Our guest writer, Elaine Everett Atchison, works for Higher Call as an editor and event planner. She also teaches English to international clients, and advocates for the Somali Bantu community in Middle Tennessee.
In 1990, my husband’s company declared bankruptcy and we lost our wealth and our dream home, forcing us to rent a two-bedroom townhouse for four years. I was mad at God–hadn’t we been faithful, ethical and generous? Hadn’t we been prayerful about our business decisions? I felt we deserved better and descended into a long season of disillusionment. A few years later, one paragraph in From Fear to Freedom: Living as Sons and Daughters of God awakened me to my presumptive faith. The author asked “Wasn’t the universe founded on a moral order and tilted in favor of the hard working and the righteous? Like the orphan I had cried, ‘I am abandoned,’ when in fact God’s grace was passionately pursuing me.” That began a new quest about the meaning of true faith and God’s grace.
In 2004, I began volunteering with World Relief, a refugee resettlement agency in our city. I was assigned to an East African group whose needs matched my skill set as a pediatric speech-language therapist. My intercultural skills were few, but as I learned their names, visited their homes and heard their stories, my heart began to soften, then break, then enlarge. The early 90s were very difficult times in Somalia, too. Like me, these newcomers had lost their farms and homes; but unlike me, they were also persecuted, starved, raped and murdered, then displaced in another country for twelve years. Finally they found refuge in America, where they faced a new set of challenges: technology, illiteracy and urban poverty. My definition of injustice was forever redefined.
“. . . and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justice , and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)
In Generous Justice : How God’s Grace Makes us Just, Tim Keller points out that justice reflects God’s character as Defender and Father and honors His image (i.e. family resemblance) in others. When we do not obey, we hide His beauty from the world. The Hebrew words in Micah cover attitude [chesedh] and action [mishpat]. Justice is pursuing right relationships as well as generosity. God modeled this by sending Jesus Christ to redeem undeserving humans; He not only loved us, but died for us. God commands the recipients of His grace to not only share their stories, but to do justice. Keller cautions, “The word charity conveys a good but optional activity . . . unfortunately, most of us are insufficiently motivated to actually do it. We are tempted to secure what we believe we have earned and deserve at the cost of community–we pay the lowest wage to our workers, charge the highest fee to our customers, and hoard our excess profits rather than sacrificing our own convenience or comfort to make a difference.
The marketplace is full of financial and human capital that could meet countless needs around the globe and in your city. During a season when we claim Jesus’ words that “it is more blessed to give than receive” (Acts 20:35), we should follow His “whole cloth” agenda and 1) give to the poor, 2) avoid overwork and 3) avoid materialism and self-indulgence. Christians are called to share their money, time, expertise and influence to relieve, develop and reform our communities. Here’s to investments with eternal returns.
Dear Father, from the beginning you have identified with the powerless, not the elites. Throughout the Bible you have given me a complete picture of how to live generously, yet I spend far more on myself than the poor. You have given me far more than I need or deserve yet I often determine my giving by judgments about a person’s worthiness. Give me eyes to see the value of all people to You and how I can demonstrate Your heart in the “next neighborhood over” in my city. Amen.
“Human beings will only be drawn out of themselves into service to others when they see God as supremely beautiful.”