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Jesus’ Economy

  • In Jesus There is Freedom for the Oppressed

    by Kriselle Dawson

    It is hot and dusty. Jesus is tired, hungry, and thirsty from walking a great distance. His disciples have gone on ahead to purchase some food to replenish them all for the journey. Jesus languishes by the well. Not just any well, but a Samaritan well. He also has no bucket to draw water with to rehydrate and cool himself down.

    It is noon. All the respectable women have already drawn their water and left the well long ago. But wait, here comes someone—a woman glancing furtively as she approaches the well. All she needs is water, but she silently wonders about the business of this stranger resting by the well. First, he is a man, and everybody knows that drawing water is a woman's business. Second, it is quite apparent from his dress and features that he is a Jew, and Jews typically despised Samaritans like her.

    Jesus breaks the silence first. “Please give me a drink.” Incredulously she replies; shocked that he would make such a request of her, let alone speak to her. After all, she was both Samaritan and female, and one of questionable notoriety. Jesus’ response to the woman demonstrates that he does not discriminate nor show partiality. Instead, he offers the woman access to his living water: “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13–14, ESV).

    One Moment with Jesus Equals a Changed Life

    The woman leaves the well a new person—as a missionary. She rushes with excitement back into her city, testifying of her experience with Jesus and asking, “Could this be the Christ?” John tells us that many Samaritans believed in Jesus simply because of this one woman's testimony. They then persuaded Jesus to stay with them another two days, and many more believed because of his own words.

    Time and time again Jesus demonstrated that he had deep compassion on women like the one at the well. Jesus pitied those in pain (think of the widow of Nain, the woman healed of her bleeding, and the woman he heals on the Sabbath). Jesus valued the role women could play in sharing the good news; if Jesus, our example, showed such love and compassion towards women, then we ought to also. When we see the plight of hurting women around our world, we should respond.

    Interceding on Behalf of an Oppressed Woman

    In Papua New Guinea, my husband, Brad, attended a meeting at church headquarters. As the meeting concluded, a scuffle was heard across the road. A man was yelling and screaming at his young wife and giving her a thrashing. Brad was shocked that none of the pastors moved to rescue the woman, and when he asked why, their response was, “She belongs to her husband, and how he treats her is his business.” Fortunately for the young woman Brad didn't hold the same view, and when the husband saw the crazy white man come running across the road yelling at him he took off in the opposite direction. 

    I had a 14-year-old girl in tears on my doorstep one morning. After a lifetime of rejection and abuse, she had made a mistake at thirteen and had sex with a boy, and her family was insisting that she drop out of school and marry the boy. Quite likely it was motivated by the fact that they needed her bride price to pay for their son's bride, who was already pregnant. This is just one of thousands of tragic stories.

    In Papua New Guinea, many women have been forced into sex, often by a man they know. Up to half of all girls are at risk of becoming involved in sex work trafficking. One third of all sex workers are less than twenty years of age. Many are forced into marriage from the age of twelve under customary law. And this situation is repeated all over the globe. Jesus, the man who loves the oppressed and wants to offer them a better life, would have much to say about this.

    The Global Issue of Empowering Women

    So what is the solution to empowering women around our globe: How can we contribute to it? Jeremiah 13:23 says: “Can an Ethiopian change his skin or a leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil.” So how can we ever hope for those who are perpetrators of abuse to change?

    The answer is Jesus. Ezekiel 36:26–27 says: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” And this is the work that happens through Jesus—he is the one who can bring change when it seems like nothing can change.

    Let us pray for and support those who are sharing the love of Jesus for everybody. Let us join the cause of empowering women around our globe. May the love of Jesus free women worldwide so that they can live without fear of abuse.

    Kriselle Dawson is a volunteer writer for Jesus' Economy. Kriselle lives in Lae, Papua New Guinea, where she is a full-time mom and homeschool teacher; she also serves with Papua New Guinea Union Mission and Lae City Mission.

  • Bringing Light to Our World

    by Kriselle Dawson

    If a person in your family unexpectedly dies, an autopsy is conducted to determine the cause of the death—painstakingly, your family comes to accept and adjust to the loss. In many parts of the world, Papua New Guinea included, this is not the case.

    Autopsies are not readily available to the masses or to remote communities. An unexplained death is usually rationalized as having been brought about by sorcery. The next step for the family or friends is to find the “sorcerer,” commonly a woman, but occasionally an old man. The final step is to enact justice by killing the almost certainly innocent sorcerer—without trial.

    While I was living in Papua New Guinea one such sorcery-killing took place that received international news coverage. The 20-year-old mother was accused of killing someone else’s six-year-old boy, who she had walked past in the street (experts believe the child died of rheumatic fever). The woman was thus was seized, doused with petroleum, and burned alive amongst a large crowd in Mount Hagen. 

    Such is the tragedy of a life without the love, forgiveness, and compassion of Jesus Christ. We read in Luke 4:14–21 how Jesus came to offer good news to all people:

    “And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country. And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all. And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.' And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, 'Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.'” (ESV).

    Jesus: the Light

    Time and again Jesus cast out demons, healed the sick, and showed people the true nature of God. Matthew wrote of the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry: “the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned” (Matthew 4:16, ESV).

    John 8:12 says: “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’” (ESV).

    It Is Our Job to Share the Light

    What is darkness? It has no substance and is not anything tangible—it is simply the absence of light. So if Jesus is light and if you and I have that light, then it is up to you and I to share it. It is up to you and I to go into the our world, bringing the gospel message and its light, whether we ourselves provide access to the gospel (and plant churches) or we support those who do so.

    Chris Rice shares this wisdom in his song “Go light your world” saying:
 “Carry your candle, and run to the darkness. Seek out the helpless, deceived, and poor. Hold out your candle for all to see it. Take your candle, and go light your world.”

    Jesus is the only answer for my friends in Papua New Guinea and around the world. I pray that Jesus shows each of us how he desires for us to bring the light.

    Kriselle Dawson is a volunteer writer for Jesus' Economy. Kriselle lives in Lae, Papua New Guinea, where she is a full-time mom and homeschool teacher; she also serves with Papua New Guinea Union Mission and Lae City Mission.

  • Blinded by the Light: Paul the Blind Fool

    by Ryan Pemberton

    Things were business as usual for Saul—not yet Paul—when he was making his journey to Damascus. He had already earned himself a reputation for squashing out uprisings from men and women of the Way, and he was on a mission to keep up his reputation. But that's when everything changed for him.

    The Book of Acts says Saul was blinded by a great light, and that from this blinding light came a voice crying out, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”

    It was, we're told, the voice of the Resurrected Lord, calling out to—of all people—Saul.

    It’s Not Jesus Who Has Changed, But Us

    A similar scene is recorded in the Gospels, and it tells of a time on the mountaintop when Jesus’ disciples had the blessed opportunity to see Jesus’ shape transformed (or transfigured) into a bright white light.

    Some have suggested it wasn't so much that Jesus changed in the transfiguration, but that these disciples’ eyes were, for the moment, opened up to the full reality of Jesus’ identity (Scott Cairns’ As We See). They were, if you will, invited to take a peak behind the curtain.

    And it’s not out of the question to suggest that the transfiguration is like what Saul experienced on his travels that day. Call it blindness. But in a very real way, his eyes were opened for the first time.

    Christ-Induced Blindness

    The Bible tells us that three days after this experience on the road to Damascus, Saul received hands-on prayer from a man named Ananias. We’re told that, after receiving this prayer, scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and that he was once again able to see. He was no longer blind.

    And yet, one wonders if Paul was ever completely free from this Christ-induced blindness. One wonders if Paul was not laughed at, not called a blind fool by those who heard of his life-change, or who wondered what happened to this former Pharisee they once knew.

    This man who had earned himself a bloody reputation for being one of the most cut-throat enemies of Christianity spent the rest of his life earning a reputation as the chief-most Christian missionaries to non-Jewish people (known as Gentiles). Such a dramatic about-face would take Saul from a position of incredible privilege to a place of extreme poverty and humility—it would lead him to imprisonment and ultimately, death. It was not a trajectory anyone could have guessed for Saul's life, least of all Saul.

    A Blind Fool

    Paul’s former peers must have shaken their head at his fate. “He’s gotten what he deserves,” they must have said Or they may have thought, “What a fool. What a blind fool.” And that is, of course, precisely what Saul was. He was a blind fool for the sake of the gospel—the good news of Jesus offering salvation to all.

    “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain,” Paul wrote to the early Christians in Corinth. “… If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Corinthians 15:14, 17)

    This was, of course, Paul's way of acknowledging the undeniable foolish appearance of his life. It was another way of saying, “Look, if the resurrected Christ did not speak to me himself on that road all those years ago, I am a fool. I am a blind fool.”

    Of course, it would be foolish to exchange the pleasures of an extravagant annual vacation for the largely thankless cost of helping provide drinkable water for a community on the other side of the world. Even a fourth grader knows it is smarter to take every opportunity one has to get ahead than to make sure others are provided for. You would have to be a fool to think otherwise.

    You would have to be a blind fool not to see the advantages of a new car, or a second home. And that is, of course, precisely what Paul was—a blind fool.

    Doubt in Darkness

    No doubt there were days Paul must have sat in prison, with fresh wounds on his back and a throbbing head and gut, wondering to himself if this wasn't all some great mistake.

    “Did I misunderstand?” he must have found himself wondering in his darkest moments. “Did I actually even hear the Lord's voice at all? After all, no one else saw the Lord that day. They heard a voice, sure, but I am the only one who saw him on that road to Damascus. Was I just imagining things? Was I truly called to this? Was I even called at all?”

    This Changes Everything

    “But what if Christ really was raised from the grave?” Paul's letter to the church in Corinth begs the question. Crazy as it must seem, what if Jesus really is the risen Messiah? What if in Christ, God is restoring the world—what would that mean?

    It would mean, Paul's life suggests, living as though blind. It would mean giving up one's benefits for the sake of others. It would mean living as though all of life’s great pleasures would be considered as loss when compared with the beauty, the rich joys of knowing the crucified and risen Lord, and being called, daily, into life with him.

    It would mean being considered a blind fool by most of our neighbors, for most of our life. It would mean doubt and hunger and physical and emotional turmoil.

    Undoubtedly, it would also mean others would be changed simply by knowing us. It would mean those who are hungry, are fed. It would mean those who are lost without hope would be found and would be given hope of the unspeakable sort.

    It would mean, in the end, that those who are homeless would be directed to a home whose door is always open, and whose path is lit by a light that will never go out. Because, of course, that light is the same light Paul met on the road to Damascus that fateful day.

    You Will Be Told What You Are to Do

    “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” the voice cried out to Paul on the road that day. And then, “Rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.”

    “You will be told what you are to do,” the Lord told Paul. And, in a way, these are the words Paul could never get ahead of—could never get away from.

    “You will be told what you are to do.” In his darkest moments, these are the words to which Paul must have clung. When his belly rang out with pains of hunger after not eating for days—when the shackles on his wrist cut his skin and the sweat from his body stung his open wounds—these are the words that must have kept him going when all hope seemed lost. May the same be true of us.

    This article is Ryan Pemberton’s reflection on the story of Paul's conversion experience on the road to Damascus, found in Acts 9.

  • Why God Works so Powerfully among the Impoverished

    by Kriselle Dawson

    The people of Papua New Guinea love “to story.” It is an oral culture that has only recently had the luxury of printed materials. Previously all knowledge was passed down—generation to generation—through their story telling. As a result, the people still love to sit together and “story” with each other. Their memories are fantastic, I think largely because of the scarcity of printed material.

    For example, in Papua New Guinea, Scripture memorization is hardly the chore that it is in the developed word. After all, many people do not even own their own Bible. In Papua New Guinea, we had to resist using our Android tablet for the lyrics to our church hymns and songs, because just owning a hymn or song book was a highly sought after luxury item. Yet almost all church attendees could sing verse after verse, of song after song, without printed or projected lyrics.

    God Gives to Those Who Need

    One particular conversation I had in Papua New Guinea stands out in my mind as significant. Just like every day in Lae, Papua New Guinea it was hot and steamy. It transpired when I had not been in Papua New Guinea very long and was “storying” with my guard. Our house had eight-foot fences with razor wire at the top, a guard on duty 24/7, and two blue heeler guard dogs. Of my two guards, this one was the least educated and yet the easiest to communicate in English with, and I wanted to know why.

    His story went something like this. He couldn't read or write and yet his church gave him the responsibility of church elder. He felt that he could serve far better in this capacity if only he could read his Bible and understand some English. So he prayed and he said that God gave him the ability to read His word, and not only that, but to understand and speak English.

    My guard's story was not an uncommon story in Papua New Guinea. Nor were stories of miracles and visions. 

    Why is it that the Lord is able to work so powerfully in the lives of the impoverished? I believe that in many ways the impoverished are richer than we in the developed world. They are often happier, less stressed, have stronger family values and relationships, and are more grounded in their relationships with God. They have much need—needs we should help meet in a sustainable way—but they also often have much to teach us about the Jesus we claim we know. I am reminded of the beatitudes, found in Matthew 5:3–12:

    “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

    Our Wealth is Really in Christ

    It seems that the more needy we are, the more God has to offer. Those of us in the developed world are so rich in money, possessions, and experiences that we have a hard time seeing ourselves as needy, or allowing God the time and space to work in and through us. 

    In Revelation, the message to the Laodicean church is this:

    “You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see” (Revelation 3:17–18)

    How aptly this Laodicean message applies to those of us living in developed nations today! The apostle Paul imparted similar wisdom:

    “But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:7–8).

    Like Paul, may we “cast aside all hindrances” and seek God with all of our hearts, our minds and our souls; and like my guard in Papua New Guinea, may God bless us richly in the things of eternal value (Hebrews 12:1).

    Kriselle Dawson is a volunteer writer for Jesus' Economy. Kriselle lives in Lae, Papua New Guinea, where she is a full-time mom and homeschool teacher; she also serves with Papua New Guinea Union Mission and Lae City Mission.

  • About Jesus’ Economy

    Articles provided by Jesus' Economy, dedicated to creating jobs and churches in the developing world. In each community Jesus' Economy serves, they offer church grants, microloans, and meet basic needs. To fund life transformation, Jesus' Economy provides an online fair trade shop.