Do you have ubuntu?

March 27, 2009

I have been reading Jim Wallis’ latest book, “The Great Awakening” and came across a wonderful quote from Desmond Tutu, the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa:

“Ubuntu is a concept that we have in our Bantu languages at home. Ubuntu is the essence of being a person. It means that we are people through other people. We cannot be fully human alone. We are made for interdependence, we are made for family. When you have ubuntu, you embrace others. You are generous, compassionate. If the world had more ubuntu, we would not have war. We would not have this huge gap between the rich and the poor. You are rich so that you can make up what is lacking for others. You are powerful so that you can help the weak, just as a mother or father helps their children. This is God’s dream.

It embraces hospitality, caring about others, being able to go the extra mile for the sake of others. We believe that a person is a person through another person, that my humanity is caught up, bound up, inextricably, with yours. When I dehumanise you, I inexorably dehumanise myself. The solitary human being is a contradiction in terms and therefore you seek to work for the common good because your humanity comes into its own in belonging.”

I don’t want to add any more to that – it’s just brilliant!

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I was just reading a review of a book “Passing the Plate, Why American Christians Don’t Give Away More Money”. I can’t say much about this book because I haven’t read it, but I was taken by one line in the review, which is apparently backed up by real data:

[in America] If just the “committed Christians” (defined as those who attend church at least a few times a month or profess to be “strong” or “very strong” Christians) would tithe [giving away 10% of their income], there would be an extra 46 billion dollars a year available for kingdom work.

Tithing and financial generousity is a very strong value of mine and it frustrates me when Christians and churches will ignore the poverty of the world (and even their own backyard), to serve their own wants (as distinct from ‘needs’).

I’m currently battling with the concept of savings and investments and what it means for me. Jesus said in Matthew 6:

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Does this mean that we shouldn’t keep some money aside and plan for the future? I’m not sure. But it certainly implores us to ask the question. If Jesus was sitting on a fat savings account with lucrative investments, could you really see him ignoring the plight of the poor and homeless by protecting his ‘nest egg’?

I can’t.

What is your endgame?

October 23, 2008

What is you endgame? What is it that you set out to achieve in life?

Australian (and generally Western) secular culture has a very clear endgame. That is, what people ultimately want to get out of life. Hundreds of years have ingrained a philosophy or ‘gospel’ of what the average Westerner should set out to do in their life and this frames what is seen as a ‘successful’ life. There are certain things that people take for granted as being milestones and goals that are expected to be achieved in their lives.

Let me suggest, in no particular order, some key milestones in the gospel of the ‘Australian way of life’:

  1. Receive an education sufficient to grant you access to 2.
  2. Get a job that meets your personal need for a sense of worth and financial ability to live ‘comfortably’
  3. Have friends
  4. Have surplus cash for hobbies and interests
  5. Own a car
  6. Get married
  7. Buy a house
  8. Have children
  9. Retire and enjoy the ending time of your life in comfort

This is the classic gospel of the average Australian and we more-or-less take this for granted. This is not to mean that we will all achieve this, but it is expected that we aim for these things and it is socially acceptable to achieve these things.

Have you ever questioned these things? Is the attainment of these things something that you take for granted? Are these goals so much a part of our Western culture that we don’t even consider that God may be calling us to something else? Do you seek God’s guidance about all these things to ensure that it is His will that we pursue them?

The beauty (or pitfall) of all the things described in the list above is that they are reasonable and seemingly honourable goals. We can look at them and see that they are not bad or inherently sinful and therefore wanting them and achieving them is okay… or is it?

Let me suggest some corresponding milestones and goals:

  1. Commit yourself to the lifelong instruction of the Holy Spirit
  2. Live by faith without financial reward through employment
  3. Have friends (I can’t think of a good counter to this!)
  4. Contribute your surplus cash to people who are in need
  5. Catch the bus wherever you go
  6. Commit to a life of being single
  7. Live in a community of people where everything is shared
  8. Adopt a child that has no family
  9. Work hard up until your last breath

What is the difference between the first list and the second list? Not much, really. They are just two different approaches to how you may live your life. Neither is a greater calling than the other. Neither is even more difficult than the other. Not receiving regular financial reward from employment is tough, but so is committing yourself to a lifetime of hefty mortgage repayments. Likewise, having your own home allows you rest and privacy, whereas living in a community gives you close and immediate support from the people living around you.

I like to think that my endgame is “the will of God”. This means actively consulting God and receiving His guidance in every area of our lives, rather than simply defaulting to the gospel of Western culture, outlined in the first list above. God may call us to list 1 or He may call us to list 2. God’s will for our lives may be a mix ‘n’ match of both lists. There is no right or wrong in either of these lists. Right is doing God’s will and wrong is doing anything else.

I want to encourage you all to seek the will of God in every area of your lives, particularly those that are ingrained in our culture, because these are the hardest to question. I have been asking these questions myself and am very challenged by what I feel God is calling me to. I’m not sure if it is list 1, list 2 or a mix of both. I like to think that I am open to everything. God seeks a willing heart; which is an action-oriented commitment. It is not inherently difficult to do God’s will (because he enables us to do it!), but it may mean breaking some norms of Western culture and taking some risks.

Make “God’s will” your endgame.