The Simple Living Challenge: Everyone Drinks the Same Water

In one of the most famous and memorable scenes from the Bible, Moses parts the Red Sea (with divine help) to lead the Israelites out of Egypt.  The Pharaoh’s army gives chase and is swallowed up by the waters as they crash back to their natural state.  If I were a soldier in Pharoh’s army, my thoughts would have gone like this:

  • These refugee slaves have no weapons nor fighting experience.  Capturing them will be a cinch.
  • Holy ****!  Did the Red Sea just open up for them?
  • I’m not going to follow them into *that* — are you kidding?  The sea could come back anytime, and in case you were wondering, my bronze breastplate does not double as a life preserver.
  • I wonder if I can sneak off before my fellow archers cut me down.
  • Well, everyone else is running onto the sea bed.  I guess I’ll take my chances.
  • <the sound of a thousand waterfalls>

But let’s say a few stragglers did manage to stay behind on dry land as they watched the rest of their army drown.  They’re separated from the Israelites by a sea of water.  Completely hopeless and demoralized, they had to trudge home with the fail story of a lifetime.

Fast forward a few thousand years.  Water is again dividing two groups of people, but now they are the rich and the poor.  The rich live in luxury, so much that drinking clean tap water is considered declasse.  The poor, on the other hand, are literally dying from lack of clean water.  The very same water that is not good enough for you and me, is out of reach for many of the world’s poor.  I wonder if Jesus walked the Earth today, instead of turning water into wine, he would be turning HFCS soft drinks into water for the poor to drink.

But perhaps we can take matters into our own hands.  For this upcoming season of Lent, let’s do our part to cross this clean-water divide.  The idea is very simple: Everyone Drinks the Same Water.  The rich socialite who doesn’t think twice about dropping $5 for a half double decaffeinated half-caf, with a twist of lemon — he can drink the same water as the homeless earthquake survivor in Haiti.

How will we do this?  During Lent, those with access to clean tap water will step down their tastes and refrain from any other drinks.  And those without such access, well they need… wells.  So let’s help them build wells by saving the money we normally might have spent on other drinks.  In addition, let’s find sponsors to donate for each day we drink only water.  If you’d like to join us or even if you’re just curious, please visit our Simple Living Challenge signup page.  We’ll kick off the Challenge at sunrise on Tuesday, March 15.

This past Advent we ran the Just Giving Challenge, inviting you readers to give as much to the poor as you spent on Christmas gifts.  With our matching grant, we gave $12,100 to a variety of worthy causes.  Quite an inspirational way to reclaim Christmas.  I hope we can reclaim Easter in the same way, and make Lent a meaningful season for people on both sides of the clean-water sea.


3 thoughts on “The Simple Living Challenge: Everyone Drinks the Same Water

  1. I want to affirm Ed and Gary in that clean water access is a big issue that we should be concerned about. But like so many causes, good intentions and fundraising do not necessarily translate to true impact, and while drinking tap water for a while is definitely a challenge, finding a good charity that funnels funds for true long-term impact may be even more difficult. According to only one charity,, actually publishes follow-up reports on the long-term functioning of wells. (

    If I were to raise funds for clean water, I would spend all of it towards research and evaluation of the impact of the various water programs out there.

    • Hey Christina,

      Thanks for your thoughts. I also read the givewell report, and while I very much appreciate their insight, I drew a different conclusion.

      Givewell only recommends 9 charities out of the 408 they’ve reviewed because they want the NGO sector to provide more quantitative, rigorous testing for their projects to demonstrate effectiveness. I take their point–there should be more of that.

      But I don’t agree that only 9 charities are worth supporting or that no charities working in clean water are doing good work. Givewell doesn’t even recommend Partners in Health or the Carter Center! Speaking personally, I’m very confident that whatever money I give, even to imperfect NGOs, will be much better invested that whatever relative luxury I would have otherwise spent on myself.

      But of course, I respect your convictions as well. Do you have any concrete suggestions for funding research & evaluation of water programs?

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