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The Problem with First World Problems

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Let’s talk about something hard, something the Holy Spirit brought front and center for me a couple days ago. We joke about #firstworldproblems. We take to Twitter and complain about how #slowComcast is. We lament the lines at the Apple Store, Disney World and Whole Foods. And we wonder, “Why me?!” when we forget to tell the Nest we aren’t away anymore and instead of a crisp 73 degrees when we walk through the door after being out of town we get a blistering 80 degrees. 

I gulp just writing those things because I know in the pit of my stomach how ridiculous it all is. How entitled and ungrateful I can be. How one moment I’m ready to give it all away and never buy clothes or curtains or toys again, and then in the next moment I’m searching Etsy to see what’s new. 

And I’ll just flat out tell you that I don’t know how to navigate this tug-of-war going on deep in my belly. But I was reading in Ezekiel a couple days ago and these words are life changing for me. 

Now this was the sin of your sister, Sodom: she and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor or needy. Ezekiel 16:49

Ezekiel was a prophet talking to God’s people, the Israelites, giving them a dire warning, reminding them of what Sodom had done and where those choices took them. 

Arrogant, overfed and unconcerned. Y’all, I don’t know about you, but those words make my insides turn. Arrogant and battling the urge to keep up with the Joneses. Pinning this and tucking that and coloring those so we can look a part. Overfed with lots of knowledge and not enough application. Literally overfed when we try to comfort broken hearts and tired bodies with simple carbs instead of the Bread of Life. Unconcerned because it’s just too depressing to see ALL the brokenness. It’s just too much, so we shut it off. Ignore it. Turn the other way. 

“They did not help the poor and needy.” We do a great job of making the gospel a bunch of hoops for people to jump through and a really awful job at obeying what God told us to do–love God, love others, and make disciples. 

This is coming from someone who in the same day looked at the faces of her sweet Compassion kids while writing them letters and got frustrated because her Chipotle app order wasn’t ready at the time she specified. (The order she placed while parked on the couch reading books on her Kindle in her comfy house with the a/c rolling.) So, obviously, I’ve got some work to do. I’m pretty sure the other day I got the equivalent of the Holy Spirit bringing the bulldozer, and He keeps revealing more and more areas where I need to trade arrogance for humility, an overfed soul for one that’s pouring out, and an unconcerned heart for one that spends every breath showing a broken world the love of Christ. The love of a man who “made himself nothing taking the form of a servant” and “humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:7-8). The love of a man who when he was in the desert and hungry spoke to the devil, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). The love of a man who says over and over to care for the poor and needy, the orphans and widows, the hurting and sick and reminded them, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3). 

We have to open our eyes and see what God sees. And then we have to do something. Once we know, we can’t ignore it. We have to say no to things that make it harder to hear His voice–people and places and things that make us compare and covet–and yes when we do hear His voice, no matter how much it rubs against our first world comforts. Anything less would be a waste of a breath. 

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