Saving Ourselves and Others
America today is a saveyourself society if there ever was one. But does it really work? The underdeveloped societies suffer from one set of diseases: tuberculosis, malnutrition, pneumonia, parasites, typhoid, cholera, typhus, etc. Affluent America has virtually invented a whole new set of diseases: obesity, arteriosclerosis, head disease, strokes, lung cancer, venereal disease, cirrhosis of the liver, drug addiction, alcoholism, divorce, battered children, suicide, murder. Take your choice.
Labor saving machines have turned out to be body killing devices. Our affluence has allowed both mobility and isolation of the nuclear family and as a result our divorce courts, our prisons and our mental institutions are flooded. In saving ourselves we have nearly lost ourselves.
How hard have we tried to save others? The $700 million per year Americans give to mission agencies is no more than they give for chewing gum. Americans pay as much for pet food every 52 days as they spend annually for foreign missions. A person must overeat by at least $1.50 worth of food per month to maintain one excess pound of flesh. Yet $1.50 per month is more than what 90% of all Christians in America give to missions. If the average mission supporter is only five pounds overweight. it means lie spends [to his own hurt) at least five times as much as he gives for missions. If he were to choose simple food (as well as not overeat) he could give ten times as much as he does to missions and not modify his standard of living in any other way!
Where does this line of reasoning lead? It means that the overall lifestyle to which Americans have acquiesced has led us to a place where we are hardening our hearts and our arteries simultaneously. Is our nation not described by Isaiah?
My people are like the dead branches of a tree . . a foolish nation, a witless, stupid people The only language they can understand is punishment! So God will punish them by sending against them foreigners who speak strange gibberish! Only then will they listen to him! They could have rest in their own land if they would obey him, if they were kind and good" (Isa. 27:11. 28:11,12. TLB). We must learn that Jesus meant it when He said. "Unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required." I believe that God cannot expect less from us as we fulfill our Christian duty to save other nations than what our country conventionally requires of us in wartime in order to save our own nation. This means that we must be willing to adopt a wartime lifestyle if we are to play fair with the clear intent of Scripture that the poor of this earth, the people who sit in darkness, shall see a great light. Otherwise, again Isaiah. "1 faint when I hear what God is planning" (Isa. 21:3, TLB).
In order to help families shift to a wartime lifestyle, two mission organizations have proposed a plan for families that would lead gradually to the adoption of the salary provisions of a missionary (as equalized based on basic need amounts) from an existing mission agency. The remainder of the family income (at their own discretion at every point) is then dedicated to what the family believes to be the highest mission priority. The twofold purpose of each of these organizations is 1) to imbue individuals and families with a concern for reaching the Hidden People and 2) to assist them in practical ways to live successfully within the maximum limits of expenditure as defined by an agreed upon existing mission structure. Even missionary families need help in staying within their income limitations, but ironically. no more so than people with twice their income. These organizations believe that families can be healthier and happier by identifying themselves with the same discipline with which missionary families are coping. For two hundred years it has been the undeviating pattern of all Protestant missionary agencies to establish a single salary standard for all their overseas personnel, for various kinds of special circumstances. Some boards extend this system to their home office staff.
No agency (until now) has gone the one logical step furthernamely, to offer to the donors themselves guidelines for adopting this unique and longtested system. In view of the widespread concern of our time for a simple lifestyle, it would seem that this is an idea whose time has come.
We have Weight Watcher Clinics all over the country. We have Total Woman Clinics. Why not missionfocused Family Lifestyle Clinics? How much more significant these clinics will be with ends as noble as the Great Commission!
To reconsecrate ourselves to a wartime lifestyle will involve a mammoth upheaval for a significant minority. It will not go uncontestedany more than did the stem warnings of Isaiah. But we do not need to defend our campaign. It is not ours.