It all started four years ago.
I was sitting at my desk, a fresh copy of ‘Interrupted’ in one hand, a highlighter in the other. I had a few minutes before my next staff meeting and my soul was frantically grasping at anything that would stifle the voices in my head. Voices that caused me to doubt the current trajectory my life was taking. Voices that beckoned a response to the following questions, “Is there more to this life? Am I missing the point?” My soul was parched, and for whatever reason, I thought Jen Hatmaker could relate to the inner dialogue I was experiencing and offer me some guidance.
If I wanted the voices in my head to subside, I seriously should have reconsidered my choice in reading material, because little did I know, God was about to take a wrecking ball to my present view of the gospel, the least of these, and my role in His greater story.
After reading a few pages, I bowed my head and prayed, “God, break my heart for the least of these. Grant me the ability to see the poor, the widowed, the fatherless, the homeless the way You see them. Help me to love them as You love them. Raise up in me a pure and holy passion for Your people.” Or something dumb like that. (In all seriousness, be careful what you pray. God just may answer said prayer and wreck your life in the process.) I closed the book and walked out the door to my meeting, not realizing that my life was about to be forever changed.
If ever there were a book that accurately reflected the condition of my soul, it would be this one.
One day, while studying John 21, Jen recalls the following encounter with Jesus:
Nothing could have prepared me for what came next. I told Him, “I thought I was feeding Your sheep, but I’ll try harder.”
And from the depths of heaven, this is what I heard: “You do feed souls, but twenty-four thousand of my sheep will die today because no one fed their bellies; eighteen thousand of them are my youngest lambs, starving today in a world with plenty of food to go around. If you truly love Me, you will feed My lambs. My people are crumbling and dying and starving, and you’re blessing blessed people and dreaming about your next house.”
I couldn’t have been more floored if I’d come home to find Jesus Himself making homemade salsa in my kitchen. I did a little checking, and those statistics are spot-on. It dawned on me that Jesus was asking me not to do more of the same but to engage a different charge altogether. He was enlisting me in the cause of my generation, the mission of God’s true church.
All of a sudden, I saw my exact reflection in Peter: devoted but selfish, committed but misguided. And that is not going to be enough. It won’t suffice to claim good intentions. Saying, “I meant well” is not going to cut it. Not with God screaming, begging, pleading, urging us to love mercy and justice, to feed the poor and the orphaned, to care for the last and least in nearly every book of the Bible. It will not be enough one day to stand before Jesus and say, “Oh? Were You serious about all that?“
-Excerpt from ‘Interrupted’ by Jen Hatmarker, emphasis mine.
The statistics are alarming
- Of the six billion people on planet Earth, about 1.2 billion live on twenty-three cents a day.
- Half of the world lives on less than two dollars and fifty cents a day.
- The wealthiest one billion people average seventy dollars a day. (This places you and me in the upper, upper, upper percentages of the global population.)
- If you make thirty-five thousand dollars annually, you are in the top 4 percent.
- If you make fifty thousand dollars annually, the top 1 percent.
- Someone dies of hunger every 3.6 seconds.
- Last year twenty-two million children and adults are trapped in slavery (sex slaves, labor slaves, child soldiers, and child slaves) because of economic crisis. More slaves exist today than ever before in human history.
- More than 143 million children in the developing world have been orphaned (equivalent to more than half the population of the United States).
- In the last hour:
-Over 1,625 children are forced to the streets by the death or abuse of an adult.
-Over 115 children become prostitutes
-Over 66 children under the age of fifteen were infected by HIV.
- Roughly 1 billion people in the world do not have suitable housing, and 100 million are entirely homeless.
- 780 million people lack basic water sanitation, which results in disease, death, wastewater for drinking, and loss of immunity.
-Americans consume twenty-six billion liters of bottled water a year.
- We spend more annually on trash bags than nearly half the world spends on all goods combined.
- Fifty-seven million children worldwide work every day instead of go to school.
-Four out of five Americans are high school graduates.
- The poorest one-fifth of the world owns 1 percent of the world’s cars.
-The richest one-fifth of the world owns 87 percent of the world’s cars.
- Roughly forty million people (the equivalent of about seven Jewish Holocausts) die annually from starvation, disease, and malnutrition.
-69 percent of US adults and 18 percent of children and adolescents are overweight or obese.
*If you are interested in the sources behind these statistics, email me at email@example.com and I will send them to you. Or better yet, buy Jen’s book.
Feed My Lambs
There it was, the source of my spiritual anemia, staring straight at me in the face- I was blessing blessed people and growing apathetic to the condition of the poor and the least of these, not only around the world, but in my own backyard. I came back from my meeting, head swimming, and full of questions. I pulled the door to my office closed, fell to my knees, and wept. I was on staff at a church for crying out loud. How could this possibly happen? I was immersed in Scripture daily. I lead Bible studies. I taught on passages like Luke 18:18-34 (that would be the one where Jesus confronts the rich young ruler and tells the young man that unless he sell all of his possessions, he cannot follow Him.) How could I have possibly missed something so fundamental to the gospel as tending to the needs of the poor? And not just tending to their souls, but their physical and emotional and economic needs as well.
I began to talk about what I was discovering with anyone who would listen. Friends, family, co-workers, people at church. Each time I was met with, “You’re crazy, Meg. We’re busy doing enough as it is, and here you are, wanting to add trips downtown to feed the homeless, and orphan care ministries, and mission trips to Africa to our agenda. Can’t we just send them some money instead?” My soul was restless and I knew God was calling me to do more than just teach the latest Beth Moore Bible study (I’m not knocking Beth. I love her and her Bible studies.) He was obviously leading me in a new direction and few were willing to join me on this new journey.
Four Years Later
I’m still met with the same dumbfounded, “You’re crazy, Meg” look when I bring up the concepts behind ‘Interrupted’ and ’7′ with friends and family, and my growing struggle with excessive materialism and the overindulgent lifestyle marked by the majority of Americans. I’m just learning to embrace it.
Here’s the thing- God’s heart beats for the broken, the wounded, the misunderstood. It beats for the outcast, the homeless, the marginalized. It beats for the lonely, the diseased, the helpless. It beats for the hungry, the captives, and those without hope. It beats for the widowed, the fatherless, and the poor. And He was serious when He said that meeting the needs of the least of these is non-negotiable if you are to be counted as one of His followers.
Truly I [Jesus] say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.
Matthew 25: 45, emphasis mine.
We are to care for the least of these out of love for our Savior and obedience to the calling that He has placed on our lives. It’s as simple as that. If I claim to love Jesus, I need care about the marginalized. I need to care about the poor and the afflicted. Because He cares about those things.
In closing, Jen, if you should ever read this, I want to thank you for allowing yourself to be used by God to wake me from my slumber. Thank you for not ignoring the restlessness of your heart and for pressing further into the Presence of Christ to ignite a passion for the least of these in our generation. Thank you for wrecking my comfortable Christianity.