The extreme poverty I witnessed this past week was not a new experience for me. It was a reminder however that the greatest need in our lives is not for physical comfort, but for spiritual salvation and hope provided through a saving faith in Christ alone.
As Americans, our initial response to witnessing poverty is a conviction of how well we live and (hopefully) a compassionate response to meet those needs in a real and loving way.
When I returned home Sunday evening I was flipping TV stations and saw our version of a compassionate response to physical needs...Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. As wonderful as the things are that happen on this show, when you think about it, the efforts and money could be much better applied and distributed. The end result of every show is often a 2,000-4,000 sq.ft. palatial home that is overdone to every detail and luxury. Although the families are often needy and hurting, the excesses done to meet the "perceived need" in a home is indicant of a cultural problem in America and many other nations.
Many Americans contribute some portion of their incomes to charitable causes and to churches. As good as we feel about these contributions, the statistics bely that only about 2% of household incomes are given to charity (http://www.generousgiving.org/page.asp?sec=4&page=161)
Although an increase in financial giving and donation of time in service would be a helpful response, we must understand that humanity's true needs are not met in physical comfort. Humanity's true need is salvation from sin and is found in Christ alone. This need can be met by Christians sharing their faith boldly, courageously, and regularly. It is a free gift, but also the most-neglected in being shared.
If we begin to have an eternal perspective when looking at those around us (a perspective provided through the reading and studying of God's Word)...whether rich or poor... we will begin to have a passion for sharing Christ, the gift that can truly makeover people's lives in an extreme way that lasts for eternity.