Jesus’ Economy


The Story of Acts is Still Happening Today

Its the mid 50s AD. A man named Paul has been traveling the world, spreading the good news about Jesus of Nazareth. Paul believes this Jesus is God incarnateand the savior of the world. This all started when Paul encountered the risen Jesus, who had been crucified in Jerusalem. Before that, he had persecuted Christians.

Paul is now on a mission. He is near the end of his third missionary journey. He desires to see the Christians in Rome. In a letter, Paul tells the Roman church that heplans to launch from Rome a mission to Spain (Romans 15:22).

On the other side of the known world is Thomas. At first, Thomas had doubted Jesus’ resurrection (John 20:25-28). Now, Thomas has been sent out by the church in Jerusalem to bring the gospel to India (This is according to early Syrian church tradition.)

Paul and Thomas are attempting to bring the gospel to opposite ends of the known world—the furthest western point in their geography, Spain, and the furthest eastern point, India.

Paul and Thomas are following Jesus’ commandment: “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8 NIV). From the very inception of the church, they saw themselves as missionaries bringing the gospel to the ends of the earth. The former persecutor and former doubter dedicated themselves to this. And we should do the same.

But the work is far from complete. There are over 3,000 people groups without missionaries. It’s estimated that 99.7% of the church’s resources—it’s missional activities and financial support—is dedicated to areas where the church is already present. Only 0.3% of resources are dedicated to where the church is not present. Let that number sink in.

Like Thomas, I went to India because I had heard of a place where 101 Million people had not heard Jesus’ name. The state is called Bihar. There in Bihar, I shadowed an indigenous, pioneering church leader named Biju Thomas. In Bihar, I met hundreds of people who had heard the name of Jesus for the first time through the efforts of Biju and his team. And I personally witnessed hundreds of people hearing the name of Jesus for the first time ever in their lives. I saw the freedom of Jesus reign in their lives and renew their hearts. I saw their eyes light up as they realized that their lives had value far beyond what the local religious systems had rigidly defined.

In Biharthe book of Acts is happening today. There are thousands of people coming to Christ; there are miracles happening every day; and the needs of the impoverished are being met.

I remember meeting a young woman, perhaps 16 years old, whose face was filled with sadness and anger. She was from a remote village and had until recently been living with father who an abusive alcoholic. At first, she had tried to stay in school—and endure her father’s neglect and abuse—but she would regularly walk three miles to school, just for the teacher not to show. Thus, she moved to Patna, where her mother was and found work and education. But the sadness about her upbringing, future, and her father endured. And her religion demanded chants (mantras) to change this. But she could not chant where she was living.

During a youth event, she heard the gospel told plainly for the first time. And she realized, deep in her heart, thatJ esus is what she needed—not mantras. Jesus whispered quietly to her that she had value. I will never forget her face as she walked up the aisle of the classroom to ask for prayer. Her smile brimmed from ear to ear. She had been so angry and embittered looking but now joy swept across her face. Jesus had turned darkness into beauty.

I want to see this type of joy reach every last personon the planet. I want to see the renewal this young lady experienced be offered to every person of Bihar.

As I left Bihar, I thought, “If the book of Acts is happening today in Bihar, perhaps a model could emerge from the book. What if the answers to our problems are right there in the Bible?”

 

Image Credit: ©Thinkstock

This long-form article is part of the Jesus' Economy weekly series, “Living for Jesus.”


John D. Barry is the CEO of Jesus’ Economy, an innovative non-profit creating jobs and churches in the developing world. At JesusEconomy.org, people can shop fair trade and give directly to a cause they’re passionate about, such as bringing the gospel to unreached people groups. John is also the general editor of Faithlife Study Bible and the author or editor of 30 books.


The Most Powerful Statement a Christian Can Make

“I’ll go first” is perhaps the most powerful statement a Christian make. It is the people who go first that I most admire: the innovators, the risk-takers, the pioneers.

It is the people who have made incredible sacrifices for Jesus—who join our Lord, not just in his glory but also in his suffering—that inspire me.

One of these people is Biju Thomas, a pioneering community developer in Northeast India. Biju left “God’s own country”—the nickname of Kerala, the state he is from in Bihar—and moved to Bihar, which is known as the most backward of the backward states in India. This is a reference used in India to states that are no longer supported by the Indian government from an infrastructure standpoint.

In Bihar, I shadowed Biju in one of the least reached regions of the world. Over 101 Million people in Bihar have never heard the name of Jesus. Without Biju, I was an outsider and unwelcome; but with him, everything was different.

When people met me and observed the color of my skin, they would generally dislike me. This is because of the history of colonialism in Bihar—there is a cultural memory that says that white people are bad because they represent oppressive colonialism. But once people found out I was with Biju, they would embrace me. And this is because of one simple reason—the love of Jesus.

Biju and his team are empowering women through business; they are providing clean water; they are offering literacy training; and they are sharing the freedom of Jesus with people who have never heard his name before. And as these people experience Jesus—in a culture where the religious systems have dictated that their life is only worth little—their entire world is changed. Jesus offers freedom and liberty.

THE POWER OF GOING FIRST

Biju is the type of person who goes first. He has made incredible sacrifices for the cause of renewing Bihar, India. And that’s why I followed him and am now going first among another group of people. I’m trying to ignite a movement of people who are willing to live self-sacrificially for the sake of bringing the gospel to the last of the unreached and for the sake of alleviating extreme poverty in effective and sustainable ways.

To fund it, I put my money in first. I sold my house. I sold my stuff. That’s what my wife and I did together. Because I could not look at these problems—and continue to sit in my comfortable well paying job—I had to step up and follow God with everything I had. And I knew that I wouldn’t really know faith, or be able to truly call people to it, until I had taken that journey.

This was the method of Saint Paul. In his letter to the church at Thessalonica, he says:

“For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you” (2 Thessalonians 3:7–8 ESV).

Paul was bi-vocational—meaning he worked and did ministry. He worked so that he could do ministry. He put his money where his mouth was. He led by example. Paul explains this further in 1 Thessalonians:

“Surely you remember, brothers and sisters, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you” (1 Thessalonians 2:9 NIV).

Paul’s mission was to spread the gospel and to leave no one with excuse. They believed because they saw how much he sacrificed for it and knew that there could be no other reason for doing so than God himself. Paul joined Jesus not just in his glory but in his suffering. He went first and did so without regret.

GOD HAS A GRAND VISION FOR OUR WORLD

God is building a grand vision for our world and we can be part of it. God is calling us to make sacrifices necessary to renew entire communities—physically and spiritually.

The opportunity and resources are there and now we need to do the work. God is calling us to something extraordinary. We could bring the gospel, in its full form—of loving a person in both word and deed—to the ends of the earth in our lifetimes. Imagine if that happened.

Our strategy will take time. It will involve sacrifice. It will involve leading by example. It will involve making decisions for Jesus that are so drastic that people question them. It will involve finding a better way forward to create jobs and churches for the hurting and unreached. But it will be worth it.

This long-form article is part of our weekly series, “Living for Jesus.”


John D. Barry is the CEO of Jesus’ Economy, an innovative non-profit creating jobs and churches in the developing world. At JesusEconomy.org, people can shop fair trade and give directly to a cause they’re passionate about, such as bringing the gospel to unreached people groups. John is also the general editor of Faithlife Study Bible and the author or editor of 30 books.


How to Live the Best Story You Can

We are all part of a story. We’re living as part of a narrative. We’re telling our story, with each act of each day.

Like the legends of old, we have an opportunity to decide what kind of people we will be. When faced with the problems of our world, will we step up and offer renewal and hope? Or will we cower back, backing away from the fight?

I have seen the problems of our world firsthand. I have witnessed the pain of our world and decided to live a grand adventure to do something about it.

My wife and I sold our house, most of what we own, left a great job, and followed after Jesus—for the sake of empowering the impoverished and bringing the gospel to the unreached (compare >Mark 10:17–27). God’s next step for us was to “go all in”—that was the only way for the movement we lead, Jesus’ Economy, to grow.

I made these decisions because of what I witnessed of global poverty—and the amount of people who have never had the opportunity to hear the name of Jesus. I couldn’t live in a world where solutions were available to global poverty and bringing the gospel to the unreached and continue with “business as usual.”

If we all lived a better story, we could reasonably end global poverty in our lifetimes. We could reasonably bring the gospel to those who do not have access to it. Here’s how.

OUR STORIES SHOULD REPRESENT BIBLICAL VALUES

When it comes to what type of story I want to live, I regularly think of what the prophet Jeremiah said:

“Thus says Yahweh, ‘Act with justice and righteousness, and deliver the one who has been seized from the hand of the oppressor. And you must not oppress or treat violently the immigrant, the orphan, and the widow. And you must not shed innocent blood in this place’” (Jeremiah 22:3 LEB).

This is what we are called to do, to deliver the oppressed—to be people who act with justice, who embody it. For the marginalized, immigrant, impoverished, and outsider, we are to rise up and care. We are to stand alongside the hurting and live as people whose lives are marked by these values.

Ending global poverty starts with your everyday decisions—how you use your finances and time. Likewise, bringing the gospel to the unreached is within our grasp—if we all just lived a little more sacrificially. If only we embodied what the Bible actually says, everything would be different.

THE AMERICAN SITUATION COMPARED TO THE GLOBE

The situation we have in America of easy access to food, water, and medical care is not the case elsewhere in the world. To give you an idea of the situation around the world, here are a few significant facts.

In a Millennium Development Goals Report from 2015 by the United Nations, there is one line in particular that is incredibly shocking:

“Projections indicate that in 2015 more than 600 million people worldwide will still be using unimproved water sources, almost one billion will be living on an income of less than $1.25 per day, mothers will continue to die needlessly in childbirth, and children will suffer and die from preventable diseases” (MDGR, pg. 3 of the Foreword by Ban Ki-Moon).

This is the story people in developing countries live with. This term, ‘developing,’ refers to the situation of general economic poverty. America, on the other hand, would be called a ‘developed’ nation. And yet, our resources for the most part stay with us. We as individuals and as a nation are by and large ignoring the real problems facing our world.

The people in developing countries experiencing issues of extreme poverty need our assistance. They need us to come alongside them to empower them.

But they need more than mere meeting of basic needs. That’s a start. We need to help create sustainable jobs for those living in poverty, so they can lift themselves out of poverty.

We also need to meet spiritual needs. Throughout our world, oppressive religions and corruption are plaguing societies. We need a Christian presence in every corner of the world, offering liberty and freedom.

WE CAN DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS

I believe it is our time and it is our hour. I believe that Christ will transform lives through the work of our hands. That power is in your hands.

And lest someone tell you that you can’t do something about it, let me remind you of Paul’s words to his young apprentice Timothy:

“Do not let anyone look down on you because you are young but set an example for the believers in life, in faith, in truth, and in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12).

Young or old, we can live by example. We can live a better story, for the sake of the impoverished and unreached.

This principle guided me throughout my young years. And it guides me today to continue living this story, despite how hard and painful it is.

What type of story are you going to live?

This long-form article is part of the Jesus' Economy weekly series, “Living for Jesus.” You can find the original article, What Type of Story Will You Live?, here


John D. Barry is the CEO of Jesus’ Economy, an innovative non-profit creating jobs and churches in the developing world. At JesusEconomy.org, people can shop fair trade and give directly to a cause they’re passionate about, such as bringing the gospel to unreached people groups. John is also the general editor of Faithlife Study Bible and the author or editor of 30 books.


What Jesus Really Said about Poverty

by John Barry

In Jesus, God came as a poor man, lived as a poor man, and died as a poor man. He is good news to the poor. And as such, Jesus cared deeply about the impoverished.

Being What We Believe

What we do with our beliefs is as important to Jesus as what we believe. Jesus is about complete commitment to loving him and others. Jesus loves belief-filled actions, as his saying to a wealthy young man shows: “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (Matthew 19:21; see 19:16–30 ESV). The man walks away sorrowful. Jesus then says his famous:

“Truly I say to you that with difficulty a rich person will enter into the kingdom of heaven! And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich person into the kingdom of God” (>Matthew 19:23–24).

Jesus’ disciples then ask, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looks at them and says: “With human beings this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (>Matthew 19:25–26). Jesus is not suggesting it is impossible for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven, or be saved—He is saying it is only possible with God. And for God to enter a person’s life they must be open to Him entering.

Many of us are just like the rich young man. Out of one side of our mouth we speak allegiance to Jesus, but out of the other side we’re speaking allegiance to the trappings of wealth. I know, because the rich young man asks the same questions I would ask. Look at the events that prompted Jesus to make his statement about the wealthy:

“And behold, someone [the rich young man] came up to him and said, ‘Teacher, what good thing must I do so that I will have eternal life?’ And he said to him, ‘Why are you asking me about what is good? There is one who is good. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments!’ He said to him, ‘Which ones?’ And Jesus said, ‘Do not commit murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and your mother, and love your neighbor as yourself.’ The young man said to him, ‘All these I have observed. What do I still lack?’” (>Matthew 19:16–21).

Jesus is clearly frustrated and perhaps even offended: “Why are you asking me about what is good?” The man is asking the wrong question. He doesn’t ask how he can follow Jesus, or what it means to be a disciple—or what good thing he can do for the world on behalf of a good God. He asks, “What must I do so that I will have eternal life?” If we’re honest with ourselves, isn’t that the question many of us are asking God today? Jesus is unsatisfied with that question.

Eternal life (salvation) is God’s great gift, but it’s meant to be a gift that prompts action. It is meant to give us purpose.

When I was confronted with the reality of the story of the rich young man, I again asked another question that he asks: “Which [commandments]?” Jesus cites to the man all the relational Ten Commandments, and in doing so, basically implies, “All of them.” The man tells Jesus he has observed these and then asks, “What do I lack?” It is this question that gets to the root of the issue. Jesus tells the man that he lacks self-sacrifice for others—he lacks giving to the extent that it is painful to him. He lacks an ability to put aside his wealth for the sake of the gospel. Wealth is meant to bless others—plain and simple (see >Genesis 12:1–3 for an example). It is not for hording, and it will—if not given up, when God prompts you—keep you from fully experiencing the blessings of God.

But do not fear, fret, or worry—instead, pray. Remember: “With human beings this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).

What Jesus Would Say to Us Today

Put simply, when we apply Jesus’ sayings today, they look like withdrawing from any relationship, occupation, event, or thing that stands between you and following Jesus—permitted that you can do so while still honoring the commandments Jesus tells the rich young man to keep: “Do not commit murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and your mother, and love your neighbor as yourself” (>Matthew 19:18–19).

Jesus has called us to join him in His work—to believe in it with all we have. The cost may be hard to bear or understand at times, but when it’s put in the perspective of all that Christ has done for us—dying for our sins—it seems like very little.

Jesus’ Currency and “Owning” the Problems of Poverty

The currency of Jesus’ kingdom is different than ours. Jesus’ economy is based on self-sacrifice and His currency love. For Jesus, belief and actions are one and the same—you cannot have one without the other.

The more I reflect on the problem of poverty—and what Jesus had to say about it—the more I realize that we own the problems of the impoverished as much as they do. Our inactions have created many of them. We—all of us—are at fault for the state of our world. But we can also join Jesus in changing the state of our world.

If Jesus believed that belief is about action, why don’t we? Why have we not dedicated ourselves to bringing true discipleship and love to others, when it’s what Christ told us to do? What good is belief without it offering true hope?

God has asked us to demonstrate our belief by bringing good news to those who feel hopeless. We are called to drop everything for Him—what is He calling you to drop for Him? This is Jesus’ view of the economy. He envisions what the world could look like and calls us to join God in the process of making that vision a reality. It’s about exchanging the currencies of this world for the currency of love.

An adapted/modified version of this article was originally published by "on faith"/"faith street" as "Five Sayings of the Homeless Jesus."


John D. Barry is the CEO and Founder of Jesus’ Economy, dedicated to creating jobs and churches in the developing world. Because of John’s belief that business can also transform lives, Jesus’ Economy also provides an online fair trade shop. He is currently leading Jesus’ Economy efforts to Renew Bihar, India—one of the most impoverished places in the world where few have heard the name of Jesus.


How We Can Reverse the Apathy Trend (for the Sake of the Impoverished)

It’s going to be difficult to reverse the trend of the Facebook generation of Christians—who seem interested in alleviating poverty and spreading the gospel, but are largely apathetic. Here are a few ideas.

We can start by exposing people to the truth of what’s going on around the world—that there are plenty of resources to go around but that we’re not getting those resources to the impoverished. We can then show people how God can use their skills to not just fiscally assist in these areas but to also transform lives, with their own two hands.

Jesus’ Economy, for example, has an entirely remote all-volunteer team. We have volunteers around the nation who are part of our staff—they are plugging directly into the work of alleviating poverty from right behind their computer. They are working on partnerships, content, and technology projects. They are putting their hard skills to work helping alleviate poverty and spread the gospel.

We can also expose people to the fact that there are over 3,000 people groups without missionaries.

It’s estimated that 99.7% of the church’s resources—its missional activities and financial support—are dedicated to areas where the church is already present. Only 0.3% of resources are dedicated to where the church is not present. Let that number sink in.

To deal with this, we need to be thinking about how we can work together to pool our resources—to empower the work of the global church.

I’ve been to one of these places, in Bihar, India. In Bihar, there are over 101 Million people who have never heard the name of Jesus. There is a completely unreached people group. 

In Bihar, I met a man who had lived his entire life as a gang leader. An indigenous church planter had a chance encounter with him and shared about the freedom and love of Jesus. The man was intrigued because his life felt so dark and empty—and local religion couldn’t offer any hope for what he was feeling and experiencing. Before long, he decided to believe in Jesus and it changed his entire life. He went out into a field and buried his gun and knife. He then dedicated his life to co-laboring for Jesus—working manual labor and spreading the word about Jesus whenever possible. This reminds me of Isaiah 2:4:

“God shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore” (ESV).

This is the power and liberty of the gospel that is going forth around the world—but this effort needs more advocacy and funding.

In Bihar, Jesus’ Economy has four indigenous church planters reaching those who have never heard Jesus’ name before. Simple decisions by normal people funded this effort. Online people started birthday campaigns to raise support for church planters, and dedicated events to the cause of church planting. In these simple, yet innovative actions, they have moved past apathy and into action. These ideas are about embodying the values of the Bible, while embracing technology. People are overcoming apathy for the sake of the poor and unreached. 

And this is just the start of the potential of what could be happening in our world. Imagine what could occur if we embodied Paul’s teachings to Timothy. Near the end of 1 Timothy, Paul says:

“Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. … Devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have .... Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Timothy 4:11–16 ESV).

Paul instructs Timothy to continue to embrace his gifts. He tells him to devote himself to the work of the gospel and to do so with self-discipline. Paul calls Timothy to bring the saving work of Jesus to others, despite all obstacles. And Paul can say these words because he has led by example.

MOVING PAST APATHY WILL BE A CHRISTIAN MOVEMENT

But the type of change I’m envisioning is almost like a reformation. It means a complete shift of Christian culture in the U.S. It will be a long-long race. And we—each of us who have heard this message—have to run it first. We have to lead by example.

Reflecting back upon his many efforts to spread the gospel and alleviate poverty, an older Paul says to Timothy: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:6 NIV).

Paul is not just stating the reality of his life; he is calling Timothy to run the same race. He has shown Timothy in word and deed how to run the race; stated that he has done so; and is now asking Timothy to do the same.

We should never ask someone to do something, or to live a message, that we are not at least trying to live ourselves. And ideally, we should already be living it ourselves. We need to say, “I’ll go first.” And then invite people to run alongside with us. 

 

The full article, “Leading By Example, For the Sake of the Impoverished” can be found on JesusEconomy.org.


John D. Barry is the CEO of Jesus’ Economy, an innovative non-profit creating jobs and churches in the developing world. At JesusEconomy.org, people can shop fair trade and give directly to a cause they’re passionate about, such as bringing the gospel to unreached people groups. John is also the general editor of Faithlife Study Bible and the author or editor of 30 books.


What is True Religion? Love in Action

by John D. Barry, CEO of Jesus' Economy

Every narrative, every act, is a call and response related to faith. Faith in—or for some, faith in nothing at all—is a thread that weaves throughout our lives. Jesus of Nazareth recognized this and questioned the religious status quo; he confronted people who used religion for power and gain.

Jesus was a rabbi whose followers believed he was God incarnate and who sacrificed their own lives to represent his teachings—they refused to back down from his message of love and the claim that Jesus was resurrected from the dead. This is how incredible Jesus was—that he prompted a movement of people dedicated to living sacrificially for the sake of others. In their minds, love had come down as Jesus and changed everything about their lives. They believed that Jesus’ resurrection had given them freedom to live in full relationship with God and to spread his message of love and peace over the sword and hate.

Jesus articulated the incredible power of love. He spoke of how religion can and should be used for bringing love and peace to our world (Matthew 5:922:37–40; compare Matthew 26:52). Because God is love, as Jesus' follower John put it (1 John 4:8).

Religion, though, tends to distort the eternal message of love for power and individual gain. Religion has been wrongly used to justify the Crusades, slavery, segregation, and acts of terror.

Each of us needs to represent, in our actions, a better solution. We need to express our belief in self-sacrificial love.

Jesus is an example of someone who faced oppressive religion and said, “You've heard this ‘hate your enemy’ and ‘get an eye for an eye’ ... but I tell you this: Love your neighbor, including your enemy” (see Matthew 5:38–48).

We can summarize much of Jesus’ message as: Be generous to those who persecute you, condemn you, stand against you. Live sacrificially, for the betterment of the impoverished, marginalized, outsider.

Jesus called the rich, the powerful, and each and every person, to account (see Matthew 5–723). He says to live self-sacrificially for the marginalized and to practice a faith rooted in serving others. Jesus even claims that this type of love is how he will recognize his true followers (see Matthew 25:31–46). Something to ponder there—sacrificial love is how Jesus recognizes those who know him.

In one of Jesus’ last messages to his disciples before his crucifixion, he focuses on serving others. With his carpenter’s hands, he washes the dirty feet of his disciples (see John 13:1–17). This is a living testimony of sacrificial love. He shows them what true love means.

Just prior to his arrest, Jesus says, “love one another just as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this: that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:12–13 LEB adapted).

These teachings are, in large part, what led to Jesus being crucified. He called those in power to change their ways and they killed him for it. Jesus died for this love and for the full weight of every wrongdoing we commit against our brothers and sisters.

Later, the book of James will summarize this message of love as: “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of God is this: to look after orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained by the world” (James 1:27 LEB adapted).

Let us live as people who don't give into the pressure of our world to place ourselves before others—let's not let that nonsense stain our vibrant colors of love. Let's place the refugee, outsider, impoverished, imprisoned, and voiceless before ourselves. Let’s answer the call of love in word and deed (compare the book of James). This should be the narrative of religion woven through our lives, through our existence.

Jesus’ economy is based on self-sacrifice. And his currency is love. This is true religion.


John D. Barry is the CEO of Jesus’ Economy, an innovative non-profit creating jobs and churches in the developing world. At JesusEconomy.org, people can shop fair trade and give directly to a cause they’re passionate about, such as bringing the gospel to unreached people groups. John is also the general editor of Faithlife Study Bible and the author or editor of 30 books.


4 Ways Easter is Hope for Every Day of the Year

by John D. Barry, CEO of Jesus' Economy

If you’re struggling in life, pastel colors and chocolate bunnies won’t make you feel better. Deep down, it all feels a little trivial. What we need is Resurrection Day—in its full meaning. Here are four ways Easter is authentic hope for every day of the year.

1. RESURRECTION DAY IS A STATE OF MIND

For many of us, Easter is an emotional day—full of disappointment, grief, and depression. As we officially move into Spring, we think of all that isn’t and all that could be. And we’re sad. We reflect and don’t feel hope but despair. But for the earliest Christians—who likewise experienced intense pain and disappointment—Jesus’ resurrection changed their entire state of mind.

I think of Paul the apostle, who went through unbelievable difficulties including shipwrecks and beatings (2 Corinthians 11:16–33). And yet despite this, he declares:

“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 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith” (Philippians 3:8–10 NIV).

For Paul and other early Christians, resurrection was a state of mind. The resurrected Lord Jesus gave them hope, despite incredible obstacles. Such a hope can change the way we look at each and everyday. It can give us what we need to overcome our feelings of despair, depression, and grief. It can give us what we need to move forward.

2. RESURRECTION IS HOPE FOR THE LIVING AND DEAD

The pain of losing a loved one is absolutely searing. The grief knows no bounds. But even when facing this grief, Paul the apostle could have hope. He declares:

“Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first” (>1 Thessalonians 4:13–16 NIV).

There is hope for the living and the dead in Christ. There is a final resurrection day coming. Because of Jesus’ resurrection, those who believe experience resurrected life (compare Colossians 1:18; >John 3:16–17; 11:25). This is hope for every day—no matter what loss may come our way. We can look to the future of what God will do and declare it good.

3. RESURRECTION IS FREEDOM FROM SIN

Jesus did not die merely for our salvation, although he certainly died for that (see Isaiah 53:10–12). He also died so that we can have freedom from sin and its ramifications. Jesus’ resurrection gave us the ability to be freed from sin’s power over our life. Resurrection gives us liberating hope. Paul put it this way:

“We were therefore buried with [Jesus] through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been set free from sin” (Romans 6:4–7 NIV).

Perhaps today you are feeling bound by the sin in your life. Jesus has hope for you. Jesus’ resurrection can reign in your life and release you from the bondage of sin. Jesus can give you new life. Jesus wants you to be free. Jesus wants to offer everyone in our world the liberty of resurrected life.

4. RESURRECTION IS WHAT OUR WORLD NEEDS

Throughout our world, there is unbelievable pain. There are famines, extreme poverty, and those who have never known the freedom of Jesus. There are people in desperate situations who desperately need help. The call of the gospel—the call of Jesus—is that we would have new life in him and that we would offer new life to others (Matthew 18:5; 25:40–45; John 14:6; James 1:27).

Jesus’ resurrection and ascension offers us the very power of God in our lives (John 14–16). It gives us a chance to have the transformational power of God as Holy Spirit working in us. It gives us the chance to be God’s representatives here and now. With resurrected life on our side—in us and working through us—we can do anything God calls us to do (Philippians 4:16). Resurrection is real and tangible hope, right now.

Imagine the great and incredible power of offering new life to the broken and hurting of our planet. Imagine equality and the freedom of Jesus reaching every ear. Imagine the hope that we could have this day and everyday if we were truly about Jesus’ love.

Resurrection is what we need. Resurrection is what our world needs. Resurrection is hope for every day, in every situation.


John D. Barry is the CEO of Jesus’ Economy, an innovative non-profit creating jobs and churches in the developing world. At JesusEconomy.org, people can shop fair trade and give directly to a cause they’re passionate about, such as bringing the gospel to unreached people groups. John is also the general editor of Faithlife Study Bible and the author or editor of 30 books.


Jesus Never Meant for Us to Give Without Thought

by John D. Barry, CEO of Jesus' Economy

Charity is central to the Bible’s message. But did the biblical writers intend for us to give every time we’re asked? I don’t think so.

JESUS ON CHARITY

If you’re in a room full of Christians discussing charity, you can almost guarantee that you will hear someone quote this line from Jesus:

“Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you” (Matthew 5:42 NIV).

At first reading, it certainly seems like Jesus is telling us that every time we’re asked for charity that we should give. But this verse is not actually about charity. Let’s look at the larger context. Just before Matthew 5:42, Jesus says:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles” (Matthew 5:38–41 NIV).

Jesus is first addressing how we handle a conflict or dispute. He is telling us that it’s simply not worth it to spend your life in a court battle, seeking revenge, or attempting to take justice into your own hands. Jesus is also telling us to be generous, even to those who treat us poorly. The larger question about this passage, then, is not what we should do with Jesus’ view on charity but what we should do with Jesus’ view on lawsuits, revenge, and those inconvenience or wrong us. And how about those who ask for a loan but don’t deserve one? That’s what Matthew 5:42 is really about.

Jesus is still suggesting unbelievable generosity; in fact, he is suggesting we show incredible love to even those who wrong us. But we can’t, for example, use this passage to justify giving every homeless fellow on the street money. Wouldn’t God have us use more intelligence in our giving? Paul the apostle has some thoughts on this.

PAUL THE APOSTLE ON CHARITY

The issues that happen with charity today are not new. As long as charity has existed, there have been people who misuse it and abuse it.

An early example occurred at the church at Thessalonica. Paul the apostle tells the Thessalonian Christians:

“In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us” (2 Thessalonians 3:6 NIV).

There were some among the church at Thessalonica who refused to work (see 2 Thessalonians 3:7–11). Paul knew that a swift action had to be taken to stop the abuse of charity. He goes on to say:

“For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: ‘The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.’ We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10–12 NIV).

Paul’s rule is simple: If you’re able to work and there are available jobs, you should work—you don’t need charity. Charity was a mainstay of the early church (see Acts 6:1–7). Thus, it’s easy to envision how some in the community had decided that they simply no longer needed to work. There may have been some other theological confusion involved (compare 2 Thessalonians 2:3–5), but the plethora of available charity certainly seems to have been a contributing factor.

The problems with charity at Thessalonica also involved people finding themselves with too much time on their hands—and thus becoming “busybodies.” That’s Paul’s not-so-technical way of saying: “They’re sinning, and causing you trouble, because you made it easy for them to do so.”

If we continue to give handouts to those who refuse to work, we will continue to see an abuse of charity. We will also continue to see other problems in our churches and society. That is the conclusion of Paul’s logic—and it’s a lesson we need to take to heart.

But this doesn’t stop Paul from suggesting that people give or consider the impoverished (see Romans 15:25–29; 2 Corinthians 9). Instead, Paul is suggesting a more intelligent approach be built into our giving. Paul is suggesting accountability and real, authentic relationships that call people to a higher standard.

When it comes to giving, we should be intelligent in our approach. The biblical solution is to love people sincerely, which requires making them more than charity cases who receive handouts. The biblical answer is to be generous but smart.


John D. Barry is the CEO of Jesus’ Economy, an innovative non-profit creating jobs and churches in the developing world. At JesusEconomy.org, people can shop fair trade and give directly to a cause they’re passionate about, such as bringing the gospel to unreached people groups. John is also the general editor of Faithlife Study Bible and the author or editor of 30 books.


How You Can Transform a Life Today, Biblically

by John D. Barry, CEO of Jesus' Economy

Our world is full of problems. It feels overwhelming. But the solution starts right here, with each of us. Here are some practical and biblical steps you can take today to transform a life.

SPEAK WORDS OF LOVE AND PEACE

Much of the rhetoric of today has become filled with anger and hate. The Bible calls us to be peacemakers. Jesus once said:

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9 NIV).

If we truly think of ourselves as children of God, those saved by the grace of Jesus, then we should be peacemakers. Rather than lashing out at others with hateful rhetoric and disdain, we should consider how we can show other people the very love of Christ.

That can be difficult when we feel ostracized for our faith, but that’s the time when such actions are most needed. Just after Jesus’ line about peacemakers, he says:

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:10–12 NIV).

If we experience persecution and difficulties truly for the sake of the gospel then Jesus considers us blessed. We have become like the prophets of old. Our response to pain, difficulties, and persecution should always be love.

Jesus even went so far as to tell us to love our enemies (Matthew 5:43–48). We are to love and leave justice in Jesus’ hands. Jesus summarizes this nicely when he says to Peter:

“Put your sword back in its place … for all who draw the sword will die by the sword” (Matthew 26:52 NIV).

Peace is a masterful plan. It gives us the ability to completely trust God with our future. When we respond out of love, we silence hate.

REALLY LIVE THE BIBLE’S MESSAGE

Far too many people claim belief in the Bible but don’t really live its message. The Bible’s calling is clear: We are to self-sacrificially love others. It is not enough to claim belief in Jesus without taking action. The book of James puts it this way:

“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?” (James 2:14 NIV).

Jesus explained this idea when he differentiated between authentic and inauthentic believers by their actions on behalf of the stranger, sick, and imprisoned (Matthew 5:31–46). For Jesus, anyone who claimed to have experienced his saving grace but did not act on behalf of the outsider, marginalized, and helpless simply did not know him.

Take action today to empower others—really live the Bible’s message. Make a self-sacrificial choice for the sake of the gospel.

BE PART OF THE SOLUTION

In my experience, there are many Christians who like to talk about ideas but when it comes to action, there is silence.

Jesus did not tell us to simply speak about the gospel; he told us to take action on behalf of the gospel. In the book of Acts, Jesus frames the message this way:

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8 NIV).

Jesus’ message necessitates action. The remainder of the book of Acts illustrates this point. Starting from Jerusalem and moving out to the rest of the world, the early church begins to spread the word about Jesus’ saving act.

When you truly experience Jesus, you can’t help but take action. For far too long, we have talked about the need to bring the gospel to unreached people groups yet there are still 3,000 people groups without a single missionary. In Bihar, India alone—where the organization I lead is working—there are 101 Million people who have never heard the name of Jesus.

We need solutions to these problems. And that starts with each of us taking action. We need to be willing to give of our time and resources for the sake of Jesus’ mission. We should be willing to do so, to the point it hurts.

At one point a man said to Jesus said, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62 NIV). What are you looking back at? What do you need to let go of? How can you take action for the sake of reaching the unreached today?


John D. Barry is the CEO of Jesus’ Economy, an innovative non-profit creating jobs and churches in the developing world. At JesusEconomy.org, people can shop fair trade and give directly to a cause they’re passionate about, such as bringing the gospel to unreached people groups. John is also the general editor of Faithlife Study Bible and the author or editor of 30 books.


What "When You Give, Do Not Let Your Left Hand Know..." Means

by John D. Barry, CEO of Jesus' Economy

“When you give … do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing” (Matthew 6:3). This saying epitomizes the mystery of Jesus’ sayings. What does Jesus really mean by this saying?

This oft-quoted saying of Jesus comes from the middle of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). This long sermon is full of parables, proverbs, rebukes, and commands. The Sermon on the Mount, in many ways, functions as the center of Jesus’ practical teaching—his teachings about how Christians should live. Thus, when we attempt to understand any one part of it, we must ask ourselves: What does Jesus want to teach us, practically?

Jesus opens this particular section of the sermon with a caution:

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 6:1 ESV).

There are some people who only do good when it can be seen. Their goal is to be recognized for their generosity. We need look no further than the monopolizers, Rockefeller and Carnegie, to see an illustration of this type of giving. Rockefeller and Carnegie were even in a competition for who could give the most—who could out philanthropize the other one. But their efforts were not merely about giving; it was about empire building. They were trying to create lasting legacies in their own names, so that they could live forever in the annuals of history. And it worked.

Does Jesus’ rebuke mean that the philanthropic labors of Rockefeller and Carnegie were in vain? Certainly not. There are many great things in our world that only happened because of the generosity of Rockefeller and Carnegie—whole non-profits and institutions owe their start to Rockefeller and Carnegie.

But where is the reward for efforts done for the sake of recognition? They are left right here on earth, where they occur. Jesus makes clear that those who seek recognition get their reward here, not in heaven. Their reward is the praise of other people. Jesus elaborates on this, saying:

“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward” (Matthew 6:2 ESV).

Thinking of local Jewish leaders of the Pharisee and Sadducee party, Jesus uses the analogy of someone sounding a trumpet before giving to the impoverished. He could be alluding to some regular practice at the Jerusalem Temple. Jesus could be recognizing that most people made a very big deal about their giving. Without recognition, the wealthy likely thought they would lose some (perhaps even all) of the benefit. Jesus calls this type of behavior hypocritical. But why is it hypocritical? Answer: power.

Those who give out of a desire to be recognized are really seeking popularity. And popularity is a tool of power. If people believe you are generous, they are likely to be more trusting. And if they trust you, they will do business with you. For many wealthy people, this is why they give—respect of peers and their local community. Most often they give out of guilt (expectations) or to seek respect (power). And neither reason for giving aligns with God’s priorities.

Furthermore, giving is often a method of expressing power. If I supply for another person’s needs, especially when being recognized for doing so, the person I give to will feel indebted to me. At the very least, they will be forced to compromise some dignity in accepting my charity. Thus, for Jesus, the setting of giving was critical. He understood that all these things could be involved in the giving process.

This does not mean that giving done in vain is useless to God or his work. It can still be used for great good. But there is a better way. In this regard, Jesus says:

“But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:3-4 ESV).

For Jesus, it’s all about intent. This is his concern. But does this mean that we should never give publicly? Does it mean that we should never tell the stories of those who give? What about the stories of those who receive? To answer these questions, the next section of Jesus’ sermon is enlightening.

Jesus’ view of prayer, which is explained in the next section of the sermon, is very similar to his view of giving (Matthew 6:5-8). He explains that prayer should be done in secret. Yet when it comes to prayer, we know that Jesus does not intend for us to merely pray in secret or to merely pray the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:6, 9-13). We know this because Jesus himself prayed publicly (e.g., John 11:41-42). And we practice public prayer, just as it has been practiced for thousands of years (and is reflected even in the book of Psalms).

When we read Jesus’ thoughts on prayer, we know that he is providing us with a model, a modus operandi. He is telling us that the majority of our prayers should be private—that we should seek an intimate relationship with God the Father. He is also telling us to be careful why we pray—to watch our intentions.

The same is true of Jesus’ view on giving. Intent is the guiding principle (see 2 Corinthians 9:6-7; Micah 6:8). We must ask: Why are we giving? When we expose our giving to others, why do we do so? When we tell the stories of the impoverished being empowered, why do we do so? Are we ensuring that each step is done with dignity, honesty, and for the right reasons? Are we seeking God’s glory or our own?

Our guiding principle should be giving privately. While we will at times make exceptions to the principle, we must only make exceptions for the sake of God’s glory and ministry. It must have a larger purpose and intent in mind. And we must continue to glorify God whenever recognition comes.

We must also trust God with our giving. Rather than contemplating the loss of funds, we must trust God with our donation to his ministry. We must watch the intent of our heart and make sure we are in a place of generosity. We must give out of a desire to do good for others and to glorify God in the process. This is Jesus’ way.


This article is by John D. Barry, the CEO of the non-profit Jesus' Economy. By shopping fair trade at JesusEconomy.org, you can create jobs for the impoverished. You can also give directly to a cause you're passionate about, such as creating jobs, planting churches, or meeting basic needs. 100% goes to the developing world. Join the movement at JesusEconomy.org.


What "Do Not Quench the Spirit" Means

by John D. Barry, CEO of Jesus' Economy

The Holy Spirit is at work in the world. But if we fail to listen to the Spirit’s prompting, we will miss the opportunity to be part of God’s work. It is for this reason that Paul the apostle said, “Do not quench the Spirit.”

Read >1 Thessalonians 5:19–28. Reflect on 1 Thessalonians 5:19–22:

“Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil” (ESV).

In this age of rationalism—where “what you see is what you get”—it’s easy for us to excuse the spiritual. We veto the power of the spiritual in favor of what we can see, feel, and touch. Likewise, in the time of the early church—where mystery cults emphasized spiritual experiences—Paul saw this as an issue. 

At the church at Thessalonica, it seems that certain members were deemphasizing the power of the spiritual. This is likely because the spiritual experiences in Graeco-Roman religions were often performances; they were used for control and power. If a person has a special anointing over their life, or is part of an elite priesthood, it is difficult for anyone else to argue against them. Abuse of power becomes easy for the deceptive, hyper-spiritual individual.

For these reasons, churches often deemphasize the role of the Holy Spirit. We can’t see the Spirit or control its actions, so we neglect the Spirit’s importance. We also bring up the many examples of people using the name of the Holy Spirit to excuse mind games and performances—for the sake of wealth and power.

But this abuse of power does not represent the Holy Spirit. Instead, it represents an act of evil. The Holy Spirit, on the other hand, represents all that God—according to the Bible—stands for. The Holy Spirit works to heal and love; to move a community toward the goodness and holiness that is in God’s essence.

Similarly, prophecy, when used appropriately (when pure) represents a word from God himself. This word will never be for the gain of an individual or elite group. Prophecy that is of God will align with the proclamations of the Bible; it can be tested. We can see if it is truly good or evil by how it aligns or misaligns with God’s values as proclaimed by Scripture

To “not quench the Spirit” means to allow for the Holy Spirit to do its work among the church. We desperately need the very hand of God upon our communities. We desperately need the Holy Spirit’s comforting and loving actions among us. We must not quench the Spirit among us, but instead seek the good it offers.

In what ways have you quenched the Holy Spirit’s work in your life? How is your church properly (or improperly) utilizing spiritual matters, such as prophecy?


John D. Barry is the CEO and Founder of Jesus’ Economy, dedicated to creating jobs and churches in the developing world. Because of John’s belief that business can also transform lives, Jesus’ Economy also provides an online fair trade shop. He is currently leading Jesus’ Economy efforts to Renew Bihar, India—one of the most impoverished places in the world where few have heard the name of Jesus.


How Christians Should Measure Success

by John D. Barry, CEO of Jesus' Economy

Our gods call to us. They demand comparisons to other people. They say we aren’t good enough. And tell us we don’t have enough. These gods are our screens: our TVs, our computers, and our phones.

Deep rooted in the American psyche is a struggle of the ego. We look inward and find ourselves wanting. And then we respond outwardly with arrogance, self-depreciation, or self-deprivation.

If we’re honest with ourselves, most of us spend a great deal of time comparing ourselves to others. If not on a conscious level, we certainly do so subconsciously. We wonder why some people accept us, while others deny us. Deep down we all desire love and respect. And each denial of that desire leaves us wounded and longing. It leaves stuck in the limbo of comparisons to others.

Each of us responds to these emotions in a different way. It seems, though, that we’re all searching for that balance of our ambition and ego. We’re trying to find when it is appropriate for us to speak up for ourselves and when we should practice self-denial. We wonder what humility really looks like in an age where the gods are the screens. Paul the apostle has some answers—in the way he measured success.

Refuse to Pay the gods Their Dues

In the first-century AD, when Paul the apostle lived, the gods of the time had their own set of demands. From a very general standpoint, success was defined as meeting societal norms (staying in your place, according to Roman society); serving the gods of your city and the Empire; and your occupational success. By comparison, our time is not so different. Although our gods look differently, they still have their demands.

Paul defied the Empire. And it’s this that led to his martyrdom. Instead of worshipping the Emperor and the deities, Paul worshipped Jesus. He proclaimed that a crucified and resurrected poor, Jewish rabbi was God incarnate.

Jesus completely redefined Paul’s identity (Acts 9). It caused him to walk away from a life of persecuting Christians and into a life of evangelizing as a Christian. Any understanding of self begins with an understanding of Jesus.

Paul recognized how absurd this seemed to those of his day: “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18 ESV). Paul denied the wisdom of his age—he denied to pay the gods their dues—and embraced his identity as a servant and apostle of Jesus (1 Corinthians 1:18–25; Romans 1:1).

If You Boast in Anything, Let It Be in Christ

Paul’s new identity in Christ, as an apostle, led him to redefine his life, calling, and occupation. In an age of ego—not so different than ours—Paul’s encounter with Christ led him to rethink what was worth boasting about. To the Corinthian church, Paul says:

“And because of [God] you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’ And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom” (1 Corinthians 1:30–2:2 ESV).

For Paul, the work of Jesus is first and foremost. It is only the work of Christ that is worth boasting in. It does not require a special package to be believed. Paul did not come with some glorious stage presentation, speech, or pomp and circumstance. He came to the Corinthian church humbly—simply proclaiming Christ crucified and risen.

The truth of Christ does not require eloquent speech. Truth stands for itself. It does not need our presentations, our credentials, or us at all. Truth will make its own way. The Holy Spirit works through the person, but it does not need the person.

If You Must Cite Credentials, Remember Christ

Although the truth of Christ stands on its own, Paul also realized that his personal reputation could help the cause of the gospel. It could be used for God’s purposes. In this regard, Paul was not hesitant to defend himself—when it was necessary to do so.

When forced to defend himself, Paul would list his credentials (2 Corinthians 11:16–33). But he also emphasized just how much he had sacrificed for the gospel. He considered self-sacrifice much more important than a resume. Paul also reminded people of the work he had done on their behalf—that he had made sacrifices for them. For Paul humility didn’t mean being quiet or being used by others. He had a personal stake in the work of his ministry and he wasn’t afraid to remind people of that.

While Paul’s reminders to the Corinthian church could have been viewed as boasting, he saw it as honoring Christ’s work in his life. He could not let someone deny the work Christ had done through him. Paul saw defense of the truth of Christ’s work in his life as absolutely essential to his efforts on Christ’s behalf.

Paul practiced self-denial, but he did not deny the importance of the individual. Christ calls and uses individuals and communities.

Success is Measured by the Centrality of Christ

Paul regularly denied the authority of any one individual—noting how absurd an emphasis on a particular person’s ministry is (1 Corinthians 3:18–23; compare 2 Corinthians 5:12). Authority is Jesus’ alone.

Nonetheless, Paul was required from time to time to remind people who he was:

“For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward, but if not of my own will, I am still entrusted with a stewardship. What then is my reward? That in my preaching I may present the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:16–18 ESV).

For Paul, the gospel’s proclamation is the reward. Christ at the center is what demarcates success.

In 1 Corinthians, Paul goes on to state all the ways he has done the work of Christ (1 Corinthians 9:19–27). Ultimately, it is the salvation of others that Paul boasts in (1 Corinthians 15:31; compare 2 Corinthians 1:12–14). By denying self, and living for the sake of the gospel—for the salvation of others—Paul found life. He discovered what life is all about.

Paul looked at the gods of the age and denied their demands. Paul boasted in what Christ, and Christ alone, had done through his life. Paul measured success by how closely he followed Jesus—through all trials.

We must deny the demands of our generation and replace them with the commands of Christ. We must measure success by how well we love others—how often we speak up for Jesus, despite the costs. In doing so, we will find true success. Our deep desires for love and respect can only be fulfilled in our relationship with Jesus.


John D. Barry is the CEO and Founder of Jesus’ Economy, dedicated to creating jobs and churches in the developing world. Because of John’s belief that business can also transform lives, Jesus’ Economy also provides an online fair trade shop. He is currently leading Jesus’ Economy efforts to Renew Bihar, India—one of the most impoverished places in the world where few have heard the name of Jesus.