Posted by: Damon Whitsell | June 1, 2010

God will provide, but how much exactly? By Karen Spears Zacharias

She died in his arms. Whenever he turns on the television and hears another slick-haired preacher pontificating about wealth, the Missionary thinks of that day he carried the nine-year-old from her jungle home to the airstrip. Internal parasites had infested her tiny brown body. He prayed as he carried her. Prayed he could get her to the plane in time. Prayed the plane would get her to the hospital in Quito in time, but she died in his arms before he reached that plane.

It was an antibiotic, not a miracle, she needed. The medicine that could have healed her cost a few pennies a dose. He thinks of that as he scans the television screen. “The first thing I do when I see those preachers is look at their hands to see how many diamond rings they’re wearing,” he says. “When I see them in their glass palaces or big stadiums I think of her.”

The Missionary is my father-in-law. He was one of dozens of people I interviewed for my forthcoming book, “Will Jesus Buy Me a Double-Wide? ’cause I need more room for my plasma tv” (Zondervan).

When I told one inquiring soul that I’d interviewed people about God and money, she responded, “God and money? Aren’t they the same thing?”

She makes a good point. Many of us who believe in God believe He is obliged to provide us with a bigger home, a lucrative job promotion and an abundantly better life now. Christians buy in bulk books on how to prosper God’s way. We’ll flock by the thousands to hear a pastor declare God wants to make us rich. We put magnetic placards on the sides of our SUVs proclaiming anyone can make rich happen if only they’ll believe upon the Most High. When we buy the home we can ill-afford we thank God for his blessings.

“Remember wealth is not by chance, it’s a choice,” says a radio host on 90.1 PRAISE FM, an Alabama station for Christ-followers.

We don’t place much value in self-denial in this land of milk and money. We are much better at feasting than we are at fasting. That’s not to say we are totally selfish lot. When it comes to helping out a people devastated, you can count on us. At our core, we Americans are a generous bunch.

We give because our faith compels us. “The single most important determinant of charitable giving is active religious faith and observance,” said Adam Meyerson, president of The Philanthropy Roundtable. Meyerson was speaking before an audience in Washington D.C. So who is doing all that giving? The working poor, says a survey by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The poorest fifth of America’s households out-give the richest fifth by twice as much of a percentage of their income.

You’d think sharing from one’s bounty would be easier than sharing from one’s lack, but it isn’t.
Sister Schubert is rich. She made $40 million from her grandmother’s Everlasting Roll recipe. Her given name is Patricia Barnes, but everyone calls her Sister, including the orphaned Ukrainian children who live in Sasha’s Home, the home Sister funded to help provide for them.

From her factory in Luverne, Alabama, Sister spoke to me about why the rich struggle with giving.

“It was easier to give $500 on the $5,000 earned than to give $500,000 on $5 million,” Sister said. You can’t quit thinking about the half-million dollars you’re giving up. Call it the Law of Affluence: The more money we have, the greater our propensity for greed.

Sister thinks God doesn’t care one wit about whether we are rich or not. “He cares whether we do the right thing with whatever he’s given us.”

We practice Christian Karma, giving because we believe God will bless the giving. A goodly portion of Christians surveyed – 31 percent – agreed that if we give our money to God, God will give us more money.

We’ve fashioned God into a blinged-out Sugar-Daddy.

“We have such a small world view and such an inflated view of who we really are,” says the Missionary.

And such a warped view of God. It wasn’t God who failed the little girl the Missionary carried. We did. Those of us who spend our money mindlessly, selfishly, instead of purposefully helping dying children.

It seems that during Lent and every other season, it’s the God of Provision we seek, not the stripped-down and bloodied Christ.

Karen Spears Zacharias is author of the new book “Will Jesus Buy Me a Double-Wide? ’cause I need more room for my plasma tv.” (Zondervan). She blogs at karenzach.com. She can be contacted via Twitter @karenzach.

http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/guestvoices/2010/03/god_will_provide_but_how_much_exactly.html

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