Our next guest post might be better described as a book report! BFJN-er Ada Wan immediately picked up on the Lazarus at the Gate overtones in this forthcoming “call to action” book.In addition to serving as a Hunger Justice Leader for Bread for the World, Ada is a Resident in Social Enterprise at New Sector Alliance and a proud alumnus of Google Boston. Her interests include social entrepreneurship, human rights and international development, and she can be reached email@example.com.
BFJN’sLazarus at the Gate(LATG) has generated over $300,000 for the global and local poor in only four years. For those of us involved in LATG and other means of economic discipleship, exciting data like this serves as inspiration and encouragement to press on in our collective fight against global poverty.
But until recently, I have found Jesus’ words inJohn 12:8rather troubling: “You will always have the poor among you.” Together withDeuteronomy 15:11, some interpret this verse to mean that we can never eradicate global poverty. Especially in light of the increasingly results-centered, evaluative focus that the development world is adopting, then, this message can be sobering. If the poor are always going to be among us, are we ultimately engaging in an unwinnable fight when we try to answer God’s call to fast in Isaiah 58:6-7 by sharing our resources and seeking justice? To minimize opportunity cost and maximize impact, should we be allocating our efforts elsewhere?
Thankfully, in his upcoming book,Fast Living: How the Church Will End Extreme Poverty,Dr. Scott Todd of Compassion International suggests otherwise. In the second half ofJohn 12:8, Todd points out, Jesus also states, “But you will not always have me.” As Christians today, we recognize that here, Christ is speaking to Judas and his disciples in the context of their lifetimes, yet we somehow selectively fail to apply this same logic to the first half of his sentence.
As evidence, Todd, a former biomedical researcher, cites the following statistic, which perhaps does not always receive the attention it merits amidst the doom-and-gloom numbers that development agencies have traditionally disseminated to make a compelling case for urgent need: “In 1981, 52% of the world’s population lived in extreme poverty (living on less than $1 a day). As of 2005, that number is 26%.”If in a matter of only 24 years, we have cut the proportion of those living in extreme poverty in half, he argues, then we can certainly eradicate extreme poverty in this generation.According to Todd’s interview withThe Chronicle of Philanthropy,“Some 138 million Christians live in the United States—and they collectively earn $2.4-trillion per year. If each one of those people just slightly increased the amount he or she gives each year, they could eradicate extreme poverty by 2035.”
Among those who share Todd’s belief are world-class Christian organizations such as Compassion International, International Justice Mission and the Micah Challenge, which together with their partners have issued the call for Christians in the States to end extreme povertyin our lifetimesvia the“58” initiative, named aptly after the oft-cited chapter in Isaiah. Through the cutting-edge “58” web platform, we can join millions of our brothers and sisters in Christ in committing to eliminate global poverty through the kind of “fasting” mentioned in Isaiah—increasing our giving by an additional 1 percent to world-class, Christian anti-poverty organizations, including the partners above.
Hmm… does the above ring familiar for anyone else? I don’t know about you, but the first thought that came to my mind upon reading theChroniclearticle was, “Whoa, guys. This is LATG gone global.”
Upon further reflection, as a former straight-A student and goody-two-shoes of 26 years who once was voted by my classmates to be “most likely to study on her wedding night,” I have to confess that I never thought I would be getting involved with a “fast” anything. (My first car was a 1992 white Toyota station wagon that—to the chagrin of the hapless drivers behind me—never quite reached the speed limit.) In fact, my only accomplishment that someone might have considered even calling “fast” would probably be the exhilarating Friday nights of my youth—which I typically spent “fast” asleep. At 10 p.m., no less.
So, it is now with much excitement that I am announcing that I have finally joined the ranks of the cool: Thanks to 58, I am proud to declare that, like Todd, I am also committed to “fast living.” Who’s in?