“For Mother Teresa, poverty and sickness were gifts that provided the opportunity to develop one’s connection with God. Her mission was not so much to alleviate suffering but to ensure it happened within a framework of religious belief.” George Gillett from The West’s big lie about Mother Teresa in Salon Magazine January 3.2016
In his article,Mr. Gillett takes issue not only with the “saintliness” of Mother Teresa in specific, but also with what he sees as questionable motives in all Christian missions and charity. He asks some hard and some very pointed questions about poverty, suffering and why Christians see value in the spiritual side of their work. Initially I was offended by his seemingly heartless attacks on Mother Teresa. Then as I paused to reflect I realized that his opinion as expressed in the article was really only another voice in the growing secular chorus of doubts as to the purpose of Christian work around the world. Criticizing Christian charities may have become popular because it gives people a politically correct sense of moral outrage. But maybe it would be better if we can all take a breath and ask ourselves why poverty is a wrong to be righted and just what should be done to deal with it.
Going to the Bible’s account we find that Jesus was all for us giving to the poor. When he was approached by the rich young ruler and asked about eternal life Jesus said,
If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me. Matthew 19:21
Jesus absolutely saw great value in a no strings attached giving to those in need. But coupled with that command was a higher call, “Come,follow me” Alleviating suffering was only a part of life’s journey, but the goal was farther up the road. Life’s purpose could only be discovered after giving, if we take up our cross and follow Him.
When a man came to Jesus who asked Him to to judge fairly about the division of wealth, Jesus responded quite differently than a person who simply aims for social justice.
And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth Luke 12:15
In Jesus’ view, the central issue of life had less to do with economics and everything to do with relationship to God – the creator of life. No amount of money, education or ability could compare to the value God placed on a single strand of hair on our heads.
The mission of Christian work will always minister to human suffering wherever it is found, but success cannot be measured by meals given or vaccinations administered. Success is when a single human heart is awakened to the immeasurable love of God. While the world all around us seems continually to demand we do, say or give something of value, God comes to give true worth. The worth God has placed in us can only be measured by the sacrifice of His only Son on the cross. He sees beyond our small horizons of pain, poverty and hurt and looks to the finish line of this life and into the vast reaches of eternity safe and warm at His side.