If you know Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you want everyone to know Him in that way. But, what if the gospel we are sharing isn't the whole gospel? What if we are sharing and living out a gospel that isn't the one in the Bible?
In Rich Stearns' (President Emeritus of World Vision USA) book "The Hole in our Gospel", he tells a story about his friend Jim Wallis. Jim and some of his classmates did an experiment. They underlined all of the passages of scripture that 'dealt with poverty, wealth, justice, and oppression.' He continues, "Then one of Jim’s fellow students took a pair of scissors and physically cut every one of those verses out of the Bible. The result was a volume in tatters that barely held together… (According to “The Poverty and Justice Bible, there are almost two thousand verses in Scripture that deal with poverty and justice.). When Jim would speak on these issues, he would hold his ragged book in the air and proclaim, “Brothers and sisters, this is our American Bible; it is full of holes.”
Can you imagine being introduced to Jesus through a friend, hearing some nice things about Jesus' love, receiving an appetizer that turned out to be a hollow bun? It could have been a delicious pastry, but it was kind of empty on the inside. You thought Jesus might have an answer. You were hoping He might give you a higher calling, one away from your normal trying to be happy all the time and still coming up short. But there's a problem. There's a lot of nice talk and words that supposedly come from the Bible. You don't want to be one of those mean pointing the flaws out type of person, but you start to notice some discrepancies. The few chapters you read in Matthew point to a Jesus that didn't have much, loved others more than they deserved, served others by healing and feeding, and didn't talk much fancy theology with the scholars. You're not sure that your friend totally looks like Jesus. If he did, you would have been intrigued a long time ago. You've been looking for something different. Something greater than this rat race. You realize, after being baptized that when you share Jesus, you want to share all of Him. You know that if people are introduced to the real Jesus, He's a game changer.
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13:35
Our love for others is evidence to the lost.
Sterns details out how our attitude, as Christians, towards money has created a gaping hole as we try to share the gospel to a dying world. While we say a lot of the right things, our actions don't back them up.
From "The Hole In Our Gospel":
"Three clear principles, then, differentiate the scriptural view of our money from the "American Dream" view:
It's not our money-it all comes from God.
We are not entitled to it but entrusted with it.
God expects us to use it in the interest of His kingdom.
How about you? How do you look at your assets (car, bank accounts, home)? ... If we see them as God sees them, we must think differently about how we use them: Should I buy this new car? take this vacation? add this new insurance policy? increase my savings account? Maybe, but not until I prayerfully consider what God would have me do with His money."
When the world looks at Christians, at the Church, do they see a group consumed by pursuing how God would have them use their money? Do they see a group driven to love their neighbor with their finances? We know that we cannot serve both God and money (Matthew 6:24). We will end up using our money for ourselves or for God.
As a young professional, I started to learn a type of generocity that wasn't tied to tithing. My focus up to that point had been on fiscal prudence, aka "stewardship". I gave to the church and humanitarian causes, but on a day to day basis I was frugal. It served me well and didn't serve me well. As I started to make a little money at my job, my frugal ways stayed with me. I was very financially sound. And yet, my non-christian friends were extremely generous, which irked me. Their actions didn't bother me, I bothered me. Buying a meal for someone else felt unnatural. Buying something for someone else just because I liked them and wanted to do something nice just didn't occur to me. Somehow, these non-christian friends, whose life was all consuming, were more free to share their money than I was. Surely money should mean less to me than it did to them. I'm a Christian. I don't place value on money or wealth.
I'm still continuing to grow in this area. It is a process to develop the skill of viewing money as worthless, other than what it can do for others. I continue to tell myself, "It's just paper. I can't take it with me."
Continued from "The Hole In Our Gospel":
"In Acts 2, we read about the early church's view of possessions, a stand-point that not only challenged the culture of the day but actually began to change it: "All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need." (Acts 2:44-45). Here we see a community of believers who held things loosely, making whatever they had available for the greater good of the community of believers. This view of money and community was so radical that the prevailing culture sat up and took notice. The early church enjoyed "the favor of all the people," and not only that, but "the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved." (Acts 2:47)...
Can you image the impact upon our own culture if American Christians began using their riches as if they belonged to God and were intended primarily to further God's kingdom?"
The culture took notice of how early Christians were using their resources. It proved their faith. It gave validity to their message. There was no hole in their gospel.
If we want to be viewed as credible witnesses, if we want our message to be heard and noticed, the way we use our resources must match the Word we are sharing.
"If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?" -1 John 3:17
If the world can't see His love in us, why would they believe in Him?