In 2004 Victor Yushchenko stood for the presidency of the Ukraine. Vehemently opposed by the ruling party Yushchenko’s face was disfigured and he almost lost his life when he was mysteriously poisoned. This was not enough to deter him from standing for the presidency.
On the day of the election Yushchenko was comfortably in the lead. The ruling party, not to be denied, tampered with the results. The state-run television station reported “ladies and gentlemen, we announce that the challenger Victor Yushchenko has been decisively defeated.”
In the lower right-hand corner of the screen a woman by the name of Natalia Dmitruk was providing a translation service for the deaf community. As the news presenter regurgitated the lies of the regime, Natalia Dmitruk refused to translate them. “I’m addressing all the deaf citizens of Ukraine” she signed. “They are lying and I’m ashamed to translate those lies. Yushchenko is our president.”
The deaf community sprang into gear. They text messaged their friends about the fraudulent result and as news spread of Dmitruk’s act of defiance increasing numbers of journalists were inspired to likewise tell the truth. Over the coming weeks the “Orange Revolution” occurred as a million people wearing orange made their way to the capital city of Kiev demanding a new election. The government was forced to meet their demands, a new election was held and Victor Yushchenko became president.
Philip Yancey writes
“When I heard the story behind the orange revolution, the image of a small screen of truth in the corner of the big screen became for me an ideal picture of the church. You see we as a church do not control the big screen. (When we do, we usually mess it up.) Go to any magazine rack or turn on the television and you see a consistent message. What matters is how beautiful you are, how much money or power you have. Similarly, though the world includes many poor people, they rarely make the magazine covers or the news shows. Instead we focus on the superrich, names like Bill Gates or Oprah Winfrey.… Our society is hardly unique. Throughout history nations have always glorified winners, not losers. Then, like the sign language translator in the lower right-hand corner of the screen, along comes a person named Jesus who says in effect, Don’t believe the big screen – they’re lying. It’s the poor who are blessed, not the rich. Mourners are blessed too, as well as those who hunger and thirst, and the persecuted. Those who go through life thinking they’re on top end up on the bottom. And those who go through life feeling they’re on the bottom end up on the top. After all, what does it profit a person to gain the whole world and lose his soul?”
Source: Philip Yancey, What Good Is God, pages 184-186
Speaker Bob Perks was at an airport when he ‘overheard a father and daughter in their last moments together. They had announced her departure and standing near the security gate, they hugged and he said, “I love you. I wish you enough.” She in turn said, “Daddy, our life together has been more than enough. Your love is all I ever needed. I wish you enough, too, Daddy.”
They kissed and she left. He walked over toward the window where I was seated. Standing there I could see he wanted and needed to cry. I tried not to intrude on his privacy, but he welcomed me in by asking, “Did you ever say goodbye to someone knowing it would be forever?”
“Yes, I have,” I replied. Saying that brought back memories I had of expressing my love and appreciation for all my Dad had done for me. Recognizing that his days were limited, I took the time to tell him face to face how much he meant to me.
So I knew what this man experiencing.
“Forgive me for asking, but why is this a forever goodbye?” I asked.
“I am old and she lives much too far away. I have challenges ahead and the reality is, the next trip back would be for my funeral,” he said.
“When you were saying goodbye I heard you say, “I wish you enough.” May I ask what that means?”
He began to smile. “That’s a wish that has been handed down from other generations. My parents used to say it to everyone.” He paused for a moment and looking up as if trying to remember it in detail, he smiled even more.”When we said ‘I wish you enough,’ we were wanting the other person to have a life filled with just enough good things to sustain them,” he continued and then turning toward me he shared the following as if he were reciting it from memory.
“I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright.
I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun more.
I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive.
I wish you enough pain so that the smallest joys in life appear much bigger.
I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.
I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.
I wish enough “Hello’s” to get you through the final “Goodbye.”
He then began to sob and walked away.
My friends, I wish you enough!’
Source: Bob Perks. Used with permission
The modern Australian way is to spend, spend, spend, to the very limits of your income and then some more!
A few hundred years ago the great preacher and evangelist John Wesley showed us another way. Wesley lived in economically uncertain times, yet from humble beginnings he became so well known that his income eventually reached 1400 pounds per year. In 2001 this would be the equivalent of earning around $300,000.
So what did he do with all this wealth? Did he tithe it? No. Wesley went way beyond tithing. He disciplined himself to live on just 30 pounds of the 1400 pounds he earned every year. He gave away 98% of all he earned and lived on just 2%!
Wesley once preached a sermon on Luke 16.9. In it he spelled out his philosophy: money is a tool that can be used for great good or great ill. “It is an excellent gift of God” he claimed, “answering the noblest ends. In the hands of his children, it is food for the hungry, drink for the thirsty, raiment for the naked: It gives to the traveller and the stranger where to lay his head. By it we may supply the place of an husband to the widow, and of a father to the fatherless. We maybe a defence for the oppressed, a means of health to the sick, of ease to them that are in pain; it may be as eyes to the blind, as feet to the lame; yea, a lifter up from the gates of death! It is therefore of the highest concern that all who fear God know how to employ this valuable talent; that they be instructed how it may answer these glorious ends, and in the highest degree.”
He went on to spell out three simple rules which can guide us: gain all you can, save all you can, give all you can.
Wesley lived out these principles, on another occasion remarking: , “If I leave behind me ten pounds…you and all mankind [can] bear witness against me, that I have lived and died a thief and a robber.”
Source: information about Wesley reported in Christian History Newsletter, November 30, 2001. Wesley’s sermon on Luke 16.9 can be accessed at http://gbgm-umc.org/umhistory/wesley/sermons/serm-050.stm
“He’s got the Midas touch”…or so we say about people who seem to be good at making money. The story of King Midas comes to us from ancient Greek mythology, and it’s worth retelling in full. King Midas once found Silenus, the tutor of the god Bacchus, and showed the lost Silenus the way back to his pupil. Excited at the return of Silenus Bacchus promised Midas any reward he wished. Midas’ wish was the wish shared by many – unbelievable wealth. Midas asked that everything he touched might be changed to gold. Bacchus immediately granted his wish and Midas returned to his palace with his newfound talent. True to Bacchus’ promise everything Midas touched turned to gold. Midas could take a stick and with a touch turn it into a stick of gold. He could take a mud brick and with a touch turn it into a brick of gold.
But this talent was not the blessing it first appeared to be. Elated at his new talent Midas had his servants prepare a sumptuous feast. The choice dishes were placed before him, but the moment Midas touched anything it turned to gold. The cloth, the plates, the cups, the food, all turned to gold as soon as they touched his fingers or his lips.
In the end Midas found enormous wealth could not satisfy his most basic need. Desperately hungry he returned to Bacchus and begged him to remove the gift, which Bacchus did.
The Midas touch is not the blessing we often assume it to be.
Blaise Pascal was an influential French scientist who lived in the 1600’s. He was something of a genius. For example, at the age of twelve, even before he had received any formal training in geomoetry, Pascal independently discovered and demonstrated Euclid’s thirty-two propositions. I don’t even know what Euclid’s thirty two propositions are, let alone demonstrating them! It’s no surprise then that as an adult Pascal completed important works on mathematics and experimental physics. He even gave us buses. Noticing a crowd of people all headed in the same direction to work he came up with the idea of the bus and in 1662 helped form the very first bus company.
Pascal was also a devoted Christian. He wrote books on grace and the life of Christ as well as other Christian works.
Through all this Pascal realised that his faith, though intensely personal, could not be merely individualistic. His love for God drove him to love for the poor. “I love poverty” he said, “because he (Christ) loved it. I like wealth because it gives a means to assist the needy.” Increasingly Pascal deprived himself so that he could give more. He sold his coach and horses, his fine furniture and silverware and even his library in order to give to the poor. When he received an advance of 1000 francs for his bus he sent the money to the poor in Blois, who had suffered from a bitter winter. He then signed over his interest in the company to the hospitals of Paris and Clermont.
When Pascal died at the age of 39 on August 19, 1662 his funeral was attended by family, friends, scientific colleagues, worldly companions, converts, writers, and the back of the church was filled with the poor, each and every person there someone Pascal had helped during his life.
Source: reported in Charles Kummel, The Galileo Connection (IVP, 1986)
Alan Barnhart is an American businessman who owns and runs a business valued at $250 million
When he was at University he poured over the teaching of Jesus and was struck by Jesus call to generosity and his warnings about wealth. He was determined that when he went into business he would not allow any financial success he might enjoy to become a source of spiritual failure.
When he and his brother took over their small family business, Barnhart Crane and Rigging, they set incomes for themselves that would enable them to support their families in a modest middle class lifestyle and agreed that anything the company made beyond that would be given to ministry, particularly ministries in the developing world.
In their first year they were able to give away $50,000; in the second year $150,000; and by 2005 they were giving away $1 million a month. They have also placed 99% ownership of the company into a trust that will ensure that when they have departed, all proceeds from the firm will continue to be invested in ministry.
Alan doesn’t regret the decision to limit his income. He, his wife and his children have been able to visit the projects they support and see the impact in people’s lives. Alan says that giving is fun!
Inspired by the teaching of Jesus on wealth, Alan Barnhart took a simple decision that revolutionised his life and enabled him to practise generosity.
Source: generosity.com and Barnhart, “Profit with a Purpose” in The Generous Business. A Guide for Incorporating Giving at Work.
The telephone rings in the pastor’s office. “Hello, is this Pastor Johns?” the caller asks.
“Yes it is.”
“This is the tax department. We wonder if you can help us”
The pastor feels butterflies in his tummy. Why is the tax department ringing him? Nervously he replies “I’ll do the best I can.”
“Do you know a Bruce Parker?” asks the tax agent.
“Why yes” replies the pastor. “He’s a member of my congregation.”
“Did he donate $10,000 to the church building fund?”
A smile comes across the Pastor’s face. “He will.”
How often do we ask God for things that we really have no right to? Tony Campolo was once a guest speaker at a mission rally, when he was asked to lead in prayer for a missionary doctor the group supported. The goal of the prayer? That God might provide the $5000 urgently needed for the medical centre the doctor ran.
Tony refused. He knew his audience was made up of people who were materially prosperous. So he declared he would pray only after everyone in the room gave to the project the money they had on them that day. The audience were stunned, but when Tony started emptying his pockets they knew he was serious. After some hesitation everyone started following suit. The prayer of request soon became a prayer of thanksgiving, for by the end of the giving they had collected $8000, much more than was needed in the first place!
Source: Reported in Tony Campolo, Let Me Tell You A Story
A short animation in which the main character’s greed turns him into a monster.
GREED from Alli Sadegiani on Vimeo.