Last week my wife and I attended an international church service in Tangier, Morocco. The majority of the congregation was comprised of immigrant Africans, but there were others from Asia and Europe as well.
The speaker was a visitor from Kenya. He was a great communicator, an engaging speaker, charismatic and funny, but he did have a decidedly “prosperity” inclination. He used the verse in Zechariah 4:10 (“For who has despised the day of small things?”) to encourage us that God will indeed 1) give us 20 pairs of shoes and 2) help us cross the Mediterranean to Europe.
Leaving the church that day, I started to think about how God has blessed me. I can sit and criticize a doctrine, which indeed is problematic, yet, here I am, prosperous, probably in the top one percent of the world fiscally. I have a luxury car. I have a house with all the amenities. My closet is full of clothes. My kitchen is stocked full. My children are in an elite school. I have savings. I have expendable income. I have health insurance. I own property. I travel the world. I vacation at will.
I have financially encountered prosperity and blessing in a way 99 percent of the world never will. And you may be wealthier or poorer than me today, but the fact is, every one of us here lives a blessed life compared to most of the earth.
So what will our response be to the prosperity doctrine? Well, in one way, it will be this fast that denies expendable shopping. A shopping fast can remind us that most of the world cannot afford the extras or even the necessities that we buy almost cavalierly. A shopping fast also should remind us that God is our source; God is our Father; and God is our supply. It should also remind us that we must be careful that our material prosperity does not turn our trust from Him to mammon, man, or medicine. A fast that steers us away from the purchasing power of money is also intended to remind us of the all sufficiency of God.
We don’t need the extra item. We don’t live by bread alone. God is our sufficiency.
A shopping fast can also direct our attention to those who cannot shop, to the poor who do not have the resources we have. A shopping fast can help us remember our prosperity and wrestle with what our Christlike obligation is to the poor and non-prosperous.
I think this is incredibly important for us in Live Dead, especially in the light of the fact that we rightly, biblically hold to the priority of proclamation in gospel witness. I am absolutely convinced that the Bible prioritizes the eternal soul and verbal proclamation, but that is no excuse to not love the poor and unfortunate; it is no excuse to neglect the body; it is no excuse to abstain from ongoing compassionate interaction with my neighbor; it is no excuse to stop being a good steward of the earth and all creation. I do firmly believe it is a both/and, that prioritizing proclamation should in no way diminish tangible touching and loving.
You have probably heard me say that in reaching Muslims there are three necessary encounters: 1) Truth Encounters (verbal sharing of the biblical gospel), 2) Power Encounters (supernatural acts of the Spirit of God such as healing, miracle, dreams, etc.), and 3) Love Encounters (physical, compassionate, relational touches of life on life). As our Chi Alpha family says, “Love and laughter plow the hearts.”
Here then is a challenge for this month’s Kingdom Fast. Perhaps you could even apply it weekly: three acts per week of Truth, three acts per week of Power, and three acts per week of Love. Three times this coming week, verbally share the gospel. Three times this week, actively and boldly in faith pray for a healing of a Muslim friend or for a miracle. Three times this week, touch the poor with compassion—food, medicine, a blanket, toys, tools, or something that tangibly demonstrates the love of God to a poor neighbor.
Let’s take a reprieve from spending of our prosperity on ourselves. Let’s do some shopping for the poor!