Charity is popular in America. American Christians have been giving millions of dollars to noble causes both at home and around the globe for the past century. Increasingly, America's evangelical circles are beginning to pay attention to various world crises and giving a lot of money to help. As well, Hollywood and the media are ramping up their efforts. Shows like Oprah's Big Give and Extreme Makeover Home Edition touch our heart strings week after week.
Before I move on I do want to make something clear. These are very, very good efforts! It is good for us to give. I am glad that the troubles of the world are beginning to find voices in America's pulpits and tv screens.
Nevertheless, I must say that charity is not the answer. This morning I was reading on CNN that Sam's Club is limiting the amount of bulk rice that people can buy. Why? Because rice prices have increased by as much as 75% in many places in the world. 75%!!! For the 1 billion people on the planet who were already struggling to buy rice at yesterday's prices, 75% is beyond imagination.
Add to this that the dollars Americans are giving have drastically fallen in value since 2003. What we need to realize as Christians living in America is that our social spending habits, our economic and political decisions, and our ideas about how the world works has a huge impact on the world (obviously not only our policies and idea but other countries as well).
The church was intended to be its own oikos, its own polis, its own ekklesia-- a place for an alternative politic and economic! Disputes were to be handled in new ways. Money and property were to be handled in new ways. Relationships (including the common divisions between male/female, slave/free, and chosen race/other races) were to be different. There was supposed to be a common meal made uncommon (Yahweh's Table) where people would eat together. There are supposed to be deacons distributing bread to the city. There are supposed to be apostles who teach us this stuff. Charity changes when it is linked to an intangible symbol (a piece of paper we call a dollar that is increasingly a relative number on a computer screen). When charity is no longer a tangible, real item (such as bread or property), it ceases to function to its fullest abilities.