What do you usually drink when you’re thirsty? Maybe it is water – but the chances are, these days, it’s bottled, not what comes out of the tap. Assuming, that is, that you have piped water.
I wrote an exam this morning where one of the questions was on the parable of Lazarus and the rich man and I guess this is where I wound up after chewing on that most of the day. Maybe because of where I spent Easter, in a widespread community north of Swaziland where there are about half a million people who have water pipes that have been dry for years; just not functioning.
There is, we all know, an enormous contrast between rich and poor, the wealthy West and the starving Third world. And I know that this is not all because the West is greedy and selfish (though some people are), and it is not all because Africans (and South Americans and Asians) are all corrupt or backward (although some are). It’s a complex problem that no one is going to solve overnight. Nor am I going to try to do that here!
But I want to make a suggestion.
You see, one of the issues is that the person who is comfortable prefers not to look too directly at the person who has their hand out towards them. Because then you have to deal with the beggar as a person.
If I am a Christian, though, then that is exactly what Jesus expects me to do, every time. Deal with that person as a person who is, no matter how poor or needy, just as important and valuable to Him as I am – if not more so, as the way the Bible speaks of the poor leads me to suspect.
So, how about this:
If you’re thirsty, drink water! (Yes, water from the tap.)
It is so easy to reach for a Coke, or a beer, or that bottled spring water, or whatever.
Just – stop.
Stop and think for a second about the choice we are making.
How about this:
I might choose to drink water to express solidarity with the poor of the world, who never get anything else to drink, and are usually grateful for clean water.
I might choose to drink tap water just to reduce my personal consumption, my carbon footprint, my share of the world’s resources.
How about engaging in a water fast for a limited period of time (or even for life). Maybe for Lent? Drinking only water, on principle. Or drinking only water whenever you are thirsty, and maybe still drinking coffee or tea, or juice on the side. Whatever works for you.
How about adding up what you are now saving in the soft drinks or whatever else you are not spending money on any more, and donating that to the Third World aid fund of your choice?
How about making this a campaign in your local church?
For the truly dedicated disciple, let me end with a real challenge!
If you seriously want to engage in an exercise in solidarity with the poor of Africa and elsewhere, do this:
Pick a nice hot day. (Most of Africa is nice and sunny!)
Get yourself an empty 20-litre plastic drum, and wheel it about 3 miles, or 5 kilometres, in a wheelbarrow, barefoot. Fill it from a public tap, and then wheel it home. See how long it lasts when that is the only water source for your whole family.
See how you feel about doing this again, tomorrow.
See whether you are now seeing the poor, face to face.
(If anyone actually does this, I would like to hear about it!)
“Be appalled, O heavens, at this,
And shudder, be very desolate,” declares the Lord.
“For My people have committed two evils:
They have forsaken Me,
The fountain of living waters,
To hew for themselves cisterns,
That can hold no water.” (Jeremiah 2:12-13, NASB)