Sunday, August 14, 2011

God So Loved, He Gave, by Kelly M. Kapic

Last year my good friend and seminary classmate Kelly Kapic came out with his book God So Loved, He Gave: Entering the Movement of Divine Generosity. Needless to say, it's quite good. I'm very proud of my good friend for the various ways God has used him through his writings, ministry as well as his teaching post at Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, Tennessee. 

As I've been working through his book, there was this one section I came across that I thought was challenging and helpful, especially as I prepare to take my seventh trip to Haiti this November. Last year, after being involved with Haiti since 2004 and having taken multiple trips as a church, we raised the level of our involvement in Haiti by committing to help build a medical clinic in Mirebalais, Haiti and becoming more directly involved with the ministry of Great Commission Alliance (GCA). Grace Chapel member Gene Summerlin administers all of GCA's medical trips and his son Trey Summerlin is preparing to move to Mirebalais full-time. So Kapic's words are especially sobering and challenging when he writes:

… sometimes we hear philanthropists and celebrities speak about the thousands of people who die every day from easily preventable diseases. With good intentions, they will often call for more foreign aid and private donations. But the truth is that such expenditures are all but meaningless if they are not drenched in humility.  

As development economist William Easterly has observed, the West has spent over 2.3 trillion dollars on foreign aid over the last five decades. But with that mountain of money it has accomplished precious little. Why? Easterly does not use biblical language or categories to explain his diagnosis. But in the final analysis, this respected secular economist ultimately concludes that the problem has been rooted in pride. The West, according to Easterly, has made its “Big Plans” to help the poor and given away lots of money. But it has failed to listen to the voices of the poor in the process. A lack of feedback mechanisms from the beneficiaries of aid to those giving the aid has made many programs dangerously ineffective. Donor countries, institutions, and individuals are tempted to dole out money, but they are reluctant to sacrifice their privileged positions of power and authority.

This is a struggle for all of us, but the poor need to be heard and valued as image bearers, not projects. But we can only hear their voices when we humble ourselves and genuinely listen and engage their lives. Thus, biblical generosity always involves not just giving, but also walking with the poor and “associating with the lowly” (Rom. 12:16). This applies, of course, not merely to donor countries and institutions but to each of us as individuals..., pp. 159-60.

This is quite humbling to consider the danger of our pride not just as a spiritual problem, but also having material and economic consequences as well! This is one of the great lessons I've been learning as of late as God has being doing a work of renewal in my life through my Doctor of Ministry program, that it's ALL so integrally connected. As one of my D.Min. mentors Steven Garber likes to say, we live in a moral universe; sometimes the Great Economy (Wendell Berry's term for "The Kingdom of God") calls to account the lesser economies of the worlds we've created for ourselves (consider Babel in Genesis 11 as a prime example). In the end, humanity cannot continue to give itself to "The Great Sin" (C.S. Lewis' term for Pride) and flourish indefinitely as well [certainly the cry of the Job and Jeremiah rings in our hearts, why does the way of the wicked prosper? (Job 21:7; Jer. 12:1); nonetheless, the cry is for justice that will indeed come once the patience and forbearance of of the Lord runs its course (Rev. 22:20)]. The way of human pride simply cannot bring about human flourishing ultimately since, to use Schaeffer's language, this is the world made by the God who is there.

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