I have just recently returned home from a mission trip to Guatemala. I have to admit, I feel as if part of my heart is still 2000 miles away with the kind and generous people of that culture. While there I witnessed many atrocities such as families living with no water source (let alone clean water), people dying of treatable diseases, and children who live on top of trash. These seem like desperate conditions and they are, however many of the people in the above situations professed their faith in Jesus Christ and were clinging to him to meet their daily needs and answer their prayers. Some were the same ones worshiping God with all their heart next to me at church on Sunday morning with arms raised in praise.
As I dwell on this now that I am back home in this land of (over)abundance, I wonder which of us is truly depraved? The Guatemalans who struggle so hard to survive each day and stay safe and healthy or we Americans who are drowning in wants and petty desires for more material goods and the appearance of worldly success?
The battles we fight are so very different in appearance and yet are enacted by the same Enemy. Is there one that is a greater battle over the other?
At one of the home visits I did, the woman kept apologizing for how little she had and how small her living space was. She felt bad for not having enough seats for us and not being able to offer us better. We assured her we were just thankful to be there with her and appreciated her kind hospitality. I now wonder how I would feel if that same woman came to encourage me in my home. Would she look around and think, “This is how American Christians live?”, “Why all the stuff?”, “Hasn’t she read Matthew 6:19-24 or James 2:14-17?” I’m afraid many would look at our homes filled with material goods and excess and think we are just fooling ourselves in this Christian walk. Are we?
Many of the needs of the Guatemalan people are so very obvious. In most of America, because of our affluence, the needs are hidden and yet just as deep. In Guatemala, our shared Enemy throws poverty, sickness and feelings of despair at them. In America, the same Enemy throws success, material goods, and feelings of security at us (I know there are exceptions).
Having this knowledge, we need to understand a few important facts. One, recognize that the Devil can use any type of weapon to fight against us and to pull our attentions away from God; need and excess are both weapons in his arsenal.
Two, spiritual depravity can be found in any person regardless of their appearance or life circumstances. We have to recognize that the ultimate need of every individual is the gospel of Jesus Christ regardless of apparent status. Finally, understand that God has placed you in the country and circumstances you are in on purpose and he knows that is the best place for you to be in order for your life to bring him the most glory possible. Use it for just that purpose alone.
Don’t think I am writing this to make anyone feel guilty (however you may feel convicted like I do), but do understand I am writing this to bring attention to the possibility of depravity in your life. Don’t allow your possessions or pursuits of worldly success lead you to believe you are “better off” than anyone in a “less fortunate” country. Examine your life closely to see if the Devil has found his way into your home and is smothering the potential work of the Holy Spirit there. Who or what are you dependent on really? Who or what is your life centered around? Don’t take these questions lightly, they have eternal consequences.
Recall the encounter of the Rich Young Man in Matthew 19:16-26. He followed the Ten Commandments and was eager to learn what more he could do to obtain eternal life (he was wise enough to know there was more to it than the law). Jesus responds to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come follow me.” Jesus knew that what this man needed was to get rid of his earthly goods in order to be fully surrendered to God. However, the young man “went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” Jesus turns to his disciples and says, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven.” This man preferred to hold on to his possessions rather than spend time in the presence of the one and only, all powerful, Messiah and Son of God.
God may not be asking you to give all you have to the poor (though he could be), but he does demand all you have to be his. The true depravity of humanity cannot be judged by appearances, possessions or geographical locations, it is a state of the heart. We all desperately need Jesus Christ to claim our hearts as his own possession. “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Psalms 51:10