The Tension of Ever-Abiding Poverty

Our recent reflections upon financial stewardship have caused me to consider our responsibility toward the marginalized. One of the Bible’s teachings about poverty, found in both the Old and New Testaments, is that there will always be poor people (Deut. 15:11 and Mark 14:7). I’m reminded of some modern-day campaigns to end poverty, both regionally and globally. They’re often commendable and worthy of support – and the church would do well to even imitate their passion and resolve! – yet their mission is seemingly futile in light of Biblical revelation, which is: Yes, we are to work for the elimination of poverty, but we also understand that it will never go away.

Why won’t poverty ever go away? One reason is that a large portion of the population would never consider being that charitable, for it would mean relinquishing some comforts, which – let’s face it – is definitely not easy. On the other hand, for those who would show an active concern for the poor, it’s not only a matter of obedience, but it’s also formative. It helps us to both (1) learn stewardship, rather than ownership, and (2) become more like God, as one who gives good gifts to everybody (Matt. 5:45). We can easily become “hardhearted and tightfisted toward” the poor (Deut. 15:7), especially since investing resources into poor people can be unpleasant. But, remember: “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8), meaning that (perhaps, to put it mildly) it was quite unpleasant for God to get involved with us; but, in love, he still gave.

Offer a prayer with me that God would shape us by softening our hearts and opening our arms in generous response to the poor. It may hurt, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.