Which Hero?

One of the books on my nightstand right now is from the Christian Encounters Series by Thomas Nelson, a biography of St. Francis of Assisi. I am a slow reader to begin with, but every once in awhile, I find a book so challenging to me that it really takes a long time to work through it (ask Tozer–I took me about eight months to read The Knowledge of the Holy). This is one of them.

Quite frankly, I didn’t know much about St. Francis when I chose this book for the Booksneeze blogger book review program (which, if you’re not a part of, you need to be. Go on…I’ll wait while you sign up. What could be better than free books? Click the link.) I chose this book because St. Francis holds the remarkable distinction of being the hero of my hero. Big deal, right? Well, it is a big deal to me. I have few heroes–so few that I can count them on one hand. There just are not many people (dead or alive) who have risen to “hero” status for me. Maybe I’m hard to please. I like to think that I have exceptional standards. ;)

Nonetheless, St. Francis of Assisi was Rich Mullins’ hero. Rich, not nearly as well known as he should have been, penned some of Christian music’s greatest songs, to include “Sing Your Praise to the Lord”–made popular by Amy Grant–and “Awesome God”–yes, that chorus you sing in church. Rich was so much more than an amazing songwriter and musician, but this blog is not about what makes Rich my hero.

As I was reading yesterday about St. Francis’ choice to pursue poverty (an enormous choice; we are to understand that his father was a successful businessman–a business that St. Francis was to grow into), I remembered something I’d read several years ago in The World As I Remember It: Through the Eyes of a Ragamuffin, which collected posthumously several  of Rich’s previously published writings:

Before I got into this music business, I was determined to live a life of dire and grinding poverty. I remember my uncle saying, ‘Wow, you are so proud of being poor–what’s so great? You would do a lot better to be a little more industrious, a little more frugal. If you’re really concerned about the poor, becoming poor isn’t going to help them, it’s just going to ease your own conscience. If you’re really concerned about the poor, go out and make a fortune and spend it on them.’ (p. 140)

So who was right? Was St. Francis right in choosing to live a life of poverty, claiming that it would free us to know God more intimately? Or was Rich’s uncle right in saying that we would do better to give generously to alleviate poverty? Neither are easy options, to be sure, but is one more true or more right than the other?

And more importantly…if St. Francis was right, would anyone in America today have the guts to give it all up?

And even more importantly…would I?

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5 thoughts on “Which Hero?

  1. Hi Sarah! For St. Francis, his wealth was a stumbling block- or perhaps the proverbial “thorn in the side”. While he was concerned about the poor, I think his reasoning was “cut off the hand that offends you”- i.e., give up wealth and status to be free to do God’s will in a way that few (or maybe many?) are called.

    Rich’s uncle, on the other hand, was inspired to tell his nephew that, in today’s world, you need to have a viable ministry/mission to help the poor where they need it most. And, besides, think of how many have been blessed by Rich’s music.

    Before Rich had come on the music scene, there was Keith Green whose music inspired many. And what he made in record sales were used to help the poor. Like Rich, God brought him (and two sons) home a bit early. His wife, and ministry/mission partner, continues that good work even today. I would not be surprised if Rich was somewhat influenced by Keith.

    • I love you, Steve. I just read your words, and something incredible occurred to me. And so…I will forgo a wordy reply so I might attempt a greater reply–one that involves my guitar. Remind me to email you tomorrow, also (I’ve been meaning to).

  2. Semmi,

    For me this prosperity issue comes down to our citizenship while tarrying here on the earth. Prioritizing our desires and ministries demands introspection as to our belief in God’s word – Christ’s teaching in particular. Matthew calls it “The Kingdom of Heaven” – all others call it “The Kingdom of God*.” Jesus referred to this topic more than any other in His 3 year ministry, giving it special emphasis – one usually ignored by most preaching today.

    As citizens of the Heavenly Kingdom we have different responsibilities and must act differently, as did our Savior. Jesus specifically addresses the issue you brought before us, Semmi. Mat. 25: 32-46 clearly demonstrates our “Kingdom” duty – depending on which kingdom we are citizens of !

    A friend of mine – David Bercot – has written an astonishing book on this very subject. “The Kingdom That Turned the World Upside Down.” The title comes from Acts 17:6 and is self explanatory. I strongly recommend this as a read for any serious, devout person who has the courage to call themselves by the name of Christ – a true Christian.

    Thanks, Semmi for bring this topic to the fore, but I must say I have only one hero – Jesus.

    Dave

    *As Matthew was primarily directed to Hebrew readers, he avoids the use of the word “God” – modern born again Jews write G_d.

  3. Perhaps St. Francis and Rich’s uncle are both right.

    If society would not spend money on luxury items, like cable tv or a 3rd car, then that money could be spent on giving to charities or sponsoring a child through Compassion and other like organizations.

    But then again this is just a thought.

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