Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.
“Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form,” Philippians 2:4-7
First Lady Melania Trump took a trip to Africa to promote women’s and children’s health but her trip of “goodwill” is contradicted by her husbands policies as he has cut foreign aid to developing countries in Africa and Mexico.
It is arrogance mixed with sympathy to look down on others without relinquishing your place of privilege. True empathy is when you come out of your privilege and suffer with the people you’re trying to help.
It bothers me when white Christians drop into developing countries with an air of privilege for guilt-reducing photo opportunities. You can’t cut off foreign aid to prevent AIDS and malaria under the hypocrisy that the money may be used for abortion and call it support.
Only people in privileged positions can make judgement calls from across the seas on poor people who are struggling to survive.
The apostle Paul said that if we are going to have the same mind as Christ we must and truly help the poor we must make sure we:
- Don’t look out for our own interests but also for the interests of others. If we are really going to pursue equity we must be in tune with other people’s interests not just our own. When you are in a place of privilege you don’t have to think about what it must be like to not have resources for planned pregnancy. On one of my trips to Africa one of my white brethren pastors asked an Ethiopian mother why they had so many children if they couldn’t afford them. The mother answered, “because of a high infant mortality rate we have multiple children in hopes that one of them will live to one day take care of us.” Privilege causes you to cast judgement before you can take interest in another’s plight.
- Don’t cling to your privilege. Jesus was equal to God before coming to earth but he didn’t cling to it. There are not a lot of white Christians or wealthy black Christians who are willing to relinquish their privilege to share equity. I live in a city where 50% of our children live below poverty. We have 3,000 churches in Memphis. We don’t need sympathy. We need a radical redistribution of wealth accrued from generations of economic exploration through plantation politics. But can we let go of our privilege and let go of token charity? There are a lot of wealthy people sitting in churches watching the proverbial widow put in all she has while there is no sacrifice on behalf of the wealthy.
- Jesus gave up his divine privilege as the son of God and became a slave for us! Wow! I have a good friend that is a white pastor who intentionally moved his wife and two boys into Binghamton to do incarnational ministry. His home has been broken into but he remains diligent to model an attitude of Christ amongst his economically challenged neighbors.
We don’t all have to take a vow of poverty to make a difference but we do have to check our attitudes. Are we clinging to privilege while we cast a judgmental glance at people who are less fortunate? Can we relinquish white privilege and class privilege to ensure that the “least of these” share in the equity of abundant living?
Our church, New Direction, sits in two communities; Hickory Hill which has 26% of its people living in poverty and 12% unemployment. And we have a church in Collierville where there is still poverty in concentrated black sections of town and a growing black middle class. It’s the tale of two cities but we have people in both.
We have made a concerted effort to look out for the interests of the poor by building a charter school, adopting an elementary school to raise literacy scores, build afford housing with Habitat for Humanity, establish workforce development to ensure the poor get living wages, and to preach good news to the poor in Hickory Hill and Collierville. Even people in wealthier neighborhoods have impoverished mindsets and soul deficits.
We all have a common interest of wanting better for our children, better schools, safer neighborhoods, and equal opportunity to provide for our families.
Imagine what Memphis would look like if we all let go of our privilege and looked out for others interests to ensure equity racially, educationally, and economically.
This is the mind of Christ.