Not knowing for sure when the shuttle would return, I decided to go to a coffee shop in the same shopping area and splurge on a cup of flavored coffee. It is rare that I allow myself this luxury, but being in the States, it seemed a normal thing to do. I ordered my coffee, a small one at that, and was astounded to be told it would be $4.98! That's twice what I would pay for the same cup of coffee in Guatemala, and I have to admit, I was taken aback, and somewhat convicted at the same time.
You see, that is what an average "camposino" or farm worker in Guatemala would make on a good day. Many earn less. And here I had just paid that for 12 oz. of coffee (perhaps harvested by these same workers who receive $13 for 100 pounds of beans) without really giving it a thought. The coffee was a little bitter in my mouth, and it wasn't because of the brew.
Now, do I think it's wrong to buy a cup of coffee? Of course not. What I began to contemplate was how, after just a little more than a week in the States, I had spent $5 without giving it a thought. How I had acclimated to the culture around me so quickly. And I have to admit, it broke me. We have limited resources in the ministry, and in Guatemala I would never spend $5 in such a cavalier manner.
Please don't think I'm suffering for Jesus down there. I live in a simple apartment by US standards, but it is luxurious compared to my neighbors. Do I allow myself creature comforts? I do. I even splurge on a $2.50 cup of flavored coffee once in a while when funds are available. (I also buy Coca-cola for the guys to enjoy.) But it is not an every day occurrence done without a second thought.
|What we think of as luxury in the US|
|A luxury "dream home" in Guatemala|
What convicted me the most was the many years I spent money so casually on things that I thought I needed. It never occurred to me that I was being extravagant in comparison to the majority of the world. When presented with an opportunity to share with those who had less, I would struggle, worrying that I would not have enough left for myself and my family. I have to shamefully admit, I was a tight-fisted giver, giving out of obedience to the Word, but not with joy.
Why am I sharing this? First and foremost, to hold myself accountable. In seven years in Guatemala God has changed my ideas of stewardship and taught me that much of what I thought was a need was really a luxury. And, in a few short days, I fell right back into my previous ways. It was a humbling experience which I don't want to repeat.
I am also sharing this, however, to challenge the multitude of people who "want to give to XYZ ministry but just can't afford it." Really? What if you intentionally sacrificed a latte a week? That would free up $20 a month to give to those who need it much more than you. What if you forego dinner out once a month, and give that money to the organization God has been putting on you heart for so long? What if you're on a limited budget, and only have $5 to give, and you're embarrassed to give so little? Do you trust God to multiply this widow's mite with his abundance.
This really isn't about organizations that need your donation, though they (we) do. It is about our hearts and attitudes before a Father who has been so generous to us. We who have been given much have a responsibility to care for those who have so little--and this is most of the people living in the world today. They are poor not for lack of effort on their part, but for lack of resources and opportunities. And we, who are overflowing in opportunities and resources, so quickly forget about them. God forgive us.
So the next time you drive by all those expensive coffee places, open your heart to the voice of the God who tells us:
that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after and in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."~~James 1:27
I am making it my conscious goal to protect myself from "being polluted by the world" (my culture in this case).
Will you join me?