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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Why the Poor?

Jesus said, "There will always be the poor among you." I've wrestled with that over the years. I wish He hadn't said it. I wish it weren't true. My gut has told me for a long time that it is though.

I recently heard a credible economist talking about the "bottom global billion." She explained that there are about a billion people in the world today who qualify as officially poor. They are the poorest of the poor, living well below the poverty level by any definition.

It appears that the "bottom global billion" is destined to become the "bottom global two billion." Sociologists and economists have noticed that the poorest people have more babies and reproduce more consistently. For some strange reason, when people become affluent, they stop reproducing. The wealthiest countries in the world seem to have the lowest birth rates. And the poorest countries in the world have the highest birth rates.

Now I've talked before about how God supplies most people with the personal and financial abilities to respond to the needs of others. If we all realized how God has blessed (i.e., equipped) us, and if we all used our resources to do God's will, hunger and poverty would be eradicated from the face of the earth.
Jesus said there will always be the poor among you. But God has always had a plan for them. He wants you and I to take care of them. So if that was the plan all along, why do you think Jesus said what He said about the poor? I think it's because Jesus saw the future. He knew we would spend our money on gated, golf course communities. He knew we would spend our money on cruises. He knew we would spend our money on granite counter tops, stainless steel appliances, updating mature homes, paying our kids' cell phone bills and buying cars we don't need to take us places we don't really need to go. Instead of helping the poor.

It seems that Jesus knew we would spend millions of dollars on dogs and cats. He knew we'd buy a stroller for our kitty and proudly prance around the neighborhood with her (like one of my neighbors did this week). He knew we would buy nail polish for the poodle and take the lab to a doggie spa. He knew we would pay for the collie to go to doggie day care so she wouldn't be lonely at home while we work. Instead of caring for the poor.

Jesus saw the future and He knew we would make it a priority to shop for new clothes often. He knew we would stuff our closets so full of clothes that we'd have to weed them out and empty them every once in a while. Heck, I bet Jesus even knew we'd have to have yard sales and garage sales to get rid of all the crap that piles up in our houses - because we're so busy accumulating stuff. Instead of helping the poor.

Oh I know. You'll get mad at me. You'll say I'm being mean. Someone will write and ask me who I am to be judging everyone else. Maybe someone will question my granite counter tops and my RV. (They'd be right.) But you see, I'm not judging. I'm observing. I see it in myself. I see it in my family. I see it in my peers, neighbors, co-workers and even in my church.

And don't talk to me about that bag of food you put out for the mailman to pick up yesterday. Or that money you dropped into the Salvation Army kettle at Christmas time. Don't tell me about little Juan in Peru that you sponsor for $30 a month. Those things make you feel good. And while they do some good, they will never eradicate poverty and suffering. And we both know that you are capable of doing considerably more than you are. (I am too!)

There will always be the poor among us - because we refuse to take care of them. It is that simple.

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