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Enough Soy Sauce!

November 12, 2009

   Do you know how they treat poor people in Cambodia?  They give them a bottle of soy sauce and take their picture.  I am not sure who is supposed to be the one feeling blessed, the photographer or the impoverished villager.  Let me tell you how the communists get votes in Cambodia.  They drive in a multi-car convoy into an area.  Body guards, military and local leaders have already prepared the people.  They all sit orderly in rows, on the ground, in direct sunlight.  If they are lucky, it is an overcast day and only 90 degrees outside.  Normally it is piercing hot and 105 degrees.  The big shots sit on cushioned chairs in the only shade there is.  After a lengthy speech on whatever they are selling (politics or propaganda), the people bow as they each receive a little rice, some noodles and a bottle of soy sauce. 

   Do you know how much a bottle of soy sauce costs in Cambodia?  700 riel or $0.30. They always give them the cheapest food money can buy.  Rice that is normally fed to animals, noodles made in China or Vietnam [the delicious ones come from Thailand] and the most pathetic soy sauce they can buy. The total donation, per person, is less than $5.00.  Fuel for the multiple Lexus SUV’s, $600.  Lunch for the officials, $450.  The people usually have to stand in the sun for 3-4 hours to wait for the donation.   Everyone is photographed and their pitiful faces put on national television that night with the full text of the speech.  They clap on cue but never ever smile.  Why?  They are only getting a bottle of soy sauce and some other stuff.  In a week it will long be forgotten, and totally consumed.  Everyone knows this is political persuasion.  No one present could tell you what the politicians said twenty minutes later. 

   So why are they there?  Simple.  They are poor.  A bottle of soy sauce is better than no soy sauce at all.  If they were not poor, they would not be there. 

  What disturbs me most is that Christians play these games with Cambodian’s and other poor countries. Why would Christians play political games with the lives of poor people?  Most just want to look good or feel good.  They want to promote their own ministries and raise more money for themselves.  They desire to get elected to national Church positions.  I am hopeful that most do it out of completely ignorance and simply they are doing what has been modeled to them.  Certainly this practice needs to be re-evaluated in the church.

Donation Lineup

Donation Lineup

   What does the Bible say about giving to the poor? 

Do you know that Jesus specifically told us how to give to needy people.  It is so clear, it does not need anyone with a theological background to interpret it.  Jesus said:

    “1 Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

   2 “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets [microphones], as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”  (Matthew 6:1-4)

   Why take pictures?

Poor beggar

   Cameras are everywhere nowadays. Why take pictures?  The excuses are too many to list:   

  • “The donors need to know that I have faithfully given what they sent to us.”   
  • “We want to make the most of the opportunity to share the gospel to a captive audience.” 
  • “Their weathered faces help remind me to pray for the poor.”
  • “The people like to have their picture taken.” 

  Do you feel sick to your stomach?  I do.  When you see politicians doing such despicable things we just get angry, but when Christian do such things it really makes me sick to my stomach.  What has happened to the Church that we stoop to the level of corrupt politicians?  Why, in light of very clear teaching directly from Jesus Christ [the red letter stuff] do Christians still engage in such humiliating practices.  My guess is it has much more do to with self-righteousness, pride, and feeling superior than it does with the needs of the poor.

   Please, enough soy sauce.  It is not even healthy and causes high blood pressure! If you are helping the poor don’t do it for your own agenda.  Don’t take pictures.  Don’t make people sit in rows in the sun.  If you want to help the poor, make a lasting difference in their life:  Provide education them and their kids.  Take them into your home.  Help them start a viable business. Feed them from your own table.  Build a relationship with love. Truly invest in their lives and create opportunities for them. 

   Give them a bottle of soy sauce and keep them dependent to the poverty that continues to entangle them.

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