A lot has changed in the past twenty years, politically, sociologically, in many ways. But Just Generosity: A new vision for overcoming poverty in America, by Ronald Sider, hits home just as powerfully now as it did then. In fact, its overall message seems even more urgent. Coming into the 21st Century, the author says, we in the U.S. are at a historic crossroads, where faith-based work with people in vulnerable, poverty-stricken zones can combine with the best of medical and social sciences to “end the tragedy of widespread poverty in the richest society on earth.”
Living into this vision may sound way beyond us, but it’s not, given how many millions of people in North America read the Bible regularly and seek to follow what they understand as the way of Jesus. Sider himself is a surprising combination of seeming opposites. A Canadian-born American theologian and social activist, he disclaims any political inclination. In Just Generosity, he calls Christians to examine their priorities and pocketbooks in the face of so many people living in poverty while they “live in practical opulence.” The review by Publisher’s Weekly notes that while Sider gets down to specifics in his book about American social programs, his “prescriptions do not fit into familiar left-right categories.”
Politics of any kind aside, Sider stretches us all by challenging readers to make the following “Generous Christians pledge:”
+ “Daily, to pray for the poor, beginning with the Generous Christians prayer: ‘Lord Jesus, teach my heart to share your love for the poor.’
+ Weekly, to minister at least one hour, helping, serving, sharing with, and, mostly, getting to know someone in need.
+ Monthly, to study at least one story, book, article, or film about the plight of the poor and hungry and discuss it with others.
+ Yearly, to retreat for a few hours to meditate on this one question in light of Scripture: ‘Is caring for the poor as important in my life as it is in the Bible?’ and to examine my budget and priorities in light of it, asking God what changes [God] would like me to make in the use of my time, money, influence, and citizenship.”
Reassessing our priorities in how we use what we’ve been given sounds like good stewardship to me! Whatever our politics (or lack thereof), I wonder what would happen if we decided to personally take up this pledge – or even a portion of it – and engage in such practices on a regular basis. What a transforming experience it could be, for people on both sides of such a pledge!
Your partner in ministry,