Jesus’ Economy


Jesus’ Economy
CEO of Jesus’ Economy

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.


This Should Be Our Chief Aim in Life

We all struggle with vocation, calling, and purpose. Life is confusing and often dissatisfying. Clarity is our desire. But what if we’re making all this far too complicated?

INTENSIVE THINKING IS ONLY A PARTIAL SOLUTION

Overthinking can unnecessarily complicate life. But a lack of focus on our inner life can also oversimplify life.

We should be serious about questioning the meaning of our existence. It’s only in being so that the great innovators and philosophers have had significant breakthroughs. We must look inside ourselves to examine what’s lacking, what’s working, and where we’re failing. We should desire more out of life and ourselves—always.

Yet, if we spend too long staring inward we will lose sight of what is right outside our door. There is beauty and truth in nature itself (compare Romans 1:20). By staring inward, we can miss that entirely. And many epiphanies come through conversation, so we also cannot sell short the value of other people in our lives.

This reminds me of the psalmist who says, “Behold, you [God] delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart” (Psalm 51:1 ESV). Yet, there is a Proverb that says, “Reprove a man of understanding, and he will gain knowledge” (Proverbs 19:25). The Bible envisions us learning from others, but also having a diligent and serious inner, spiritual life. God teaches us in secret and in public.

EARNEST PRAYER PROFOUNDLY ALTERS OUR PERSPECTIVE

We cannot change the world without first being changed ourselves. As someone who spends a great deal of my time trying to alleviate extreme poverty —a huge problem to tackle—the scope of the work often overwhelms me. The problem is so big that I often lose perspective and begin to despair.

But prayer has a powerful way of keeping everything in check. I find that if my prayer life is in check—meaning it is consistent and driving my daily decisions—that everything else falls into place.

When we look up to God, and then look back down here at what he is doing, we remember. We remember what everything is about—why we do what we do, and who we really are. We can then lean on Jesus. This is why the Apostle Paul told us to pray—in all things, all the time (Philippians 4:6; Ephesians 6:18).

THE GLORY OF GOD SIMPLIFIES EVERYTHING

The South African pastor Andrew Murray (1828–1917) once profoundly said:

“It is a duty, for the glory of God, to live and pray so that our prayer can be answered. For the sake of God’s glory, let us learn to pray well” (With Christ in the School of Prayer, page 126).

It is for God’s glory that we are to live and pray. And it glorifies God when we have much to pray about. The answer isn’t to run away from the problems of the world. We should care for the hurting around us—deeply—but do so through prayer. We should tackle the problems of poverty, but to do so through much prayer.

God’s glory is manifest in the answering of our prayers, for the sake of our world.

CALLING, PURPOSE, AND VOCATION—A SIMPLER SOLUTION

I think we overcomplicate purpose, calling, and vocation. When it comes down to it, the glory of God is what everything is about.

I regularly have to remind myself of several things. God’s glory is what alleviating poverty is about. God’s glory is what bringing the gospel to the ends of the earth is about. God’s glory is seen in the slice of bread given to the poor beggar and the cup of clean water given to the impoverished child (Matthew 25:31–46). God’s glory is what we’re aiming to show to others—all the time.

God’s glory is seen when we live our lives like we actually believe God’s promises. God’s glory brings perspective to our vocations, callings, and purposes. What are they if they do not glorify him? So question—please. Think—please. Look inwardly—please. But don’t forget the reason. May our prayer today be, “O, my soul, please never forget the reason—for all of it, for everything! God’s glory!”

Our chief aim in life should be the glory of God. Period. Full stop. 


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.


3 Ways Resurrection Power Can Completely Transform Lives

by John D. Barry

We all have moments of despair, but there are also the days when the sun peeks through the clouds and we stop and say, “You know, God really is here and working among us. I’m not alone at all.” It’s these moments that we have to capitalize on. These feelings of new life, of resurrection, can transform our lives and the lives of others.

1. Resurrection gets us through the rough times.

The last month has been rough for me. I have often felt like everything is going the opposite way it should. But today, I realize that Jesus is here. It’s not that I didn’t believe that before—of course, I did—but today I feel like he is sitting next to me. When I think about Jesus’ presence among us, about his resurrected life, I imagine how Mary Magdalene must have felt upon seeing the resurrected Jesus. John’s Gospel records:

“Mary stood outside at the tomb, weeping. Then, while she was weeping, she bent over to look into the tomb, and she saw two angels in white, seated one at the head and one at the feet where the body of Jesus had been lying. And they said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have put him!’ When she had said these things, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?’ She thought that it was the gardener, and said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will take him.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’ She turned around and said to him in Aramaic, ‘Rabboni’ (which means ‘Teacher’). Jesus said to her, ‘Do not touch me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, and my God and your God.” ’ Mary Magdalene came and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord.’” (John 20:11–18 LEB).

When you encounter the living Jesus, in the midst of despair, everything changes.

Here’s how my viewpoint recently changed: I just had the wonderful opportunity of announcing that the organization I lead, Jesus’ Economy, will be able to fund two church planters in northern India for another year. For us, reaching this goal was huge and difficult. And honestly, I wasn’t sure if we would make it. But I also couldn’t bear the thought of not living up to our commitment to fund these two church planters for three years.

The prompting of being on mission for Jesus, in proclamation of his resurrection, is what kept me going through this rough patch. And God coming through inspired me.

I believe the resurrected Jesus will keep you going, no matter what you’re going through.

2. Resurrection is self-sacrificial.

I often think of what various holidays are like for those serving Jesus around the world. Our church planters in northern India are living self-sacrificially everyday, spreading the gospel to those who have never heard Jesus’ name. Their lives are living testimonies of who Jesus is. And this puts it all in perspective for me: all of my difficulties do not remotely compare to their hardships. And yet, they get the splendid opportunity of seeing Jesus work everyday—which really makes it all worth it.

Easter resurrection is something real for church planters in northern India: They regularly see lives fully transformed by Jesus. And so, their lives make me wonder how much better and fuller my life would be if I could make the same kind of sacrifice. This makes me think of Jesus’ words just prior to the cross:

“This is my commandment: that you love one another just as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this: that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:12–13 LEB).

Living resurrected life with Jesus means living self-sacrificially. And that changes everything. It makes every difficulty an opportunity to do something good for someone else. It takes the perspective off of us, and puts the perspective on God’s workings in the world.

3. Resurrection is a fresh perspective on the world.

Until this last month, I thought of thankfulness as an attitude, but it’s so much more. Thankfulness is a perspective we look at the world through. As we are grateful for the resurrected life of Christ, and the resurrected life he offers us, our worldview changes.

It’s not about saying, “Oh, I’m so grateful I have all this (whatever this is for you).” Thankfulness is saying, “Oh, I’m so grateful that Jesus came for me (for all of us), and that he is with me now—right here.” The apostle Paul put it this way:

“One person prefers one day over another day, and another person regards every day alike [for the Sabbath and festivals]. Each one must be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who is intent on the day is intent on it for the Lord, and the one who eats eats for the Lord [in celebration], because he is thankful to God, and the one who does not eat does not eat for the Lord [that is he fasts], and he is thankful to God. For none of us lives for himself and none dies for himself. For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord. Therefore whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For Christ died and became alive again for this reason, in order that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living” (Romans 14:5–9 LEB).

Paul is talking about various viewpoints for feasting, celebration, worship services, and fasting among his audience, but this has a direct implication for us. Whatever we do, let us do it for Christ, in thankfulness—in order that he might be Lord over all things in our lives, in every season.

It’s this perspective that perfectly fits with the Easter season, when we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection for each of us, for all of us. This season we celebrate Jesus’ resurrected life and his resurrection of our lives.

I’m not saying that this sorts everything out; like all of us, I still get depressed along the way. But today on the other side of this, I feel different—today, I realize that God is much greater than I could ever imagine. Today, I realize that he indeed always comes through—he resurrects our efforts and turns them into something beautiful.


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 to Overcome Worry with the Power of the Gospel

by John D. Barry

Gospel work is a process. And there are days when the road ahead feels not just rocky, but downright treacherous. We’ve all been here. It is in these moments that it can feel difficult to go on with Christ’s work. When all feels hopeless, here are some ideas of what you can do.

Consider the Birds of the Air

We often forget just how holistic God’s work is. And God can manage the concerns of his creation, surely he can manage our concerns. Jesus once said:

“For this reason I say to you, do not be anxious for your life, what you will eat, and not for your body, what you will wear. Is your life not more than food and your body more than clothing? Consider the birds of the sky, that they do not sow or reap or gather produce into barns, and your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth more than they are? And who among you, by being anxious, is able to add one hour to his life span?” (Matthew 6:25–27 LEB).

Anxiety and worry is easy. Faith is hard. But if we lack faith, we need to look no further than the birds of the air to realize God’s faithfulness. And this isn’t some sort of “easy way out” theology. I am advocating that we actually stop and observe—contemplate, pray, and then act. Notice the order: stop, observe, contemplate, pray, and then act.

Once we visibly observe God’s work, trust in him becomes much easier. In the midst of hopelessness, we must realize that we serve a God who shows us everyday that we can indeed have hope (Hebrews 11:1).

Consider the Flowers of the Field

It can seem a bit cliché at times, but it’s an important reminder: God’s creation is beautifully clothed, so why would he not also care for you? In the same passage we have already looked at, Jesus goes on to say:

“And why are you anxious about clothing? Observe the lilies of the field, how they grow: they do not toil or spin, but I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory was dressed like one of these. But if God dresses the grass of the field in this way, although it is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not do so much more for you, you of little faith?” (Matthew 6:28–30 LEB).

We struggle over our concerns of today, but how often do they merely fade into the background when tomorrow comes. At times, we wonder where God’s provision will come from while we forget what he did yesterday. Think of what God did yesterday—that may change everything about today.

Consider the “Value” Anxiety Brings

Anxiety brings no real value to our lives. Instead, it concerns our mind and occupies our time. It’s meant to distract us from what is real and important—what matters, which is our loving God and the work he wants to do through our hands. Jesus concludes his remarks about worry and anxiety by saying:

“Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?,’ for the pagans seek after all these things. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first his kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow, because tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:31–34 LEB).

If we seek first God’s kingdom, everything else fades into the background. As we turn our focus from ourselves to Jesus, we see that our concerns about ourselves were really not that important at all. When we mentally place our fate in God’s hands—which it literally is anyways—our perspective shifts and we realize what’s most important: knowing God and accomplishing his purposes by loving others.

Why Our “Concerns” Truly Matter

It’s so easy to toil from one day to the next without acknowledging what God has done the day before. I make that mistake, and I’m sure you have made that mistake before too. And lest we think this is a small matter, let’s take a moment and contemplate why changing our perspective is so important.

When we change our perspective from our worries and concerns—from food, clothing, materialism, and even our personal goals—and turn our focus towards God’s goals, we have an opportunity to truly change the world. Around our globe there are people who are suffering in poverty, and people who have never had the opportunity to hear the name of Jesus. If our perspective is skewed, we will never find the strength we need to address these issues. We will lack the courage necessary to do God’s work, because we will be paralyzed by fear. But if we have courage, imagine what could happen.

God has incredible things in store for this world. Joining him means partnering with him, and partnering with him means setting our eyes on Jesus.


Join us in providing access to the gospel in Bihar, India, where 101 million people have never heard the name of Jesus. Together, we can renew hope.

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.


Laying Down Our Lives for the Gospel

"We have come to know love by this: that he [Christ] laid down his life on behalf of us, and we ought to lay down our lives on behalf of the brothers" (1 John 3:16 LEB).

What does it mean to lay down our lives on behalf of our brothers and sisters? Who are our brothers and sisters? Can 1 John 3:16 actually refer to giving up our lives for someone else ... to the point of death?

Interpreting 1 John 3:16

One could argue that "the brothers" mentioned in 1 John 3:16 refers only to fellow Christians, since the apostles often refer to their fellow ministers of the gospel as "the brothers" (1 Corinthians 16:11; 2 Corinthians 9:33; 3 John 3; Acts 21:17). You could even quote Jesus in support of this argument:

"Who is my mother and who are my brothers ... For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, my sister, and my mother" (Matthew 12:48-50 NIV).

However, the book of James strongly urges us to show no partiality when it comes to loving others. James goes so far as to say that if we show partiality, we are sinning and are convicted under the law as transgressors (James 2:9).

Christ Shows What Impartial Love Looks Like

Christ is the greatest example of impartial love, for he went to the cross for all humankind, the unrighteous and the righteous alike. As the apostle Paul put it:

"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8 NIV).

We know we are meant to lay down our lives for all humankind, not just Christians or those who practice righteousness. But to what extent are we to go in order to complete this task? Are we really to die for someone else (1 John 3:16)?

To answer this, I will go again to the example of Christ. Christ's sacrifice shows that we are meant to love one another to such an extent that—though it may not be required of us by God—we would be willing to suffer the punishment of death on behalf of another. A love like this changes the world.

Loving Everyone, Even Our Enemies

Christ once said:

"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and 'Hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven, because he causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?" (Matthew 5:43–46 LEB).

Paul elaborated on this point in Romans 12:9–18 (LEB):

"Love must be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; be attached to what is good, being devoted to one another in brotherly love, esteeming one another more highly in honor ... Bless those who persecute, bless and do not curse them. ...Think the same thing toward one another; do not think arrogantly, but associate with the lowly. ... If it is possible on your part, be at peace with all people."

Many of the earliest Christians gave up their lives not just for the God they served, but also for the people they were serving. In the case of many believers, their lives were taken at the hands of evil men and women who hated God. And yet, their sacrifice has become an example of faith to us all (see Hebrews 11:36–38).

God Requests Self-Sacrifice and Love

God himself requires only one death from every believer: that we die to ourselves and live for Christ.

"For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one died for all; as a result all died. And he died for all, in order that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for the one who died for them and was raised" (2 Corinthians 5:14 LEB).

And in living for Christ, we become an example for all people of his love. Jesus came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).

So I urge you, brothers and sisters, to think this day about the life you have to give and to whom you have to give it. And I pray that in giving of our lives together, we can change this world for the better, for sake of the Kingdom of God.


Kalene Barry is the Chief Projects Officer for Jesus’ Economy, a non-profit dedicated to creating jobs and churches in the developing world. To empower the impoverished, Jesus’ Economy also has an online fair trade shop. Join the movement: Sign up for the Jesus’ Economy email list at www.jesuseconomy.org.


Faith is Not a Straight Line

Faith is not a straight line. It is following the windy road that God leads you down. On a recent trip with my wife—during which God called us to follow him into the unknown—this truth became very real to me. God took my world, turned it upside down, and turned me back around.

WE ASSUME TOO MUCH ABOUT JESUS

Until a few weeks ago, I considered myself to be someone who really knew Jesus. But it turns out my knowledge about Christ was much more progressed than my relationship with him. Look inside yourself for a moment and ask if the same is true for you.

I have known Jesus for nearly my whole life—in fact, I dedicated my career to knowing him. I made my living creating Bible reference resources. But to know about Jesus and to truly know him as a friend are two very different things.

For some of us, we treat Jesus as a general (Rev 19:11). We listen to his commands, but he is not our close personal mentor.

For others of us, Jesus is a savior. He redeems us from sin. He has paid the ransom (John 3:16–17; Romans 8:28). Yet we do not know him personally, as the leader of each step of our lives.

For a few people I know, Jesus is more like a judge. He is waiting to bring them justice, or to condemn them. But for these people, Jesus is not the Messiah who weeps for Lazarus who died (John 11:35).

To know Jesus as our closest friend and ally, as the Scriptures proclaim, is a great gift indeed. To see prayer as our ongoing conversation with him—as if he were closer to us than a spouse or our closest confidant—is wonderful. Jesus desires to know us and for us to know him. He does not need our love to know his worth, but we cannot know our worth until we know his love (1 John 3:16).

For God to really get through to us, he has to break down our walls. And that process is well worth the pain.

THE JOURNEY THAT TURNED ME AROUND

God has asked me to do some difficult things, but one of the greatest challenges is when he asked my wife and I to sell our house, most of our stuff, and follow him on the road on behalf of the ministry we run: Jesus’ Economy. We did it. But something shocking happened: In a little over a week, it was obvious that God was telling us to turn around and go back to our hometown.

It takes just as much faith to obey God when he calls you back as it does to listen to him when he says, “Go.” I knew this deep down. So broken, hurting, and confused, my wife Kalene and I agreed to turn around.

Two nights later, and nearly 750 miles later, Kalene’s grandfather, who was suffering from cancer in our hometown, went on to be with the Lord. We arrived about 18 hours before his passing. Death had a lesson for me again, and so did God: You never know how short the time remaining is or what God is really doing with the time you have.

After processing my thoughts, I realized that if God had not called us on the road, my heart would not have been as tuned in to him. I would not have been ready to lead a bedside worship service during grandpa’s final hours or have been prepared to lead a graveside service later. But God had prepared me by forcing me to my knees in prayer through the struggles we faced on the road, and by driving me to him.

Above all, I was ready to cry out to God, weeping with others. I knew that understanding of most of life’s challenges is not ours to possess—we merely get a glimpse of God’s ways. I also knew in that moment that there is nothing more precious than holding onto Jesus, our savior, who endured the cross—especially during our time of need.

FAITH IS A WINDING ROAD

While the way to Jesus represents a straight and narrow path (Matthew 7:14), the roads he takes us down after we find him can sure seem to wind, loop around, and lead us straight back where we started—in terms of how he is using us. (God would never lead us back to the lives of sin where he first found us.) But this does not mean that God does not know what he is doing on the faith journeys he leads. It means that we need to follow, be obedient, and wait.

If love is patient (1 Corinthians 13:4), so should we be for God’s guidance. We never know where we’re going, after all—it could be to the bedside of a loved one. And that is a difficult but beautiful place to be, if it means comforting those whom Jesus loves.

So I encourage you: listen, follow, and wait upon the Lord in your journeys. And may the peace of Christ which surpasses all understanding be with you always.


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.


A Just and Merciful God: Loving the Impoverished Like God Does

by John D. Barry

Once you meet people in deep and extreme poverty, you understand the fury of the prophets. It was in a slum in Bihar, India, where my heart first cried out for both justice and mercy—as the prophets did before me.

I Felt the Injustice; I Saw the Need for Mercy

“This part of the village needs clean water,” the woman in her early 40s remarked to my friend Biju Thomas, the director of Transformation India Movement (Jesus’ Economy’s partner in Bihar, India). The look on her face, as she expressed her people’s needs, will never leave my mind. It was anger combined with pain—she was grateful that some people in her slum now had access to water, but infuriated by the fact that everyone had abandoned her outside of Transformation India Movement.

This woman understood that she needed mercy, but she also understood that she was a victim of injustice.

But where did the injustice the woman felt begin? The scary answer: The injustice she felt is something we all have inflicted upon her—each of us who has ignored the tragedy of poverty in some way or another. The even scarier answer: The reason why injustices in our world continue on is because we, as Christians, are not dealing with our own spiritual poverty—and that’s what is holding us back from tackling physical poverty.

The Incredible Tension between Justice and Mercy

The biblical prophets held in the balance mercy and justice. When they looked at the world, they saw that both must be present for God’s love to be fully known—for his kingdom to arrive. They realized that God is both full of justice and mercy.

The prophet Isaiah once said:

“Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him” (>Isaiah 30:18 ESV).

God is gracious and he desires to show mercy—and he is also a God of justice. God holds in the balance all these things; we should attempt to do the same.

But for justice to exist, purity must also. Without coming to terms with God, it’s difficult to come to terms with what we must do for others.

“Wash! Make yourselves clean! Remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes! Cease to do evil! Learn to do good! Seek justice! Rescue the oppressed! Defend the orphan! Plead for the widow! ‘Come now, and let us argue,’ says Yahweh. ‘Even though your sins are like scarlet, they will be white like snow; even though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool’” (>Isaiah 1:16–18 LEB).

At the core of empowering other people must be a deep spiritual awareness of ourselves. God desires for us to learn to do good, and he wants us to cease from doing evil, but we must know him deeply to be able to fully accomplish this. It’s the epitome of the old adage, “You can’t help someone else, if you can’t first help yourself,” but with a twist, “You can’t help someone else (bring them justice and mercy), if you don’t first let God help you.”

Pinpointing the Problem with How We Address Poverty

If forced to pinpoint the primary problem with both local and global development today, I would say: It’s looking at the physical problems without looking at the spiritual issues, and looking at the spiritual problems without a concern for the physical. Our efforts to empower others are almost always focused on either spiritual or physical poverty, when we should focus on both. Most of us have taken half of God’s message to the world and left the other half (see >Hosea 2:1–20; >Micah 6:7–8; >Amos 5:23–24; compare >Isaiah 52:13–53:12; >John 3:16–17).

God is a holistic community developer; the problem is that we’re not naturally inclined to be. God cares about the entire life of a person and the entire life of a community. The problem is that most of us don’t care about people’s entire lives—really—if we’re honest with ourselves.

What God Really Desires of His People

We could despair about the differences between how we address poverty and how God would have us to—or we could simply articulate the injustices, in an effort to move forward. Incredibly, the biblical prophet Micah articulates very well the injustices of today:

“‘Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil [i.e., with abundant offerings]? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?’ He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (>Micah 6:7–8 ESV).

We know what is good and what God desires—we must simply take action. We must live the principles of justice, love kindness, and walk humbly before God.

Having Empathy Like the Prophets

I felt the cry for justice rise in me again as a woman in a village in India said: “My baby is sick and has been for several weeks. I’m praying for him. He needs prayer.” You could tell she was holding back the tears and so was I.

“My baby’s arm is broken—motorcycle accident,” mentioned another woman in a different village. “He needs care,” she said, “But I don’t have any money.”

For all three women, care was offered—their stories, though, represent life in Bihar, and people all over the developing world for that matter. For many women in the developing world, help never comes. They are left in their suffering.

We know what the prophets would do. We know how they would react and act. They would correct the injustices of the world by offering mercy—may we do the same.


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.


Begrudging My Cheerful Giving

It was a hot Saturday morning. My family had driven two and a half hours from our home in Lae, Papua New Guinea, to worship with a growing village church in the Markham Valley. We sat under a shady tree on a woven mat just meters from the over packed church listening to the pastor’s sermon. Seated beside us were a young woman and her 12-month-old son. My husband had given the baby our keys to play with—I couldn’t help but notice that the little fellow had one significantly crossed eye and had difficulty focusing on objects he was trying to see.

With the mother’s permission, I took some photos of the baby playing. After the service had concluded I introduced myself to the mother, taking mental note of the names of her and her baby so that I could locate them again after I talked to an ophthalmologist friend of mine.

“The child has esotropia,” my doctor friend said. He gave me a rundown on how it would affect the child and how it would best be managed. With difficulty we located the child’s mother through a pastor from a nearby village and made arrangements for her to bring her baby to Lae to visit an optometrist with me. The optometrist was to assess the baby and decide whether glasses would correct his condition, or whether he would require surgery.

I Think I’m Helping Here, But Am I?

In Papua New Guinea, gaining an education and obtaining a good job seems to be the best way out of poverty, and since parents depend on their offspring to care for them in their old age, parents have a vested interest in ensuring their children overcome poverty. It appeared to me that the small amount of money I might spend on the child’s eye treatment could have lasting dividends for his family.

But on Mary’s two visits to the optometrist in Lae, she appeared to begrudge the time spent in both travel and consultation, commenting that she didn’t think it was necessary: her baby would only pull glasses off anyway and she had relatives with crossed eyes that corrected as they grew older.

I paid for the consultations and both times gave Mary enough money to cover the cost of her travel. However, before leaving Mary asked if I could meet two immediate needs (or at least perceived needs): a mobile phone and accommodation when she visited Lae. It appeared that she would prefer I spend my money on these things, rather than on her son’s eye condition. Perhaps we might question Mary’s wisdom in this regard, but it did change the way I think about poverty.

What Would the Bible Say about My Approach to Poverty?

Throughout the Bible, there are references to assisting the impoverished with their needs:

“Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.” (Proverbs 19:17).

“For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘you shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land’” (Deuteronomy 15:11).

“In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of our Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘it is more blessed to give than to receive’” (>Acts 20:35).

These are just a few of the biblical passages about the impoverished; so there is no doubt in my mind that we who love the Lord are called to bless those in need around us. We are meant to use the blessings that we have graciously been given from above to offer hope to others. But my experience with Mary raises an issue with that in my mind: How often do we, in our approach to the impoverished, decide for ourselves what they surely must want and need, instead of asking them?

I think Jesus has an answer to this dilemma. When responding to the cries of the two blind men in >Matthew 20:29–34 and Bartimeus in >Mark 10:46–52, Jesus both times asks “What do you want me to do for you?” He does this before taking action.

Helping the Impoverished with What They Actually Need

Before moving to Papua New Guinea, I lived in a remote country town in Australia with a large aboriginal population. I had heard that many aboriginal people slept on mattresses under the bridges around the town and many other places that did not seem at all appropriate to those of my cultural background. I had even heard of the aboriginal people in the town breaking apart their government-funded housing as quickly as new housing was being built. This all disturbed me, until I read an article that explained everything. In a local newspaper, an aboriginal person stated that the government need not spend its money on things that the aboriginal people, with their unique cultural background, did not need or want. The author believed that the aboriginals did not need or want housing. They merely wanted some land, with some shady trees and a washing/bathing block.

It is profound that countless dollars are probably spent on aid work meeting needs that are perceived by Westerners, but not felt by the recipients. Naturally, when something is not wanted, it is hardly going to be appreciated, preserved, or respected in the way that donors might expect.

It would appear that the best approach to meeting the needs of the impoverished would be to follow Jesus’ example: Ask the question, “what do you want me to do for you?” The answers of the impoverished might surprise us.


Kriselle Dawson writes for Jesus’ Economy, a non-profit dedicated to creating jobs and churches in the developing world. Jesus' Economy provides an online fair trade shop and is working to Renew Bihar, India. 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.


The Great Challenge of the Gospel

By John D. Barry

In Bihar, India church planters are facing a great challenge. There are millions of people who have never even heard the name of Jesus. I met over a dozen church planters when in Bihar—they changed my life. They were like meeting Saint Paul, over and over again.

One church planter said: “I lead six churches in five villages and three small groups. I also oversee five Bible studies.” He then went on to list half a dozen community development programs he leads, all of which empower people in rural villages. I was flabbergasted.

Another said: “We’re reaching out to villages who have never heard the name of Jesus” and “The message is empowering people—they’re being healed and finding a new life.”

“There are women who are finding hope again for themselves and their children in the gospel of Jesus,” said yet another church planter. “They’re seeing that Jesus can change their lives for the better and embracing the gospel.”

The Renewal Jesus Offers

The good news of Jesus is renewing lives in Bihar, India. Stories like these are just a few of hundreds. But these questions don’t just motivate me; they convict me.

When you meet a church planter who has given up everything to provide others access to the gospel, you suddenly realize that you can spend your entire life studying the Bible and not understand Jesus. Am I willing to give what these church planters give? Am I willing to live as Saint Paul lived, like they are?

What does the process of making a complete commitment to providing access to the gospel look like? For Paul, it was his direct experience with Jesus (Acts 9), but it was also more. Acts tells this story:

"Now there were prophets and teachers in Antioch in the church that was there: Barnabas, and Simeon (who was called Niger), and Lucius the Cyrenian, and Manaen (a close friend of Herod the tetrarch), and Saul. And while they were serving the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, 'Set apart now for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.' Then, after they had fasted and prayed and placed their hands on them, they sent them away" (Acts 13:1–3).

For Paul, his decision to provide others with access to the gospel began with a personal experience, but then moved to a group decision. It also, most importantly, involved the direct words of the Holy Spirit. Paul knew he was called, but he waits for this moment to commit all of his time to it. God was working in Paul's life the entire time, but this moment marked his full-time commitment.

Admitting to Yourself the Truth

Being around church planters in Bihar made me admit to myself that I am not as hardworking for Jesus as I thought I was, and furthermore that I actually know very little about what it means to follow Jesus. I don’t say this to be self-depreciating—in some kind of false humility; I actually mean it. Meeting church planters in Bihar, India, is like meeting people who lived like Paul, Barnabas, and Timothy. And meeting those kinds of people will change you.

My time in Bihar made me realize, as we all should—that no matter what our calling is—that we have a long ways to go. And that Jesus wants to work on our hearts to get us where we need to be. No matter what our specific calling, he will use it for his glory, but we must first be willing to admit our weaknesses and be used by him (Phil 4:12–14). We must also wait on God's precise timing, as Paul and Barnabas did.

What Are You Willing to Give?

When Paul decided to pursue a global ministry, he was giving up other parts of life for Jesus. Nonetheless, Paul—and likewise the church planters in Bihar—made the decision to share about Jesus and the incredible life he offers. They committed their lives to providing access to the gospel and alleviating poverty.

No matter what your precise calling is, Christ wants to renew your life, for the better. And along the way, during the discernment process, he will be with you.


We are actively working to renew Bihar, India through church planting: Please join us. For just $226, you can support a church planter for a month. You can help people hear the name of Jesus for the first time.

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.


Putting Belief Back in Christmas: Reflections on Esther

by John D. Barry, CEO of Jesus' Economy

At this time of year, we see “Believe” hanging on mantles and stamped on shopping bags. But belief requires an object—God. The Bible advocates for us always directing our speech at God, even when things seem most dire. In this regard, belief without the object of God, is ironic—tragically comedic even.

The book of Esther is likewise comedic about its own society. It opens with lavish scenes that outdo The Great Gatsby. According to Bible commentator Adele Berlin, there are 10 parties in the book of Esther. This book is extravagant—and for a reason. We are meant to see the excess and laugh at its absurdity, similar to how we can laugh at the ridiculousness of "marketing Christmas."

The pressure of Christmas has a way of turning small matters into crises, while we ignore the big matter of forgetting about Jesus on the holiday about his birth. The book of Esther represents a parallel problem. As Adele Berlin also points out, King Ahasuerus makes small matters, like Queen Vashti not appearing at his party in the way he wishes, into state affairs. And Ahasuerus does so while treating major state affairs, like the future of the Jewish people, as issues that someone else can handled (passing of his signet ring to other men).

The book of Esther prompts us to laugh at Persian society, not as mockers, but as people, like the characters in the story, who believe that we can change it. We can change our own society too. This is the very power of belief, in the God whom we trust.

And at this time of year in the U.S., our society gets a little ridiculous too. There are parts of it that are so wonderful. And other parts that are heartbreaking: Is this what Christmas is really all about, we think? Where is Christ in Christ-mas, we ask?

And like our society often doesn’t mention God at all, neither does the book of Esther. This is a book that is almost secular. And all for a reason, in my opinion: Rather than mention God, Esther is showing us the God written all over our lives, even when we don’t mention him by name.

Ultimately, Esther ends up being the hero who saves her people from destruction. But before this happens, we wrestle with the tension of the story—will the people be saved, we wonder? And where is God in the midst of all this, we ask?

I think we see God right in Mordecai’s line:

“For if indeed you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, and you and the family of your father will perish. Who knows? Perhaps you have come to a royal position for a time such as this” (>Esther 4:14 LEB).

This same idea about belief is captured well by the author of Hebrews:

“But we are not among those who shrink back to destruction, but among those who have faith to the preservation of our souls. Now faith is the realization of what is hoped for, the proof of things not seen. For by this the people of old were approved. By faith we understand the worlds were created by the word of God, in order that what is seen did not come into existence from what is visible” (Hebrews 10:39–11:3 LEB).

God appoints us to specific places, for specific reasons. Belief requires that we see those reasons. Belief looks for how God is using us. Belief sees no action as useless. And belief also looks for opportunities to act.

Belief looks for opportunities to serve others. When God's people are saved in the book of Esther, they initiate the festival of Purim to commemorate the deliverance. As part of this festival, they serve the impoverished (Esther 9:23). We should do the same at this time of year: Look to the God whom we love, asking him how he would have us to serve the impoverished, requesting that he show us the way forward to truly loving others.

Belief is about action on God's behalf. Belief is hope in God. And belief works toward our hope in God being realized, right here, right now. What is God appointing you to do? How can restoring belief to this Christmas season change your perspective?


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.


God Wants You to Feel Awkward

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by John D. Barry

“Some things require hard prayer.”

The man who spoke these words to me should know: Biju Thomas is the director of Transformation India Movement—Jesus’ Economy’s partner in Bihar, India. Bihar is one of the most impoverished places in the world, where few have heard the name of Jesus. In Bihar, Biju is empowering people out of poverty and offering access to the gospel. His work is hard and requires hard prayer. In Biju’s work is a message for you. This message, believe it or not, is rooted in a bit of a sitcom joke from Jesus. It’s awkward and beautiful.

One Guy is Awoken in the Night, He Says to the Other…

Jesus understood that there would be times for hard prayer. And it wasn’t beyond Jesus to set up an incredibly awkward scene to illustrate this point. In Luke’s Gospel, after Jesus offers the Lord’s Prayer, he says:

“Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs” (>Luke 11:5–8 ESV).

Jesus’ scenario is like a scene that a New York sitcom writer would set up: An old friend shows up in the middle of the night and is hungry. But you’re out of food and the store is closed, so you go to your neighbor’s studio apartment to wake him up. You knock on the door and he starts yelling…

To first-century Jewish people this scene is probably very awkward—and perhaps even a little funny. Within a culture that highly valued hospitality—with people who lived primarily in one-bedroom homes, before the age of phones, grocery stores, and electricity—these words from Jesus would have had an even greater affect. The scenario in the original audience’s mind probably went something like this:

I’m expected to help my guest, why would my neighbor not help me?… Oh, I guess you’re right. If I was sleeping and my children were asleep, and someone woke me up, I would probably be disturbed too.… And yes, if I were persistent, my neighbor would answer me. Even though it would be an incredible inconvenience to my neighbor, they would understand that I needed their assistance.

Jesus uses this entire analogy to explain hard prayer. It’s shocking and jarring to his audience—for a reason.

Hard Prayer According to an Awkward Scene

Jesus goes on to explain the moral of his story:

“And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened” (>Luke 11:9–10 ESV).

I think Jesus hits us with the awkward scene before the moral for a reason: Jesus wants us to remember that prayer is inconvenient. (The scene was so awkward that it made me uncomfortable when explaining it. And awkward is funny and memorable.)

Call upon God, and yes, he will answer. But that does not mean that God will answer right away. And it doesn’t mean that the call to God will be easy. Calling upon God—knocking on his door—will probably be as difficult as waking up your neighbor in the night.

Living with the Awkward

Prayer is a conversation. It’s about building a relationship. Who has built a solid marriage or friendship without some awkward moments and misunderstandings? Who tells stories about the convenient parts of their lives? Who would actually prefer to watch a sitcom over living one? If your life were a sitcom, it would be happening right now—are you living it? In all its awkwardness, are you living something memorable?

Jesus explains his scene further with another analogy:

“What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (>Luke 11:11–13 ESV).

For Jesus’ culture, it is not when he calls a generation of people “evil” that they are really shocked—it was accepted culturally that people needed a savior and were far from God. The most shocking thing that Jesus says is that the Holy Spirit will be given to those who ask the Father for it. The Holy Spirit was viewed as something that dwelled upon a few individuals—mainly prophets and sometimes kings, and every once in a while, priests—at select moments in time.

This ultimately represents what Jesus’ ministry is all about—God’s very presence dwelling among us and in us. It is Jesus’ death and resurrection that make this possible. Jesus bridges the gap between humanity and God, by bearing the sin of his evil generation and all others, allowing for God to dwell among us and in us.

Prayer is a conversation with the very God who is at work among us. God’s ways are not like our ways, and God wants to change our world for the better—that will lead to some awkward situations.

Following after Jesus—and seeking him through prayer—is not easy, but it is rewarding. My friend Biju is engaged in this type of hard prayer: It is the baseline for everything he does. It requires hard prayer to alleviate poverty and provide access to the gospel. It requires hard prayer to change the world.

Let’s get awkward for Jesus—praying through each moment.

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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.


Where is the Messiah in the Midst of This Pain?

John sits in prison knowing he has only a few days left to live, and for the first time in his life, he has second thoughts.

Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?

Even if Jesus isn’t the Messiah, John isn’t giving up. He’ll wait. Confident his whole life, never wavering and faithfully trusting—one more disappointment won’t derail his lifetime of ministry so easily. He believes the Messiah is coming, and until now, he’s believed it could be Jesus. 

The reason for his doubt is that nothing has changed. No governments have been overthrown, Jesus hasn't been crowned Victorious King, and wickedness seems to be winning.

The voice crying in the wilderness finally falters.

Quick waves of doubt begin crossing his mind—maybe it wasn't him, maybe it isn't Jesus. So, John sends his friends to find out what he is desperate to know.

Are you the one?

As the world bends beneath increasing chaos...

In these difficult times, our questions might begin to sound like John's. Violence is everywhere. Disease threatens thousands. Despite our best efforts, poverty rules neighborhoods and lives. What can be done? Is there any hope?

In our grief for the world we remain faithful, but grow discouraged. Faced with the responsibility to care for the sick, the persecuted, and the impoverished, maybe we become disillusioned—sick with helplessness; we feel persecuted by the lacking nature of our efforts and perhaps by those who are simply apathetic.

We become impoverished ourselves. 

We become poor in spirit. We are impoverished of hope—clutching the bars of our prison cells with white knuckles, our once confident voices now desperately crying. 

Jesus, are you the one, or are we to wait for another?

John's messengers came back with a news report of their own.

"The blind receive their sight. The lame walk. The lepers are cleansed. The deaf hear. The dead are raised."

True to form, Jesus doesn't answer directly. He lets the kingdom of God speak for itself; the very kingdom John had proclaimed was at hand (Matthew 11:3–6). “There are miracles everywhere, John,Jesus seems to say.

Where is the Messiah?

I recently traveled to Central America to interview families affected by the poverty and gang violence destroying communities and driving hundreds of children from their homes—fleeing to other countries to save their lives from corruption. There are almost no jobs, no way to get ahead, and even fewer ways to stay alive. 

I sat with bereaved parents whose tears moved me to an angry, overwhelming sadness. My heart cramped in pain as I spoke with mothers who sent their children away for safety, possibly never to see them again. I met eyes whose sparkle had faded in some combination of hopelessness and wearied resignation, and felt my own eyelids grow heavy, my shoulders slump, wondering how this world could ever be made right.

John's anxious question made more sense than ever.

Jesus, are you?

Are you the one who is to come, to put the world right, or are we to wait for another?

Jesus knew the impoverished weren't just following him throughout Galilee. He sends John—the poor in spirit, the man with failing hope—good news, and asks him not to give up for lack of understanding.

"And the poor have good news brought to them.

Blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me."

Jesus sends us the same message.

As illogical as it seems, there is good news for the impoverished—including the poor in spirit, the hopeless—even when the world imprisons us in confusion.

Call me bitter, but Jesus' message can sometimes seem a little unrealistic in the wake of my experiences in Latin America. John was discouraged in prison, but how many more questions would he have if he were here now? He would be inundated, certainly, by the amount of suffering. Today, there are thousands of lame not walking, deaf not hearing, and dead not raised. Everything seems different. Where is this Messiah and his reigning kingdom? What if it wasn't Jesus?

We're Waiting

Yet despite the world's many differences, we're more or less in the same place as John the Baptist was when he asked the same questions. We're waiting for God to make good on a promise while the world seems to worsen by the minute. And what consolation does Jesus offer us; the poor in spirit, the impoverished of hope?

Two things.

He gives us a promise that those who aren't misled by offense—by continued suffering, by increased violence, by unending poverty—will be blessed. Trust me, no matter what the world looks like, he says. 

He also offers good news for the impoverished (Luke 3:17–22).

He answers John's questions, and our own.

Yes.

Yes, he is the one.

Jesus' kingdom is near. Where wrong is made right, and the poor are made rich, the dead are brought to life, the sick are cured, and the lame walk. In his kingdom no child flees his home for fear of persecution and no one goes hungry or thirsty, homes are safe and love is victorious.

But also, yes, we are to wait, but not for another person—for another moment. There will be another time when he will come to bring this good news to its fullness to last forever. Yes, we are to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and heal the sick, because, yes, he is the one. Yes, we are to keep holding on to this desperate hope—a hope that feels absurd when faced with impossible suffering, because yes, he is the one.

He invites us to trust that we don't see the full story, that there are better things coming, because, just like John the Baptist spent his life proclaiming, the kingdom of God is at hand—both now, and not yet.

Though John died in that prison, though families and children I met in Central America might suffer until they die, and though I might lie awake at night—wondering in doubt at whether there really is hope—the reality is yes.

Yes, He is the One, and there is good news for the impoverished.

 

Note: We don’t actually know if John’s inquiries showed doubt on his part, or if his understanding of the Messiah aligned with messianic expectations of his day (such as the Messiah reigning as immediate king in Jerusalem). Meredith's interpretation reads into John’s questions a probable emotion and probable cultural explanation.


Meredith Hastings guest writes for Jesus’ Economy, a non-profit dedicated to creating jobs and churches in the developing world. Jesus' Economy provides an online fair trade shop and is working to Renew Bihar, India. She currently writes for World Vision International's Global Youth Initiative team and on her personal blog.


Injustice Anywhere is a Threat to Justice Everywhere

by John D. Barry, CEO of Jesus' Economy

This has been an odd week in the history of America: Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy was celebrated on Monday. Friday was the inauguration of an unexpected President, surrounded by protests. And Saturday women across the country marched together.

For many, there are a series of open questions: What does all this mean? Where is America going? What will or won’t happen next? All of should be asking one question: What type of person will I be?

Each of us must define for ourselves and others what type of person we will be, no matter what may come next. In this regard, Dr. King sets a great example. Dr. King once said:

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

At the core of this statement, you can hear the prophetic voice. Let us remember that Dr. King also had another title—Reverend. He was a preacher. In his time, as in ours, many people looked at the injustices and simply ignored them or demeaned them. But for a person living in a country that treats them unjustly, these issues are not something that can be ignored. It’s only convenient to ignore injustices until those same injustices inconvenience you.

The prophets echo Dr. King’s words, with lines like:

“Wash! Make yourselves clean! Remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes! Cease to do evil! Learn to do good! Seek justice! Rescue the oppressed! Defend the orphan! Plead for the widow!” (>Isaiah 1:16 LEB).

“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).

“Remove from me the noise of your songs, and I do not want to hear the melody of your harps! But let justice roll on like the water, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (>Amos 5:23–24 LEB).

The Bible’s cry is justice, mercy, and love. There is no other way that aligns with God’s desire.

Fear cannot dominate our worldview. If any of us are to call ourselves Christians, we must believe in justice for all. We must love without bounds. We must lead out of mercy. This is the Christian cry. Jesus once said:

“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets” (>Matthew 22:37–40 LEB).

Love means placing others before ourselves—to love God is to love others. The book of James puts it this way:

“If anyone thinks he is religious, although he does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained by the world” (>James 1:26–27 LEB).

Love is only truly practiced by those who can manage their own words—we must all work at this. Love also requires us to prioritize the needs of the widow, the orphan, the refugee, and the outsider. We must believe that is what is good for the entire world is also good for us, because it is.

But love does not mean simply loving those who are hurting—although that is certainly a major part of it. Jesus also once remarked:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor’ and ‘Hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven, because he causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust” (>Matthew 5:43–44 LEB).

There is no us and them; we’re all simply humanity. God does not look on the world and smile upon one country over another. He loves the entire world equally. And we must do the same.

Love those you don’t understand. Love those on the other side of the aisle. Love those who protest. Love those who protest against you. Love in a way that forces you to self-examine. Love in a way that moves you out isolation and insulation. Love in a way that demands justice. Love with mercy. Simply put, truly love.


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.


4 Critical Reasons Christians Must Care about Justice

At times, justice becomes a bit of a catchphrase, sadly even a cliché. Yet it’s one of the most important concepts we can understand and live out. I have seen injustice with my own eyes, and each day the news tells each of us of acts of injustice. But rather than feel defeat, let’s stand up, take action, and do something about it. Here are four ways justice should be the cry of today’s Christian.

1. Jesus experienced injustice, so we would not experience judgment.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, we see Jesus taking on our pain and anguish—and on the cross, we see him taking on our sin. Think about these four things Jesus says and prays in the Garden:

“Sit here while I go over there and pray.”

“My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death. Remain here and stay awake with me.”

“My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”

“My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will must be done” (Matthew 26:36–46 LEB).

It is here that we see the man—Jesus. It is here that we find one who walks alongside the downtrodden, the hurting, the poor, the outsider, the refugee, the sinner—all the way to the cross. Here we find the one who walks alongside all of us, all the way to the cross. Here we see God enfolding, through Jesus, all people into his kingdom. Jesus does God’s will, so that we can have life.

In the garden, Jesus asks if the cup can be removed from him; but not his will, but God the Father’s be done. Jesus realizes the burden he is about to carry. This burden is described in Isaiah (over 500 years before Jesus) as:

“By a restraint of justice, [the servant] was taken away and with his generation.

Who could have mused that [the servant] would be cut off from the land of the living? Marked for the transgression of my people.

And [Yahweh] set his grave with the wicked, and [the servant] was with the rich in his death, although [the servant] had done no wrong, and there was no deceit in his mouth

Yet Yahweh was pleased to crush [the servant]; he afflicted him (with sickness). If [Zion] places [the servant’s] life a guilt offering, [the servant] will see offspring, [the servant] will prolong days. And the will of Yahweh is in [the servant’s] hand, it will succeed. Out of trouble of his life [the servant] will see; [the servant] will be satisfied by his knowledge.

[Yahweh says,] ‘My righteous servant will bring justice to many and he will bear their iniquities’ ” (Isaiah 53:8–11, my translation).

As painful as it is, it pleased Yahweh that Jesus should go to the cross, for it is in this that God found not just ultimate obedience, but also the bridging of humanity with himself. The judgment of God for our wrongdoings was satisfied. Once again, we were put into right relationship with God.

It is in Jesus that we find the refugee on the cross. Here we find the guilt offering for all of our wrongs. Here we find one who carries our sin, bears our iniquities, and intercedes for transgressors. Here we find a restraint of justice bringing justice to those who do not deserve it.

But what will we do with this justice, with this freedom?

2. Injustice is a threat to justice everywhere.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” said Martin Luther King, Jr., in his work from Birmingham Jail. And it is injustice that we see today—all over our planet.

Near the end of his life, Martin Luther King, Jr., was working to bring equality by creating jobs. And yet, so much of the world still lacks jobs, because we haven’t completed the task. This is injustice.

We look around the world and we also see those who are oppressed—who lack spiritual and religious freedom, who lack knowledge of Jesus. This too is an injustice.

We must stand up, lift up, and rise up—to fight these injustices, boldly proclaiming that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

3. A lack of access to jobs and the basics of life is injustice.

We can read Jesus’ call to care for the “least of these” in Matthew 25:37–40 as a direct preface and parallel to what he will do on the cross. Jesus went to the cross to make us who do not deserve to be right before God, made right. And just before doing so, he calls us to live this message—noting for us that whether or not we did will be a primary question when he one day returns to earth.

So when we look around our world, and see a lack of access to basic healthcare, clean water, and jobs—like I have seen in the impoverished region of Bihar, India—we know that we must take action.

Jesus cries out for this. This is the Christian cry. And it is my personal cry, as I am personally broken for the hurting that I know in Bihar—for those who have placed their hands in my hands and cried out to God with me for justice.

4. A lack of access to the gospel is injustice.

We can also read the final words of Matthew’s Gospel, spoken by Jesus, as a commission based on his ministry in life, on the cross, and in his resurrection. And it’s a commission of action. Jesus says:

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you, and behold, I am with you all the days until the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18–20 LEB).

Yet, there are still millions of people who have not heard Jesus’ name—again, this is the case in Bihar, India. In Bihar, there are 101 Million people who have never heard the name of Jesus. This, again, is an injustice. All people deserve the chance to have access to the gospel.

The question becomes for each of us: What will we do about it? Why are we content with the knowledge of God, but not the actions of God? When will justice become part of the gospel? Because in actuality—we’re just not living it.

Do not walk away with guilt; walk away inspired to take action. Let’s continue the work of Jesus, the apostles, the early church fathers, and people like Martin Luther King, Jr. Let’s mark this season as the one everything changed, and we began to renew our world again with Christ, by his power and grace.


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.


Loving Like Jesus and Laying down Our Lives

By Kriselle Dawson

It was a beautiful Sunday morning in Papua New Guinea. The sun was shining, the birds sweetly singing, the dew was glistening on the long, green grass. My neighbors and two visiting men from Australia were driving to a church school about forty-five minutes out of Lae, Papua New Guinea. Along the way they stopped to take photos and to chat with the locals at a bridge, and then again at a market.

Suddenly, as they were getting back into the car, three men wielding guns appeared. They tried to force the driver from the car. One of the visiting men, an aged pastor, decided he would take his chances outside of the car and did not get in. Meanwhile, the driver managed to deftly maneuver the car and escape the clutches of the gunman. Then, realizing that one of his passengers had failed to get in and that the bandits (known locally as ‘raskols’) were becoming interested in this man, he began to aggressively drive his car at the gunmen, trying to scare them off. Shots were fired at his car, damaging the bonnet and grazing the windshield.

In the midst of all this chaos, one brave local woman took hold of the vulnerable, elderly pastor, and ushered him hastily to her humble home. Hiding him in her bedroom she went outside with intentions to guard his life with hers.

Fortunately, it never came to that. The gunmen were chased away by my neighbor's car, their elderly friend was found, and they were all able to continue their journey, shaken by the experience, but praising God that their lives had been spared.

Sacrificing Everything for a Stranger

Jesus said in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” This woman risked her very life to protect someone she did not even know.

How much love do you and I show in our day-to-day lives? Granting an economical smile to the one serving you in a store? Holding a door open for an elderly lady? Sending flowers to your mother on Mother's Day? Giving a hug to a grieving friend?

Jesus gave us a far more revolutionary concept of love. He says, “this is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12). He also says, “but I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).

God's perfect way of love goes completely against everything that feels natural as a human. Jesus loved the condemned. Jesus loved the tax collectors. Jesus loved the Samaritans. Jesus loved the thief on the cross. Jesus loved the Roman soldiers who crucified hm. Jesus loved Judas.

Jesus Loved Us First

Strangely enough, writing the words, “Jesus loved Judas,” seem to prompt one more phrase.

“Jesus loves me.” 

I, too, have screwed up, I have tried to force the hand of the Lord (as did Judas), I have denied the Lord—sometimes by my poor choices, and sometimes by missing opportunities to share Him with another. Yet somehow, with all these failings, Jesus still loves me and asks me to show that same kind of love to others. 

“ Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends” (1 Corinthians 13:4–8a)

I pray that you and I will be transformed into Jesus-like loving Christians who love others as Jesus first loved us, and who are prepared to put our lives on the line for another—even for a complete stranger.


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.


Rejecting the Lie That Missions is the Highest Calling

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by Charlotte Van Werven, Apprentice in Editorial for Jesus' Economy


“Where do you want to be in five years?” a professor asked me in the middle of the crowded dining hall.

It was March of my freshman year at a Christian university.

“Oh, I don’t know,” I answered. “Maybe Uganda? Somewhere doing missions work, though.”

While there is nothing wrong with wanting to go into full-time missions, there was a problem with my answer. The problem was that I wasn’t being honest with myself. I didn’t truly see myself in Uganda, or even want to go there. But I wanted to want it, because I thought that was what faithful Christians were supposed to do.

I thought full-time overseas missionary work was the best work any Christian could be called to. That was my first mistake. The second was that I didn’t have a clear understanding of what being a missionary really was.

BEING A MISSIONARY IS TO RESPOND FAITHFULLY TO GOD’S CALL

Like many Christians, I had a misconception about the nature of missions work. I was 19 and convinced that full-time missions work in an impoverished nation was the best way to serve God. And I was worried that it meant I wasn’t a good enough Christian if God wasn’t calling me away to do big and scary things.

I disregarded the fact that I am an introvert who is easily exhausted by groups of people. I disregarded the fact that God hadn’t given me gifts of public speaking, teaching, or leading. I knew I could learn all those things if the mission field required it of me. God would give me what I needed to succeed in his plans.

And that’s true. But I was disregarding the gifts that God did give me; and I knew that going into full-time overseas missions wouldn’t be the best way for me to use those gifts. I knew that I didn’t really feel called to Uganda. I had for a long time felt like God was calling me to worship and serve him through writing. Of course, I could’ve written in Uganda, but I knew God was asking me to not go that far—he was asking me to stay close by and work on creating art that could make people feel and remind them what’s important in life. He wanted me to spread the gospel right here.

Every believer receives spiritual gifts to use as a member of the body of Christ. These gifts empower us to do God’s work. Not everyone is going to be gifted and called to lead. Nor will everyone be called to missions work in another country. We’re all different, and that’s a great thing about the body of Christ:

“Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?” (1 Corinthians 12:27–30 ESV).

It is important that believers work together as different parts of the same body. If a finger suddenly decided it didn’t want to be a finger anymore, and started to act like an ear instead, everything would fall apart. As a body, we will be most successful at spreading the gospel if we each use the gifts God has given us and not attempt to be someone other than who God created us to be. 

“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:4–7 ESV).

USING OUR GIFTS IS ENOUGH

The professor saw through my lie and called me out on it.

“What really gets you going? What do you love?”

“I love writing. I’ve always wanted to write.”

“Why do you see yourself in Uganda and not in, say, Paris, writing every day at a café?”

“I-I don’t know.”

“Why full-time missions and not full-time writing?”

“It just doesn’t seem like enough,” I finally confessed.

There it was. Sometimes, doing the things we’re good at doesn’t feel like enough. Even when God gives us gifts, we disregard them in favor of pursuing what we consider to be a more noble or spiritual occupation.

I believed the myth that becoming a missionary in a far-away country was the best thing anyone could do for the Kingdom of God. I know I’m not the only Christian who has made this mistake, and this has led Christians to mission fields they do not belong in. When this happens, the kingdom is missing out on the work we are actuallycalled to do.

MISSIONS WORK IS FOR EVERYBODY, EVERYWHERE

Being a missionary doesn’t always mean traveling across the world. Being a missionary means taking on the mission of spreading the gospel—which is something we are all called to do:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19–20 ESV).

Being a missionary isn’t always about leaving. Sometimes it means staying right where you are and using the gifts God has given you. And no calling is higher or lower than another. The whole world needs the gospel, including the community you live in now.

After pursuing a writing career, God might still call me to Uganda. I’m keeping my ears open. But no matter where I go or where he calls me next, I’m going to listen and be honest with what I’m hearing.

I encourage you to do the same. Respond to the call God has placed on your life. Be a missionary in whatever you do.

This long-form article is part of our weekly series, “Living for Jesus.” You can read the original article on Jesus' Economy here


Charlotte Van Werven writes for Jesus’ Economyan 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.


Where Have the Carefree Days Gone?

It's been almost 30 years, but there was a semester when I was carefree and my choices didn't feel so frantic. I lived with only a thin foam mattress, an orange milk crate holding three t-shirts and two pairs of jeans, and a bike. That baby blue Schwinn got me from my apartment on El Cajon Boulevard and the only other places I needed to go: two classes at San Diego State University and my boyfriend's house. We only had 20 bucks at any given time, so there weren't many options. Of course, who needs money when you have young love and a sandy beach?

That was a long time ago. Today, I have more resources and more stuff which brings with it a boatload of options. I no longer grab one of three t-shirts without a thought. Now, I stand in the closet, wondering what I will possibly wear. Endless decisions shrink us into pin-balling, muddle minded undeciders who no longer know what we want out of life.

I'd like to think that that world is my oyster. We have never had more opportunity and freedom to decide. I just hate to admit that 55 coffee options on a swanky chalkboard confuse rather than empower me. I feel the endless decisions as if I'm suffocating, or at least bleeding. I only know this because I've written about choices for over ten years.

One of my unpaid jobs is to write, so I sit a lot. Drafts become boring and stressful because I don't make any money, so I look for opportunities to procrastinate. I could still choose a baby blue Schwinn, but now I like to walk. I head outside as much as I can without feeling as if I'm wasting time. The exercise clears my mind while I think about the next sentence.

Sometimes I walk just for a word.

I also get outside to wrestle with my thoughts on how I can empower people to become better decision makers. I don't find the right answers staring at social media all day, at least answers that God tries to quietly whisper to my own spirit and hopefully yours. The Bible helps, but so do the walks.

So much of this non-fiction is about a single verse in an old book, but the following pages are also the result of an awareness that happens when our eyes are up walking in the world, instead of gazing down at life on a screen. The text is meant to be a tool to help us step away from the multitude of choices, take a sabbatical from the rat race, and ask ourselves why we do things just because we learn them from our mom.

The walking also makes a space in my mind for powerful metaphors.

On one of my walks, I noticed blood on the sidewalk. It was dark red, dried up, and dribbled all along the pavement. How did the blood get here? Did the sufferer know she was even making a mess?

The thought brought me back to the day I wore white pants to work and a fellow co-worker stopped me to ask what was wrong with my leg. Turned out, I had cut myself shaving in the morning rush to check in by 8:00 A.M., and during my 30 minute commute to Seattle, I bled like a banshee through my linen trouser leg.

I didn't know I was bleeding until someone pointed it out.

Today I want to do for you what my co-worker did for me. The metaphor lies within these questions:

Are you wounded and bleeding from decisions you've made?

Are you choosing from a true place within the unique soul God created when He carefully formed you?

Are your closets and cupboards full, but you have no time?

Are the choices you make today setting you up for freedom or slavery down the road?


This excerpt is from Kim Galgano's redemptive memoir The Chance to Choose. Galgano is the founder of Chicks with Choices ™ and Dudes with Decisions ™, outreach ministries devoted to help people blend faith with everyday decisions and uncover the unique path they were meant to live. You can order The Chance to Choose here.  A portion of the proceeds from The Chance to Choose will be donated to empowering women in Bihar, India via Jesus' Economy.


Christianity is Not Merely an Idea—It's an Action

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by John D. Barry, CEO of Jesus Economy

If we are to be truly Christian, we cannot let Christianity be merely an idea.

“But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. … For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead” (James 2:18, 26 ESV).

Christianity is about our life values changing—from our beliefs to our actions; from how we think about our money to how we spend it; from how we think about time to how we use it.

We cannot look at the suffering of our world and do nothing about it, and still call ourselves Christians. The way we view our faith should change absolutely everything about how we live—from our giving to our shopping, from our faith to our deeds. Being Christian should change the very way we view the world.

Our world is more interconnected than ever before. The opportunity to end extreme poverty is greater than it has ever been—meaning we’re more likely to do so. But for that to happen, Christians have to step up and live the values of our faith.

Christianity must be a movement based on self-sacrifice. And the time is ticking for us to make that a true statement. Because there are people already exploiting our interconnected world: Think of the 2012 factory fire in Dhaka, Bangladesh; child labor being used to make products; and many other horrific atrocities that have resulted from manufacturing clothing alone. We don’t often think about it, but our purchase choices—when we buy cheap stuff, made cheaply—are contributing to global inequality. And this is just one example among many of where Christians should be setting a better example.

WE NEED TO BE BETTER INFORMED ABOUT FAIR TRADE

We need to be better informed; we need to make better purchasing decisions. And we need to have more fair trade purchasing options—options that involve the fair treatment and payment of workers. We also need to empower the impoverished in the process.

Our world has already recognized the value of the interconnected globe, and the potential of developing economies, but Christians are struggling to catch up.

We saw how connected our world was on the day that Facebook purchased WhatsApp for $19 Billion dollars. Think about that: $19 Billion. When Facebook made the purchase of the messaging system WhatsApp for this staggering figure, one of the main reasons cited by analysts was that WhatsApp customers represented an emerging market. And many of these customers were in the developing world! The emerging market that analysts had in mind were developing world customers. Wall Street is now calling the developing world an emerging market.

Our world is interconnected. The question is whether we, as Christians, will leverage these connections for the betterment of the impoverished or allow the impoverished to be exploited?

LEVERAGING OUR INTERCONNECTED WORLD TO IMPROVE IT

We can leverage the connections in our world for the betterment of everyone. One idea: provide online commerce opportunities to the impoverished. Give them direct-to-customer access. At Jesus’ Economy, we’ve pictured this as an online Fair Trade Shop.

And lest anyone say that this won’t fix the problem. Think of this anecdotal evidence: Amazon.com is already valued at over $900 per share and many estimate it will cross $1,000 per share. Its wealth alone is much greater than many developing countries. That’s how much economic power there is in commerce. I think capitalism can be redeemed—for the good of everyone. Capitalism can help us create global equality.

IMAGINE WHAT COULD BE

Imagine if online fair trade opportunities were also connected into a global network of experts who could train the impoverished on hard business skills (such as accounting); moving through a product development cycle; and ethical business practices. And then imagine, if the impoverished who received this training had access to microfinance (small loans) to grow their businesses—to purchase tools or hire staff.

We must look at the world differently. By and large, the world has been looking at microfinance as something limited to a local economy. In current microfinance models, we have one poor tomato farmer selling to one poor cattle farmer—and dollars within the economy are just exchanging hands. One person may become wealthier but the overall economy is still impoverished. We need a new microfinance model.

What we need is money coming into an impoverished community from the outside. This is where global ecommerce comes into play. In our interconnected world, I can manufacture Jesus’ Economy branded t-shirts in Kampala, Uganda and bring money into the local economy simply through the purchasing power of U.S. buyers. In return, I can create jobs for a group of impoverished young people.

I can help not just with my giving but also with my shopping. My dollars say what I believe in.

This would mean a new economy. It would mean renewal. Money would sweep in from the developed world into the developing world and lift entire families out of poverty. This is the type of thing that Christians can do together—to end extreme poverty. This is one way we can show people that Christianity is more than an idea. This is one way for us to create a more just and equitable world.

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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.


3 Ways Jesus Wants to Drastically Change Your Life

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by John D. Barry, CEO of Jesus’ Economy

When I traveled to Northeast India, to one of the last unreached people groups in the world, I was making a good salary and a nice home. But this last year, my wife and I sold nearly all of our stuff and followed Jesus into the unknown of leading the non-profit Jesus’ Economy full-time without a salary. We sold our stuff, including our house, to make it work. The reason: We can’t live in a world where there are people without a voice and where there are people who have not heard the name of Jesus. We cannot live in a world where there are solutions to poverty and bringing the gospel to the unreached, and not take action.

In Northeast India, I saw the Holy Spirit work—and I saw the liberty of Jesus completely transform lives. Those who had formerly never heard Jesus’ name were so grateful that they now knew Jesus. But there are still 101 Million there who have not heard Jesus’ name. How can I live in a world like this and not do something about it? I also had other reasons for making such a drastic life change.

How could I not serve a God who has given me my very voice? God helped me learn to speak—95% of what I said as a child could not be understood but I now speak perfectly. How could I not be willing to give up everything to follow this God?

Creating a more equitable and just world is part of my calling, as is bringing the gospel to those who have not heard Jesus’ name. It’s how I’m called to use my voice.

But I think we’re all called to this mission. It will look different for each of us, but what’s certain is that Jesus will drastically change your life. Here are three biblical lessons that I regularly come back to during this journey.

1. THE BIBLE ENVISIONS A MORE JUST WORLD

The Bible’s grand vision for the world is seen at the end of Revelation. It’s a world where there are no more tears, where there is no more pain, where God’s people stand equal and in loving relationship before God. The Bible’s trajectory is clear—evil will be destroyed and good will be restored. Justice and equity in their full form will exist when Jesus returns.

The followers of Jesus will sit down at a table and celebrate. They will celebrate justice and equality for all. They will celebrate what Jesus has done (see Revelation 19; 21).

In the meantime, we’re called to be ambassadors of this message—to be people who help make way for the kingdom of God here and now. Global equality can come to our world. Justice can come to our world. We can create equal opportunities for all. Each person can have a place at this table. And when we make these opportunities for the impoverished, we bring a piece of the kingdom of God here.

2. THE BIBLE CALLS US TO USE THE OPPORTUNITIES GOD HAS PROVIDED

One of the things we often forgotten about the story of the Good Samaritan is that it involves one man responding to an opportunity to do good. A Samaritan sees a man who is beaten and poor on the side of the road—and he takes care of him. He steps in when all others have ignored the hurting man on the side of the road. The Samaritan sees an opportunity to do good and acts upon it (Luke 10:25–37).

Today, we likewise have an opportunity to do good. We often forget that there are opportunities right in front of us, each and everyday, to change the lives of the hurting. There are opportunities to help our neighbors who are far away and to engage in relationship with those who are near.

Doing good betters our entire world. Creating opportunities for the impoverished, outcast, and marginalized to be empowered is good for us all. What’s good for you can be good for me; what’s good for them can be good for us. Because we’re all connected in some way or another—in some sort of loose affiliation. We’re all human after all.

3. THE BIBLE CALLS US TO SEE HOW WE’RE ALL INTERCONNECTED

In the book of Romans, Paul the Apostle notes that he intends to travel to Spain (Romans 15:24). This is because he plans to bring the gospel to the far western point of the known world of the time. Meanwhile, Thomas the Apostle—according to Syrian church tradition—was bringing the gospel to India. That’s the far East of the known world of the time. There is a global trajectory here. This is a direct reflection of Jesus’ command to bring the gospel to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).

While on this path, the early church leaders recognized just how interconnected their efforts were. We see this when Paul raises funds for the impoverished in Jerusalem (Romans 15:26). We also see it in the numerous mentions of other churches in Paul’s letters. And we see this interconnectedness in the story of the book of Acts, which involves multiple missions out from the Jerusalem church and the church at Antioch to bring the gospel to other cities and regions.

Our world is more interconnected today than ever before. And we can leverage these connections for the sake of the gospel. The work of the early church is far from complete. So my question becomes: What are we going to do about it? And what do you see when you look at the world?

When I look at our world, I can see how we can create a new, global and spiritual economy for those that need it most. I can see how the thirsty can have clean water. I can see how marginalized women can have gainful employment that lifts their entire families out of poverty. I can see businesses in the developing world creating opportunities for us here in the U.S. I can see the freedom and liberty of Jesus being accessible to all. I can see us rallying together around the common good of equality for everyone. I can see grace reaching every person.

How is Jesus asking you to drastically change your life?

See John's original piece: 3 Ways Jesus Wants to Drastically Change Your Life. This long-form article is part of the 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.