Eugene Cho
Overrated: Are We More in Love with the Idea of Changing the World Than Actually Changing the World?
David C Cook, Colorado Springs, US, 2014
ISBN: 978-0781411127

Overrated

 

"Overrated tells something of the struggle they went through - in particular Eugene and his struggle with giving up his 1990 Mazda Miata named ‘Blue Thunder’ - in coming to terms with that call. More broadly, the book, as the title alludes to, looks at the struggle between our desire to want to help people in need but our unwillingness to follow through with action once we become aware of the cost."

Several years ago Seattle pastor Eugene Cho and his wife Minhee felt a call to do, what in Australian vernacular, amounted to "putting their money where their mouth was".

They felt convicted to start an organisation called One Day’s Wages – the name comes from the idea that its works to allieviate extreme poverty be funded by people donating one day’s wages – and to kick it off, they felt the call to lead the way by donating a year’s wages themselves - a pastor's salary of $US68,000 – to the cause.

Overrated tells something of the struggle they went through - in particular Eugene and his struggle with giving up his 1990 Mazda Miata named ‘Blue Thunder’ - in coming to terms with that call. More broadly, the book, as the title alludes to, looks at the struggle between our desire to want to help people in need but our unwillingness to follow through with action once we become aware of the cost.

He’s got a point, particularly in this age of social media when ‘clicktivism’ and jumping on board a 'cause', useful as it may be in raising awareness of an issue, is seen as an end in itself. But don’t think Cho is simply pointing the finger at the rest of us. Overrated, as Cho repeatedly acknowledges, is a “personal confession” of his own struggle.

His journey to starting One Day’s Wages took a great leap forward a couple of years before he and his wife made the decision to give up a year's wages when, during a trip to Myanmar, he was shocked to learn teachers at a local school were paid just $US40 a year - a fact which meant they'd head across the border to Thailand - and better pay - as soon as they could.

“To some degree, I shouldn’t have been surprised. I already knew about global poverty, knew the numbers, knew them by heart, in fact, because I memorized many of them for the talks I did at churches, universities and conferences. But now I was seeing the people behind the statistics, it wrecked me. We couldn’t sit around and go back to life as usual.”

Having introduced his personal story, Cho turns his attention to some big issues - the relationship between justice and Christians and looking at the Biblical evidence for God’s heart for justice and concludes that the pursuit of justice an intrinsic part of the Gospel.

Reflecting on the pressures of living in a noisy, consumerist society such as the US (and, I add, Australia), he explores what philanthropy means in the Christian context and the need we have when exploring issues like justice to come before God and spend time listening and allowing Him to shape our response. He also highlights the importance of hearing from those we’re trying to help before we dive in based on what we think they most need.

He also talks about the importance of tenacity in responding to justice - of pressing on regardless of the setbacks, the necessity of regularly questioning our motives and the need to remain humble (is your obsession with the "earth-shattering" stopping you from befriending, loving and serving those in your own backyard?), and, we love this one at Sight, the call to go deeper, to become an expert on the issue you’re seeking to address that you may be more effective in addressing it.

A quick read but the sort of book you might want to regularly dip into to reground yourself every now and again. Overrated is all about living out our faith and not just talking about it. As Cho writes towards the end: “We can’t just be in love with the idea of changing the world…We must act. We must start somewhere. A movement always begins with a single step.”