Right now I am reading Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. Though dated, his ideas have been the cause of a lot of thoughtful self-evaluation. One proposition he puts forward is that the abundance of irrelevant information we are continuously presented with changes our information-action ratio.
"You may get a sense of what this means by asking yourself another series of questions: What steps do you plan to take to reduce the conflict in the Middle East? Or the rates of inflation, crime and unemployment? What are your plans for preserving the environment or reducing the risk of nuclear war?...I shall take the liberty of answering for you: You plan to do nothing about them."I've certainly felt this to be true. I know too much, I know of all the problems of the world (knowing of them being a distinct idea from knowing about them). And armed with all this knowledge, I can do little.
So what happened Saturday? A good hearted woman wrote a plug for the ministry she's involved in, and I read it. In two paragraphs I was fully informed of the gravity of the problem and, lest I try to turn the page without deciding to do something, at the end she admonished me: Everyone may not be called to be directly involved but everyone must do something for this cause.
Oh, the guilt. One minute I'm flipping pages of a magazine, the next I am guilty before God because I don't want to adopt the cause. Is this right? Here is how I arrived at my answer. I asked myself, what ministries have asked for my help, or more to the point, my money, this year?
Well, let's see. I've been asked to help victims of earthquakes (2), floods, and tsunamis. Jewish evangelism, Muslim evangelism. Evangelists on bikes and in airplanes. Short term mission trips and summer camps. Orphans, foster children, the homeless, battered women and firefighters. Campus ministries at universities and after school programs. Bible translation, Bible smuggling, and curriculum development. I've been asked to give Thanksgiving dinners, health care, toys, goats, a year of schooling, or a soccer ball.
I cannot possibly give to each of these in a meaningful way. Which leads me to believe that no one ministry stands in a position to unequivocally declare that I must do something. This is based on the assumption that because I have a context free knowledge of the problem, I'm required to act. I disagree. I don't fully understand how to live this out; I can't give my time or money motivated by guilt. But God calls me to give. I want it to be cheerful, well-informed generosity marked by thoughtfulness and sacrifice.