Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and will be repaid in full.
A website, Global Rich List, includes a calculator to determine one’s wealth compared to every person on earth. All that’s needed is one’s annual income in the search box; country of residence; and with one click your wealth position appears. By a global standard, I’m rich. By this same standard, we’re all rich. Globally, we are the upper 1% of the wealthy in the world.
For a moment, however, let’s move in reverse to thirty years ago following my seminary graduation. I had no inheritance, savings, and my sole income was the monthly check from the first congregation I served. Student loans from seminary were a saddle weighing $13,000, which at the time loomed like a mountain. The Plymouth Volare I drove had an odometer reading of 117,000 miles. The shocking truth of my first income as a pastor is that even then I was in the top 5% of the wealthiest people in the world.
When the Plymouth finally ‘gave up its ghost’ and I needed a new car, I remember making a big production of it in church. I should have kept quiet because the local bank turned me down for a loan. I lacked a credit rating to please the bank. Number-crunching actuaries deemed me a risk. The bank would loan money only if my parents co-signed the agreement. I politely informed the bank I would find a car without the help of ‘mommy and daddy’.
Enter stage right the Aid Association for Lutherans (AAL), at the time a Midwest fraternal organization that included a credit union. John Strider was the AAL district representative nearest to my church. I phoned him on the day of the bank’s loan denial. He came immediately to meet me and the following morning a check from the AAL Member Credit Union was in my mailbox by overnight mail. On the afternoon of that day, I drove home from a Cumberland, Maryland dealership in a new car. AAL later merged with Lutheran Brotherhood to become Thrivent Financial. I’ve kept John Strider’s business card and the AAL loan document in my files to this day, remembering his kindness in facilitating a first step into adult life.
The Bible verse at the top of the page directs our thoughts and actions to the 99% of the world’s population living below us in wealth. The verse instructs us to become a ‘John Strider’ in the ways we can. Take time to read in this newsletter of the Lenten Project in our church. We are gathering items for the homeless and poor. On March 17, we will share a meal with the poor. Opportunities abound to share gratitude to God, who makes no distinctions among the world’s population. God loves everyone with an equal, eternal love and invites us to do the same. Jesus gave his life for 100% of the world. Let’s join Jesus by doing what we can to facilitate first steps. I remember John Strider. How nice to be remembered! How will others remember our lives? Lent is a time to think about this question and Jesus’ steps to the cross.
Pastor Doug Heagy