Starbucks at the Expense of Gospel Outreach?

As our family continues down the road, I never cease to be amazed at those who tell us, “Oh, I could never do what you are doing!” Or, they may comment, “Lord bless you, but that type of work is definitely not for me!”

Similar phrases normally revolve around the lack of amenities that are available in Liberia such as no electricity, little to no running water except in Monrovia, very poor roads, and an infrastructure that is probably 100 years behind America.

Yet, each time I hear these type of comments, I remember a quote I once heard that says,

“How much is too much for something or someone you love?”

The reference, as I recall, was John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

The Lord Jesus Christ, who had need of nothing, laid aside the splendors of glory to come down to a sin-cursed world, took upon Himself human flesh, and became a servant, obedient even to the death of the cross. This was NOT too much for our Savior to do in order that He might redeem to Himself His elect from every tongue, people, and nation.

2000 years have passed since the Lord Jesus Christ came to this earth and there are billions who have never heard the gospel even once. Here in the west, we hear it on the radio, see it preached on the television, sit through brief sermonettes supposedly proclaiming the gospel and the glory of Christ, but rarely does anything change either in our hearts or in our lives.

Little more than 100 years ago, here in America, most did not have electricity, and very little running water unless it was hand-pumped. Trains were slow and travel to many parts of the USA was difficult. There was no Starbucks, no Wal-Mart, and no grocery stores lined with enough merchandise valued at what some small countries spend in an entire year on their own economy.

Let me put a little perspective into this last statement. The US Central Intelligence Agency puts Liberia’s GDP at $3.6 billion per year. Wal-Mart has annual sales of more than $370 billion. In other words, the total income of Liberia is just 1/10th of what Americans spend at Wal-Mart alone! This does not include the next top 5: Home Depot, Kroger, Target, Sears, and Costco. These last five stores account for another $340 billion in annual sales.

Does this not startle us? Does it not shock us? What about Starbucks? Annual sales for Starbucks in 2010 was $8.96 billion, which is 2 1/2 times the size of Liberia’s entire GDP!

Now it is no secret to family and friends that I do not like Wal-Mart for a variety of reasons, but I will admit to having had my share of Starbucks $4-5 cup of coffee. The more I consider the poverty around the world, the more it hurts when I take money the Lord has entrusted to my stewardship to buy a drink that is the equivalent of 2-3 days of work for a Liberian brother or sister. Yet I wonder how often our conscience is often soothed while we drink our lattes and iced cappuccinos and maybe even offer a quick prayer that the Lord will bless our Christian brothers overseas.

With this post, I am not advocating the boycott of Wal-Mart or Starbucks. What I am seeking to do is put a little perspective into what is often a mundane existence for us in the West. When our brothers and sisters are in need, I grow more and more convinced that we will give account for what we do with our finances.

So, we go back to the question of “How much is too much for someone or something you love?” Do we easily and glibly rattle off “For God so loved the world” and proclaim that while the gospel is for the world, we cannot be bothered to reach out because we are more interested in spending our funds on that which will gather moth and rust and will eventually decay?

Sundays in many evangelical circles even take this to an additional level. We gather around bagels, donuts, and lattes because without them we won’t draw the same size crowd. While everyone sips their drinks and proclaims how good and awesome God is, souls are slipping into eternity while we ease into Sunday barcoloungers and absent-mindedly throw a few crumpled dollars into the offering plate. As it slips from our fingers, we may even ask the Lord to “bless” our humble offerings and cause the gospel to be spread around the world.

Who are we fooling? What is wrong with us in the West that we can be blessed with so much and yet think that we have a responsibility to give so little? Jesus Christ came and gave of Himself in death – the ultimate sacrifice – so that we might be free from the penalty of death. How much is too much for us to give? Are we willing to do more than give of our finances? Will we give of ourselves?

The phrases often quoted to us are not just fair pictures of the malaise in evangelical churches when it comes to true sacrifice and the cause of missions. It is actually a reflection that maybe even at the base level – sometimes even a Starbucks White Chocolate Raspberry Mocha is too much for the Someone we claim to love.