"What do you have that you did not receive?" 1 Corinthians 4:7
In a recent sermon on Romans, Tullian Tchividjian relayed the story of his travel to a southeastern U.S. city where he spoke to a group of financial supporters on behalf of a ministry that serves the poor---homeless, addicted, abused, and unemployed. Earlier that day, he toured this ministry's facilities and chatted with those being helped. During the talk he said, "I learned more about God's grace talking to those people, because they were desperate, than I do most people I talk to in church."
Why? Perhaps because those in need are more in touch with their desperate dependence on grace. When things are great and our basic needs are met, we tend to forget our actual impoverished condition. It's too easy to mistakenly believe that we are self-reliant; we might even pat ourselves on the back for how smart and hard-working we've been.
This story got me thinking about how we who live in material comfort often take for granted our access to gospel resources. We're surrounded by teachers, sermons, good books, online resources, Bible software, blogs, and the list goes on. Sure, many of us work hard to gather good resources and regularly imbibe truth to feed our souls. But in the end, a gracious God has handed us things we didn't choose or earn:
- When and where we were born
- Our families
- The economic, social, and technological environment in which we live
- Awareness of the gospel
- The legacies of preachers and authors who preceded us
In contrast, we should consider those in the Global South who often suffer from theological famine. We are frequently in touch with leaders in countries where solid Christian publishing in their language practically does not exist. Many pastors and church leaders lack sufficient access to gospel-centered teaching and resources. While good books are hard to come by, those by false teachers are quite prevalent. Due to poor technology, online study resources are also rare.
Imagine how desperate you would be, especially trying to shepherd a flock of God's people. Most of us in the West will not face this kind of need, though a majority in the rest of the world endures it. Their poverty should remind us of our true condition and desperate need for the grace of God. What we enjoy so lavishly has been given to us by sheer grace. Thank God!
As Tim Keller has said, "When Christians who understand the gospel, see a poor person, they realize they are looking into a mirror."
Bill Walsh is director of international outreach for The Gospel Coalition. He worked for Desiring God Ministries for 13 years. Starting in 2006, he and a small team built a global network of partners for the cause of Theological Famine Relief for the Global Church. This initiative joined TGC in 2012. He lives with his wife, Cindi, in Minneapolis and has two adult children, Beau and Regan.