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By Mike Stickler
1 John 3:17
If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?
The people of the small Caribbean country of Haiti have for years faced dictatorships, extreme poverty, lack of infrastructure, the practice of demonic cults (i.e. voodoo), and much more. Because of these issues, the Christian church has been one of few entities to care for the residents over the long-term. Sure, there have been government interventions and secular non-governmental organizations’ ‘first-responder’ and continuing presence. Presidents Clinton and Bush collaborated to raise millions for Haitian relief. But frankly, it’s been the body of Christ that has consistently given the finances, time, and skills to help these people, so devastated over the years.
In 2010 though, when the 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit this island nation, no one was prepared for the utter devastation that ensued. The losses suffered were (and continue to be) unimaginable. Entire city blocks were flattened ‒ residential and business. Tens of thousands died. By some estimates, over a million people were left homeless. Sadly, in the time that has passed and for all the widely publicized, first-response hoopla, not much has improved.
Back then, as this tragedy unfolded, I worked alongside several ministries on how to best respond and help these unfortunate people. Around the country, many, many ministry leaders and pastors (by far the majority), responded ‒ even in the midst of our economic melt-down ‒ as expected: gracious, loving, willing. Among the responses, though, two pastors’ comments stand out starkly:
- One said, “The Haitian people are a lost cause. The church has poured way too much money into them. And we should not invest one single dime more of God’s money.”
- The other, “For the first time in 25 years we’ve been forced to layoff some staff. And we need to ask our congregation to support this church before we support the people of Haiti. Thus, we will not be providing any resources going to Haiti.”
Now, you might think their two churches to be small ministries with little worldview beyond their neighborhoods. Not the case. Both were in the top 1% in size and sophistication in their affluent communities. Many thousands attend these two churches.
In today’s verse, John confronts us with what seems to be an in-your-face challenge. He is saying that if we have no pity for those in need, how can God’s love be in you? Now some may argue that we can’t give to every need presented, saying our resources just don’t extend that far. One might argue that the needy will always be amongst us, as Jesus said. All valid, calculated, intellectual inputs to human decision-making on the return-on-investment aspects of response options to this devastation.
But John is speaking to our hearts. He asks us to look beyond our hearts’ cultural hardness and the justifications we present. He asks us to be in touch with the heart of the Lord and have pity. He challenges us to discern God’s will for us—and have God’s will (not human analyses and return on investment trade-offs) guide our actions.
Today’s Generosity Challenge:
How have you allowed your heart to grow cold toward certain people groups? Do you think of the homeless as scary or smelly? A young person with piercings and tattoos as reprobate? The single mom who struggles financially as lazy? Ask God to reveal the condition of your heart this day in order to confess and repent unto Him. Write down these revelations below.
About Michael Stickler
Mike is an author, radio host, and a highly sought after motivational speaker. His best-selling book, A Journey to Generosity, is widely acclaimed throughout the Christian community. He is the publisher of Generous Living Magazine and writes for the Christian Post, 'A Generous Life' column.