Manuel is the pastor of several small, very poor congregations in rural Honduras, the second poorest nation in the Western hemisphere. Todd is the pastor of a large and wealthy congregation in Baltimore. In the 1980’s, Todd and Manuel were roommates in college. A while back, Todd went to Honduras to visit Manuel. Todd could not believe the poverty, the poor housing, the meager incomes, the poor health care, and the lack of food. Todd was feeling sorry for Manuel and how he had to live and minister in such desperate circumstances.
It came as a great surprise then, when they were visiting one evening Manuel said to Todd, “You know Todd, I feel sorry for you.”
“What?,” said Todd, “you feel sorry for me? How can that be? You’ve been to America, you know how well we live there. I feel sorry for you and your people because you have such a struggle even to live. But me, and the folks in my congregation, we have more than enough of everything.”
“Yes,” said Manuel, “I know; and that is why I feel sorry for you as a pastor. It must be very difficult to be a minister under those circumstances. Your people can buy whatever they need. They can even buy most of what they want. I would imagine that it is very easy for many of them to forget that they need God for anything. I suppose in your sermons you have to find all kinds of ways to convince them of their need for God (someday at least), and remind them of their need to pay some attention to God.”
“But here,” Manuel continued, “nobody forgets they need God. When we pray, ‘give us this day our daily bread,’ we mean it. We might not know where our next meal is coming from. We don’t take anything for granted. And I don’t have to remind my people that someday in the far distant future when they get sick or die they might need God. Illness and death are always all around us here. And I don’t have to tell my people why they should take hope in and look forward to the joys of heaven. That is the hope and promise that is central in their hearts and minds. They know that they cannot look forward to a bigger income or a newer house or leisurely retirement here. None of that is in their future here in this life. But when they sing about their home above with Jesus, they mean it and believe it. That is their real and true hope.”
“So I do feel sorry for you and respect you, Todd,” concluded Manuel. “It must be very difficult to minister among those who can solve so many of their problems on their own, and whose every hope can be met by their checkbook and credit card. In this short and uncertain life we all desperately need God. But when people already have so much of everything, it is easy to forget that.”
Most people in Pastor Manuel’s church are in desperate circumstances and cling to their faith for hope. Most people in Pastor Todd’s church are not, and for many of them, faith can be put on the back burner until needed (or forgotten). Actually, as Manuel said, in this short and uncertain life we are all, always in desperate need of something or someone greater than ourselves. But, when things are going well we can become blinded to that fact and ignore God, and, in time, even let go of faith completely. (continued…)
Matthew 6:19-21 — (Jesus said), “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Psalm 20:7 — Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
Psalm 25:1 — In you, Lord my God, I put my trust.
Two things I ask of you, Lord;
do not refuse me before I die:
Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’
Or I may become poor and steal,
and so dishonor the name of my God.