Two years ago I posted a status update on Facebook that riled up so many of my friends that you would have thought I posted pictures of me killing puppies. I did not post pictures of me killing puppies. I said the Opening & Closing ceremonies of the Olympics disgust me.
Rain down fire from Heaven. What? How anti-American of me. How unpatriotic. How could I be so negative over something so beautiful and unifying? I must hate the Super Bowl and the 4th of July too. People stopped just short of calling me a terrorist.
Let me be sure you understand something before I write anymore...I love me some Olympics. Seriously, can't watch 30 minutes before I'm crying. Oh and those Bob Costas packages on the athletes...ugly cry. Every time. I love the athletes, their stories, their comebacks, their guts. I love the events, the flag ceremonies and those video collages set to music. Again, cue the ugly cry.
But back to the Opening & Closing ceremonies...friends, we are talking anywhere from 42 and 100 million dollars spent on the Opening Ceremonies alone. This is not including the TENS of BILLIONS of dollars already spent preparing for the Olympics. This, this is where I begin to feel nauseated.
Friends, please hear my heart...I am so far from having my financial crap together and/or being where God wants me to be when it comes to giving generously it gives Dave Ramsey a rash. I am not pulling a holier-than-thou-look-how-generous-I am post one single bit. Please, please hear that.
What I'm trying to say is that the money spent on these Olympic ceremonies every 2 years is a reflection of some very shallow and misplaced priorities of our world as a whole and the ceremonies I speak of are just an example of things done in the name of entertainment that are hugely excessive. At this very moment there are an estimated 6.8 million Syrians in need of humanitarian assistance. It is estimated there are 153 million orphans worldwide. In Africa alone, the WHO estimates that 1 million children (under the age of 5) die annually from pneumonia.
In my beloved India, nearly 2 million children under 5 die every year--one every 15 seconds--the highest number anywhere in the world. More than half die in the first month of life. Babies and children are most commonly dying from preventable illnesses such as malnutrition, pneumonia and diarrhea. Diarrhea, people. What is an inconvenience for us after indulging in too much junk food is killing children. How does that happen? How do we live in a world where an average of 65 million dollars is spent on a nationally funded party and 3 year olds are dying because they can't get medical treatment to help them stop pooping?
I've been spending some time in the book of Isaiah lately and I think this is one book of the Bible that makes God's heart for the poor and powerless crystal clear. Bam: out of the gates, chapter 1...When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood...Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow. (vs 15 & 17)
God is not talking to a bunch of heathens here; He is speaking to His chosen people. He's become weary of their offerings which have become meaningless because outside of the temple they are doing nothing for the downtrodden of their society. Later in the chapter He recalls a time the Nation was "full of justice" but now His holy anger has been ignited as the Nation's rulers "do not defend the cause of the fatherless; the widow's case does not come before them." He is a grieved father as he sees His children abandon their brothers and sisters who desperately need a helping hand.
I don't think we need to stretch our imaginations very far to speculate His heart must be just as broken now as it was then.
This isn't going to be a blog post that offers solutions. I think how much we give, to whom we give and how often we give is deeply personal and needs to be made within a family from the divine direction of the Holy Spirit. With that said, if your heart is convicted even one single bit then ask God to show you the details of how much and to whom. I guarantee He will show you.
I will say this though: Hot Jeff and I are madly in love with Compassion International.
Compassion International asks for $38 a month to sponsor a child in poverty. 83.6 cents on every 38 of those dollars goes to the child to help break the cycle of poverty (see their website to see directly how the money is used and the difference it makes in the lives of children). It is an amazing organization that we proudly support (more on our beautiful Deeya later). This is a great example of giving an amount to an entity that can do way more for the broken with $38 than I can.
Hot Jeff and I sat talking tonight and imagined what it would be like if in 2016 Brazil shocked the world and simply honored the athletes by having them march around a track and lit off some fireworks. Before the torch was lit the President of the IOC could tell the 1 billion people watching how many kids were vaccinated with the money they didn't spend on the Opening Ceremony. He could shout over the cheers how many adoptions had been finalized because shady bureaucracies had taken a back seat to ethical and streamlined practices because they were properly funded. Huge screens throughout the stadium would post pictures of the faces of children and their parents who had been brought out of slums and were now living in a home with access to clean water and education because millions of dollars went to them instead of costumes and props.
In 2008, Beijing's Opening Ceremonies had 14,000 performers. How do I know this? Google. What if in 2016 we were able to Google how many pregnant women received proper prenatal care with money earmarked for the Opening & Closing Ceremonies? (By the way, on Tuesday the minister of Social Development and Fight Against Hunger announced that over 16 million people in Brazil are living in poverty. 16 MILLION.)
You may say I'm a dreamer; but I'm not the only one.
If we call ourselves Christ-followers then we MUST commit ourselves to the cause of the broken, poor and needy. If anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? 1John 3:17
For realsies, we must live by the principle that we are our brother's keeper. We will be judged for how well or how poorly we do so.