is getting out of debt not so that we can save for retirement, but so that we can pour our lives more freely into others. This is letting young men in need live with us as a way of living the gospel good-Samaritan style, rather than just preaching to him as he becomes homeless. This is taking everything extra that comes our way and saving it to pay the price of redemption for a life in need; living out the adoption that our Father has shown to us in the life of young girls desperate to be loved. This is asking if He had called us to go, and asking seriously, ready to go if the answer is "yes." This is giving so much time, resources, money, and love to the body of Christ that people think we are crazy. This is giving to the point that church leaders ask us to stop giving because there is nothing left for ourselves. Are we there yet? Sadly, no. Will we ever be? Doubtful.
I know that our friend who gets 2 meals a day is not poor by the standards of the world population. But I also know that by the standards of the lives around him, he is. And we are called to him as much as we are called to the people who live on a dollar a day. We are called, and if we don't answer that call then we may be counted among those who are cast out, surrounded by the ominous words "I never knew you." David Platt puts it well:
if our lives do not reflect radical compassion for the poor, there is reason to wonder if Christ is really in us at all. (111)God has placed within the earthen vessels of His children the unspeakable gift, the treasure of the light of the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord. How can those around us know the richness of that treasure if we aren't willing to pour it out any way we possibly can?