April 2010: Books Read

1. The Hole in Our Gospel: What Does God Expect of Us? by Richard Stearns. April was a busy month for me, with starting a new full-time job as well as continuing with my internship obligations at church. That’s why the only book I finished this month was The Hole in Our Gospel by the president of World Vision US, Rich Stearns (Here is an interview with him in Christianity Today).

This was a challenging book for me. Not because it was hard to read, but because it was hard to not become numb to the many statistics that Stearns cited, showing just how poor so many people are. The “hole” of the title is that many Christians in the United States have decided that the gospel is nothing more than a transaction, in which God forgives them of their sins and they get to go to heaven when they die. The real gospel is not less than this, but it is so much more, according to Stearns. One thing in particular that it involves (and which is the focus of this book) is serving the poor in a self-sacrificial way. The most compelling part of this book, for me, was Stearns telling his own story of how he went from being the president of Lenox, a fine tableware company, to being the president of World Vision. His story of how God grabbed him and drove him to care more about the poor gave me hope that God can grab more Christians and show them their obligation to assist those in need.

I don’t know whether this book will change the American church or not. We can pat ourselves on the back for being generous, but in fact the percentage that so many of us give is far below the level of sacrificial giving that we read about in the Bible (specifically in 2 Corinthians 8-9). I hear a lot of complaining these days about how the government is taxing too much, and I wonder sometimes if we aren’t being judged for doing little with our money besides feathering our own nests. I hear people say that Jesus said “The poor you will always have with you” (Mark 14:7), thinking that this excuses them for being selfish. Far from letting people off the hook, though, Jesus was alluding to Deuteronomy 15:11: “Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I therefore command you, ‘Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor in your land.'”

You will always have the poor among you. Therefore, open your hand. Not out of guilt (and despite the ranting of the previous paragraph, I really don’t think that trying to induce guilt is the best way to get people to be generous), but because God has blessed you.