Wednesday, November 10th, 2010...12:24 pm

Equality Among Siblings (by F. & L. Kuruvilla)

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“Our generosity is measured not by what we give but by what we keep.”

Note from the blog owner:
Whenever the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays approach, I seem to think more about generosity and helping the poor. Here I am in that season again—Advent Conspiracy and well-building in Guatemala just around the corner—and giving is on my mind more than usual.

Here is a quote from the Kuruvillas’ article on giving, which I’m posting today:

“The standard is high: that we would become measurably, palpably poorer, leaving behind our status as ‘the American rich,’ in a global context, that others may be relieved.”

- Finny and Laura Kuruvilla

At first read, this article seems to be mainly one that challenges us. But it is much more! In Dr. and Mrs. Kuruvilla’s words I find not only challenge, but also grace and gratitude, comfort, and excitement!

Challenge . . .
because it calls me to greater generosity;

Grace and Gratitude . . .
because it reminds me of what the Lord did for me and the ways I can respond, the ways I can show Him my gratitude;

Comfort . . .
because I’m assured that God uses His children (me) to bless His children (me again!); and

Excitement . . .
because I am amazed at the possibilities! What if more and more of His children shared with His children?! How would that change the global community?!

Want to walk with me in this excitement? Would you take a moment to receive what the Kuruvillas have shared? May you be blessed and inspired, as I was.

For the love of God and His children,
Monica Sharman


The following article by Finny and Laura Kuruvilla originally appeared in the Eventide Funds October 2010 Newsletter and is reprinted here with permission.

Finny Kuruvilla, MD PhD serves as the portfolio manager of the Eventide Gilead Fund (a values-based diversified midcap mutual fund). To learn more about Dr. Kuruvilla, go here.

Equality Among Siblings
(by Finny and Laura Kuruvilla)

In 2003, a 19-year-old boy in New Jersey named Bruce was found looking through the garbage for food. He weighed 45 pounds and stood only 4 feet tall. Bruce and three of his brothers were severely malnourished, and so he was forced to leave the home and look for food. When police investigated, they found a total of seven children: three siblings were healthy and fed while four were grossly neglected and malnourished (the four malnourished boys, aged 9 to 19, weighed 136 pounds combined: Michael, age 9, weighed 23 pounds; Tyrone, age 10, weighed 28 pounds; and Keith, age 14, weighed 40 pounds). One wonders how such stark inequities could exist within a single family.

Yet this true story illustrates a no less sad condition of the church today. While all are members of one family, some are prosperous and well fed while others are destitute and desperate.

How should we think about this problem? It is easy to move our mind away from the problem because of its enormity, easy to cast a glance away from the pictures of starving and sick children during the coming holiday season.

While some debate theological points around whether or not tithing is required in the New Testament era, the dialogue has apparently done little to foster giving. Statistician George Barna reports that only 9 percent of self-proclaimed born again believers tithed in 2007. Is it possible that in America, the wealthiest country in the history of the world, 91% of believers cannot even reach the 10% mark?

Perhaps more useful than debating the question of tithing is to refer to a central New Testament principle of giving.

Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality, as it is written: “He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little.”
(2 Cor 8:13-15)

Equality is the key word in focus in this passage. Paul is not calling here for state-mandated socialism but rather for believers to provide for each other’s needs in times of need, that all may have food, shelter, and clothing. The standard is high: that we would become measurably, palpably poorer, leaving behind our status as “the American rich,” in a global context, that others may be relieved. This interpretation is confirmed by Paul’s description of Jesus a few lines before: “though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor 8:9). Like Jesus, we, the rich, are to make ourselves poorer, that the poor may become richer, so that all may be equal.

The objections to this biblical teaching are manifold. How can the standards of living of Africa and America or India and Europe be compared? Equal? How can we possibly become equal? To the first, global objection, I think it is useful to remember that Paul was calling the Greco-Roman Corinthians to give to the Jewish Christians in Jersualem; the two cities are 827 miles and a culture apart, quite a distance for the first century. We, then, in an age of jets, electronic money, and high speed technology cannot object that Africa or China, or any other part of the globe, is too distant a locale to think of the Christians there as our neighbors. Secondly, Paul’s example of the Israelites collecting manna is an illustrative one. Paul quotes, “As it is written, ‘He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little.’ ” (2 Cor 8.15). Here the issue at hand is food: all gathered, and yet by God’s providence, none had too much and none too little. Perhaps this can direct us to the areas in which equality must be sought: food, shelter, clothing, and perhaps basic opportunities for education and work.

The Old Testament year of jubilee is also helpful here (Leviticus 24). In this blessed fiftieth year, Israelites who had been forced to enslave themselves were set free; ancestral homesteads and farms that had been sold were returned to the original owner. Here we see again God’s principle of equality: a setting to rights so that no family who had been cast down by illness, a poor harvest, or any other circumstance, would be permanently displaced, but rather that every individual would be given an opportunity to work and support themselves. We know that God affirms the basic principle of hard work; as testified so many times in Proverbs, those who work will prosper. And yet, he also calls for those who have so prospered to be willing to give to those in need: in the Old Testament year of Jubilee, by willingly relinquishing purchased slaves and lands, that those individuals and landowners might also have a chance to work, provide for themselves and prosper; and in the New Testament, by those with an abundance willingly relinquishing some of their wealth, so that those in need may have basic needs met and opportunities offered.

A natural corollary to the New Testament principle of equality has been rephrased as “give more than you can spare.” We should feel our giving because it costs us dearly. Our giving should be sacrificial because it pinches us and causes us to do things differently than we otherwise would. Can we point to activities or possessions that we have consciously forsaken for the sake of helping out a brother or sister in the family of God? If not, our giving is almost certainly insufficient.

We conclude with a thought that has provided us inspiration over the years: to not marvel at the generosity of billionaires who give millions away but live in luxury, but to instead remember Jesus’ teaching about the poor widow, who in God’s eyes gave more than everyone else at the temple that day. One person said it well:

“Our generosity is measured not by what we give but by what we keep.”

May we keep but little in this life.

This Wednesday Ann hosts a community of those who share about Giving. Visit Ann’s on Wednesday to read more posts about Giving!

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