Will riches keep us off the bus?

Will riches keep us off the bus?

By Stanley Campbell

Will riches keep us off the bus?

Christianity is a nice story. God becomes man and tells others to love one another. They get angry and string God up. God comes back and tells them they’re forgiven. It’s an amazing love story, and I stood up when I heard it.

Of course, lots of folks don’t take it seriously, or they take it the wrong way. Like us rich Americans. “I’m rich ‘cause God loves me, so I’m rich.” And the poor? “God doesn’t like them very much.”

I don’t think so. I believe we’ll be judged by how many poor people we help with our wealth. And there’s a lot of poor people out there! Some say it’s because of our wealth. Jesus says, “Help the poor, or go to hell.” That’s in Matthew, chapter 25, verses 41 & 42. Look it up.

I had a vision—some say a hallucination. I was waiting for a bus on a street in Nicaragua. I had my luggage and was in the front of the line. The bus came along, and there was this mad rush for the door.

That’s when I saw what may be the gates of heaven: a universal bus stop among millions, and I’ll be there, weighted down with my possessions. But the majority of the souls will be dirt poor and buck naked, and the multicolored school bus driven by Jesus Christ will pull up, the doors swing open, pouring out free love, and the masses will swarm aboard ‘cause they know a good thing when they see it. And I’ll be stuck there with my clothes and books and color TV, and I pray I can let go of my fears and possessions and get on that bus.

And then again, maybe I’ll have a garage sale and donate the money to the poor. But giving your money to a church (or any organized religion) is no excuse for not helping the poor. You’ll still go to hell.

Even if you’re a nice guy.

You give 10 percent of your income to the church of your choice. Well, God bless you, you hope. Tithing is a religious mandate that everyone give a percentage of their wealth to help the poor. Kind of like a biblical income tax. But some think giving to a church will keep them from the fiery pits of hell. WRONG!

The Bible may suggest that you give at least 10 percent of your gross income to the poor—but they’re lucky if you give 10 bucks! You think you’re doing God a big favor. Wrong again.

When you give to a church, you give money to pay for the heating, the air conditioning, cushions for your little tushes, pretty pictures and stained glass windows to look through, and keep out the sight of poor people living in wretched conditions.

Tithing is really supposed to be giving money to those poor families, not making your meeting hall more comfortable.

So please, help the poor, not only for the sake of your community, but for your own well-being. That’s the “soul purpose.”

Stanley Campbell is still director of Rockford Urban Ministries, an outreach of 19 United Methodists and a bunch of other churches. He considers himself the only paid peace activist in Rockford.

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