What a great great great book. I think this 270 page book is one of the books that every Christian living in America should read. Maybe other places too, but definitely America. Christianity Today put it on their list of the top 50 books that have shaped Evangelicals in the 20th century (coming in at number 7, I think).
A group of friends and I decided to read this book this summer, meeting every week or so to discuss a chapter. During these discussions, we’ve had some great dialogue, and hopefully have devised some great plans to help us to live out what the Holy Spirit has impressed upon us as we’ve read Sider’s prophetic book.
Sider begins by giving us the facts about poverty today. Billions of people are hungry. Many children die everyday of things that could easily be prevented. Then he follows that up by talking about the affluent minority- how much we spend on things like ice cream and food and housing and tvs, and how much we don’t give to things like, oh, the church. By this point you’re seeing the disparity, but you’re asking, so what? Is it our fault that we live in such a great place? Do we really have anything to do with people being poor?
Anticipating these questions, Sider next dives into about 75 pages of thoroughly showing God’s heart for the poor and oppressed. After reading this, it’s completely ASTONISHING at how much Scripture talks about this, and how it’s so vital to us living out our faith. I think this passage in Matthew 25 is an example of a clear call to us to meet the needs of the least of these around us:
34“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
41“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
44“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45“He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
46“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
After convincing us that this is clearly God’s heart, Sider talks about what causes poverty, and then challenges the reader to reflect on his/her life personally, communally, and then societally. He gives challenging applications and calls the reader to a life that is different than what we’re living now.
At points in the book, I wish Sider would have stronger language. He tends to get real close to saying something bold, but then backs off from it. Sider should say what he means and not apologize for it. This is a 20th or 25th year edition, so maybe he got so much criticism from his first copy that he wanted to tone things down some.
Read this book. Then buy it for other people. Get a book club together to discuss.