May 13 2008

Cultural Compassion

compassionate action Here are some numbers for you to chew on today.

compassionate actionThe Barna Group did a survey asking “born-again” Christians and other Americans what they had done in the past 12 months to help those in poverty. Among the results were:

  • 75 percent of born-again Christians gave material resources, not including money, directly to the poor.
  • 74 percent of other Americans gave material resources, not including money, directly to the poor.
  • 50 percent of born-again Christians donated time to personally serve needy people who live in the community.
  • 45 percent of other Americans did the same.

Hmmm … That’s not a big difference. Regarding the statistics, David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group said,

Given the extensive comments in the Bible regarding the importance of taking care of the poor, we expected to see a larger distinction between the responses of born-again Christians and non-Christians.

This isn’t a beauty pageant — we’re not competing with those around us for “Best Do-Gooder.” But one would expect the followers of Jesus — the most compassionate man who ever walked this earth — to be a bit more radical in their compassionate deeds, a bit more out of the ordinary.

I think America is a pretty compassionate country, thanks in part to its Judeo-Christian roots. So I have to ask myself: Is my compassion just a result of my do-gooder culture? Or is my compassion a radical outpouring of following Jesus, knowing him, and becoming like him?

What matters isn’t how I measure up to the average American around me, but whether I’m seeking Christ and following his example, “who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant” (Philippians 2:6-7).

What do you think? Are you culturally compassionate? Is your compassion an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in your life as you follow Jesus?

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  1. Stevi
    May 13, 2008
    at 3:27 pm

    I think maybe the real difference between Christians and non-Christians when it comes to helping the poor is motivation. I think the Pharisees of Jesus’ day were quite charitable, but their motivation was off-base. Christians, hopefully, give out of love and to bring glory to God and to introduce people to the generosity and compassion of their Heavenly Father.

  2. May 13, 2008
    at 4:56 pm

    very challenging numbers and post!

  3. May 13, 2008
    at 5:27 pm

    Thanks for sharing this, Amber.

    About your question, “Is my compassion just a result of my do-gooder culture?” From my own experience, I can re-word the question this way:

    “Is my compassion just a result of my desire to clean out my garage? Or is my compassion a radical outpouring of following Jesus, knowing him, and becoming like him?”

    Does that make sense?

    From a temporal standpoint, I’m fine if someone chooses either because someone gets helped. But because we want to walk as Christ did, and because we want to BE compassionate and not just DO compassion…

  4. Andrew Z.
    May 13, 2008
    at 5:32 pm

    Sorry. We aren’t doing enough, and I definitely include myself. I probably spend more on ice cream than on compassionate causes.

    “Europeans spend $11 billion a year on ice cream–$2 billion more than the estimated annual total needed to provide clean water and safe sewers for the world’s population.” (1998)

    I assume Americans spend similarly as Europeans.

    I can’t remember where I heard this or a similar statistic, but I re-found it here

  5. May 14, 2008
    at 10:11 am

    @Stevi
    That’s a great point – remember the widow’s mite.

    @Andrew
    I’m sure the numbers for America are just as bad.

  6. Amber Van Schooneveld
    May 14, 2008
    at 11:04 am

    Andrew, It’s funny you should bring up ice cream. I’m an ice cream fanatic and I ate 5 (yes, count them, 5) scoops this weekend. Not all at once, mind you.

    It makes me wonder what sacrifices I could make (like maybe eating only 3 scoops) to instead bless others, as Tim says above, to give someone else an ice cream sandwich.

  7. May 17, 2008
    at 4:29 pm

    I’m thinking that the close proximity in given numbers stems from our religious heritage as nation founded on godly principles. That being said, we can always do more, so thank you for the motivation as I plan on doing likewise.

  8. Mike Stephens
    Mar 30, 2009
    at 6:25 pm

    I greatly appreciate the post. I really liked Ian’s comment. If Ian gave me a 100% mango smoothie and said “Mike, by HIS stripes you are HEALED!!!” And someone else said oh, mike you are thirsty here is a mango smoothie. At the end of the day God is love, without God I have no love. I’ve received things but no love seemed to be in the giving.

  9. Mike Stephens
    Mar 30, 2009
    at 6:28 pm

    Excellent point by Ian!!! I can throw $100 to this or that cause i.e. simply do or I can go on the Philippines Sponsor Tour and dunk a basketball with 2 hands for Angelo and BE Compassion. As a follower of Christ I will choose the latter ;)

  10. Oct 25, 2011
    at 9:40 am

    Thank you Amber,
    Great post. Lot’s to chew on and great comment by Ian.

  11. Feb 29, 2012
    at 9:41 am

    Thanks for sharing and speaking out on this topic. Recently social justice issues have grown popular in the Chruch and oftentimes Jesus has been forgotten in our pursuit to bring about justice when Christ alone is justice. He alone is the answer and it is in partnering with Him that true justice can come to the world.

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