monkey town read-along (week 6)

Happy Tuesday, everybody! We’re just chugging right along through this read-along, aren’t we? Who knew that, by this point in the summer, I’d be averaging just one blog post a week? Boo!!

I have big plans to get over my Writer’s Slump and start blogging again. Maybe even this week. (don’t hold your breath)

If you know me at all, you might have thought to yourself while reading this week’s homework, “Oooh, I bet Marla’s loving these chapters what with all the talk of India and loving the poor and God’s here-and-now kingdom.”

You were so right.

I loved the chapter about Laxmi the Widow. So much of it reminded me of Cambodia (man, my heart has been aching for that place lately). When she talked about the kiddos with HIV being denied an education, it reminded me of a sweet 10-year-old boy we got to know at the Boys’ Center who is HIV-positive. The kids at school would all beat him up, so he quit going. And now he scrounges around for recycling to support his grandma (the only family member he has).

And the family that provided job training and respectable positions for the widows? LOVE. So many people are doing that in Cambodia and other developing countries, but the need is so, so great.

I loved how the chapter ended–with this amazing paragraph: In India, I was introduced to the kingdom of heaven–not as it exists in some future state but as it exists in the here and now, where the hungry are fed with both physical and spiritual bread, where the sick are saved from both their diseases and their sins, where an illiterate widow taught me more about faith than any theologian ever could, and where children from the slums sing with God. In India, I learned that the gospel is still special. Jesus still matters and can make a difference in people’s lives. (144)


And I’d love to get your thoughts on some of these quotes from Chapter 13. I know some of you will have some thoughts.

Quote #1: “When my friend hails her low interest rate or her airfare or her concert tickets as a God thing, it’s nearly impossible to get away with asking if she really needs a new house or a vacation or yet another Dave Matthews experience without seeming to rain on God’s parade. Every good Christian knows that the best way to insulate yourself from criticism or input is to say that God wants whatever you want.” (148)

What do you make of that?

Quote #2: “Perhaps most disconcerting for those of us who enjoy relatively affluent lifestyles, Jesus said that his kingdom is more accessible to the poor than to the rich.” (151)

Your thoughts?

Quote #3: “Everything else is just extra, and extra can be a distraction. Extra lulls us into complacency and tricks us into believing that we need more than we need. Extra makes it harder to distinguish between ‘God things’ and just things.” (153)


Quote #4: The more committed we are to certain theological absolutes, the more likely we are to discount the work of the Spirit when it doesn’t conform to our presuppositions. When we cling to our beliefs as children cling to their favorite toys, it is hard for Jesus to take us by the hand and lead us somewhere new.” (155)

What do you think?

Feel free to respond to any of these quotes or say your own stuff. Looking forward to hearing what you have to say, and I’ll close with this:

“In India, I learned that among Hindus, the goal of reincarnation is to be reborn into nobler circumstances. And in India, I learned that in the kingdom of God, the goal is to be born into humbler ones.” (156)

Next week’s homework: Chapters 15-17

20 thoughts on “monkey town read-along (week 6)

  1. janelle

    OK, I am going to jump in a book thing that I do not belong…but had a truly neat conversation from someone who lived in a 3rd world country and now lives in America. Who is now living in a “rich” lifestyle…..and she brought it up….on buying purses… match everything/ shopping…and the people back home who need. She asked someone with deep, deep BIBLE knowledge, someone who I trust, someone who listens to the Holy Spirit there thots……
    And we discussed the whole issue a bit…. this is what came out :
    1. That when you are tithing, giving to the poor, supporting the ministry of God….and doing and giving what the HOLY SPIRIT is telling you to do….. and you have money left over….. so be it. YOU are obeying and God is blessing and live in that blessing…for you have done everything God has asked of you…not someone else but you.
    2. That in the Bible…go through it and tell me how many men of God was blessed with THINGS…true hands on THINGS….and they were from GOD….and that KINGS, and they named man after man after man, they named all that they ” Posessed “….all that they ” HAD” ….and they were men after God’s own heart. But they “had”
    3. They went to the scripture that “JESUS didn’t have a place to put his head ” …and they say that others take that out of context….if it is read right that it means that EARTH IS NOT HIS HOME……and that is what HE is saying.
    4. I talk to Benson who lives with NOTHING….and how I feel guilty going on vacation….we spent 273.00 for 8 nites…. and I told him, how I wasn’t, he said, ” Mum, you must….look at your heart….look at how Rock works and gives… were born in America, we were not ” ” You give to us…do not feel guilty, guilt is from satan. ”
    5. It also came up in the conversation that to do the opposite of ” HAVING ” to ” NOT HAVING ” is legalism…..that if we _________ we are _________ if we don’t ____________ we are _____________. And that puts it on “US and what we are ” DOING”….. and it is legalism….just as high self esteem is PRIDE and low self esteem is PRIDE, because it is ALL ABOUT ourselves again….
    6. So, what do I believe ? I believe, follow the Word of God, follow the HOLY SPIRIT, look at your own heart after God…..and if you can get rid of it….with no quams, it does not have you…..if you can’t, it has you….
    We have 2 cabins…..we have a house….. what does that make me ? What do you think of me….? Rock has 50 million hats….yet he works so hard and gives to Benson to subside his LIFE, his LIFE…… I shake my head and wonder ….what is God thinking…. what are we doing …..what are we saying……….. ” what is HE asking me….. ? ” I stopped and got some peanut M & M’s , we spent $ 100.00 in one day on eating out for 10 people ….seirously. What does that say ? I don’t know…. yet I am raising money to build a hospital for the poor ? deep breath.

    1. janelle

      not to add, but to add….. I think we could rid our lives of EVERYTHING and still have a very selfish heart…..or I know of people ( Stanley Tam ) that gives to the world……in ways that we could NEVER touch….and has many ” things “…. and yet his heart can not even be touched with the word ” selfish” at all…..and to me…it boils down to what is our heart = without things ? + what is our heart = with things ? “MAN…looks on the outward , but GOD looks upon the heart.” To me, that goes both sides….how we look at people who have alot and how we look at those who have not.
      ( sorry, haven’t read the book, but just felt this in my heart to share ) ….won’t jump back in…smile..

    2. Marla Taviano

      I hear what you’re saying, and I agree with some of it, disagree with some of it. One thing we can definitely see eye-to-eye on is that, if you’re following the Holy Spirit’s leading, you won’t go wrong.

    3. Rachelle

      Thank you, Janelle for joining the discussion. I read the book and can’t seem to articulate my thoughts.

      I think something big I hear you saying is that anyone can sell all they have and give to the poor. It’s what is in our heart that makes giving to the poor a lasting kingdom effort.

      1. Marla Taviano

        I don’t know of too many people who would/could sell all they have and give to the poor without having a “heart” for the poor. I do know a lot of people who SAY they have a heart for the poor, but their bank statement says something else.

        The Bible says, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” The money we give (and keep) and where it goes is an indication of what’s in our hearts.

        1. Rachelle

          okay, but does having a heart for the poor make one “saved”? There are many good people that go, do and give while denying Jesus is Lord. I have a family member that is Baha’i and she has given most of all she has to the poor in the name of baha’u’llah. Her daughter is in Africa now doing work at an orphanage.

          First faith, then works. They go hand in hand. Lest we slide dangerously on the slippery slope of legalism. Yes, “faith without works is dead”, but works alone cannot save us nor unsave us(Romans3:28). Which is why we need the leading of the Holy Spirit in all areas of our lives, to know precipitously that we are carrying out the responsibility of what we have been given. “To whom much is given much is required”(Luke 12:48). But do I always demonstrate good works? uh, no. But do I believe I am saved, YES!

          I am wondering why Rachel only harped on people thanking God for certain tangible items. Seems like in many of the studies I’ve been in(James/”Radical”) there has been much discussion on things like purses, checkbooks, clothing, money. But what about clean water or food? Why don’t we feel guilty over our excess of daily meals(which we religiously thank God for) or water enough to fill even a kiddie pool in our backyard? I think what I’m trying to say is we judge certain excess while embracing(and even thanking God) for others. Whew-I need some grace!

          That’s all (:

          1. John McCollum

            “okay, but does having a heart for the poor make one ‘saved’?”

            No, but it seems clear to me that NOT caring for the poor is a good indication that you’re not.

            And certainly, none of us ever has perfect works OR perfect faith. Thank God we don’t have to. But the counsel of the New Testament is consistent: “saving” faith is not just intellectual assent to theological premises; it involves a commitment to follow in Jesus’ footsteps.

            The Matthew 25 account of the sheep and the goats should give all of us pause. Jesus says that there will be people who called him “Lord,” but demonstrated that they were never His by their lack of concern for the poor.

            It’s probably safe to say that not all people who care for the poor are “saved,” but that no one is saved who ignores the cries of the poor.

          2. Rachelle

            Just to clarify: I wasn’t referring to one that claims to be saved ignoring the poor. I was more getting into the discussion of a saved person giving to the poor, tithing, etc. yet has more left over. Is that person then to feel guilty for having what some consider excess? Are they to give that away also, until they reach a certain level of acceptable wealth/poorness?

            Thank you for the discussion! I love it.

          3. John McCollum

            I think that we get it wrong when we ask questions like, “Are we supposed to feel guilty if we spend extra on ourselves?”

            It sounds to me like we’re trying to figure out the minimal amount we need to give to meet God’s standards. What I see in Jesus’ parables about the Kingdom and what I’ve seen in the lives of people who have been transformed by the experience of being powerfully used by God to meet the needs of the poor is a nearly unquenchable thirst to give away more, not less.

            Jesus said “Seek FIRST the Kingdom…I’ll take care of your other needs.” The Pharisees were the ones always trying to make it more complicated.

            Jesus doesn’t offer easy ratios (Give away a certain percentage and spend the rest on yourself). He invites all of us to give up everything and let him provide for us along the way.

            I know this sounds like a fluffy, self-righteous non-answer. But I can list dozens of people off the top of my head who have completely re-oriented their lives toward maximizing their contribution to God’s work among the poor.

            In fact, I met with a family yesterday who sold their house and moved to a much smaller one so they could give money to organizations that provide homes for orphans. Their motivations and calculations have been completely turned upside down as they’ve dug deeper into the really good stuff of the Kingdom.

  2. Liz

    It’s like the prayer in Talladega Nights “Thank you sweet baby Jesus for my hot, hot wife”…I’m paraphrasing but that cracked me up when I saw it, and it still cracks me up. We SHOULD be laughing at that. I give thanks to God for everything because I believe He is intimately invested in my life. But do I think He gave me concert tickets for my birthday to fulfill His kingdom? Nope. Not a chance. My dad always called it the religion of prosperity, and it never sat right with him. It doesn’t with me, either. The whole prayer of Jabez trend. I don’t believe He wants us to have excess – I DO believe what she is saying about the simplicity of the poor, those who rely on God fully. Me, with my 15 purses, I believe that. I should live it, too.

        1. Rachelle

          I ask because the USA is in the top 3% of the wealthiest nations in the world. Most average women in the US spend $125,000 on clothes in her lifetime. I would say that’s excessive.

  3. Brooke

    i understand her thoughts in the “God thing” chapter, and I use to agree with her. I made fun of my mother when she credited God with something trivial. The older I get, however, the more I realize that when Romans says “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose. ” all means all. hardship. healing. death. and yes, even new curtains.

    1. Brooke

      ALTHOUGH i do want to clarify that I don’t think this makes God = Santa Claus. There is a difference in praising Him because your HVAC got fixed quickly and turning your prayer request list into your Christmas wish list.

      1. Marla Taviano

        I’ve gotten into the (very good) habit of thanking and praising God for all things big and small. I think his hand is in EVERYTHING. I think what she’s saying is a little different. That we think God is approving/blessing our excessive wants. I’m not sure where the line is between “thank you, God, for providing this meal for me today” and “thank you, God, for giving me the $ to buy this $200 purse.”

        And I’m not doing a very good job this morning of expressing the thoughts in my head in writing. 🙂

        1. Brooke

          as with everything, i think its the approach and attitude of the person. HOWEVER, i suck at giving God credit for anything, being thankful for what I have, and trusting him in anything.

          since i’ve caused hurt by disagreeing with those who credit him with trivial blessings, i now hesistate to open my mouth with objections to things of that nature.

          and you know i’m too cheap to ever spend $200 on a purse 😉

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