In American churches, especially among my generation, there is a lot of talk about poverty and the benefits of living poor, living with the poor, living poorer than the poor, being like the poor, and caring about the poor. There is a lot of truth to that, and poverty is a common topic all throughout the Bible, especially -- and understandably -- in Jesus' life.

I (this is Jay) had heard a lot of the talk before we came. Talk that the poor are happier because all they have is Jesus. Talk that our problem in America is that we are distracted by our stuff. Or that we just need to be poor to truly experience Jesus. Maybe you haven't heard such talk, but I have had many conversations on the topic, with people who nobly want to follow God's example and live with the poor/become poor/act poor/love the poor. And now I  am doing all of that stuff. And in a short amount of time, I have already had some thoughts on it. (disclaimer: these are subject to change as I grow up) And these are not meant to be controversial, simply my thoughts on what I have been seeing. 


Thought 1: Poverty is awful -- not an original thought, i know. But it so often seems so easy to glorify poverty. I know many of you have friends who live in poverty in America, so I don’t have to convince you that poverty is bad wherever you are.  And it is truly sad when people do not have enough food to eat, do not have clothes to wear, do not have access to basic education, do not have clean water, and cannot go to a doctor when their child is dying of perfectly treatable diarrhea. And we do not even know from experience. We still live as extremely wealthy by Haitian standards, but we see it all around.

Note: I am not getting into the politics of poverty and who to vote for. Nor am I getting into the causes of poverty and how bad decisions lead to bad conditions. Nor am I getting into the economics of poverty and how to alleviate it. Go find the guy at the water cooler if you want to talk more about those ideas. (Hint: Mention Al Gore’s name at the water cooler for a guaranteed extra five minutes of bonus conversation.)

Thought 2: Poverty is not the virtue we think it is -- people are not holier or more pious because they live in poverty. People in poverty still want stuff. Their hearts are still naturally bent towards greed and selfishness. As are mine and yours. The people with no “stuff” (i.e. Beanie Babies, Tickle Me Elmo’s, Rollerblades and Gorilla Glue) are not better or holier than people with the stuff. They just have no avenue to show the symptoms of their disease. The human condition is the disease in all of us. The desire for more stuff is the evidence of the disease, not the disease itself. And getting rid of the evidence does not, therefore, get rid of the disease. Jesus came for the rich and for the poor, because we all have the disease. Thus, becoming poor or longing to be poor is not going to fix you, or anybody else.


Thought 3: Physical poverty and spiritual poverty are not the same things – God came to rescue us because we were spiritually impoverished. We have nothing to offer. We couldn’t survive on our own. And I believe God rescuing us gives him the glory. It is good that we are spiritually needy. And I think people are blessed when they realize this need. But I don’t think the same is true for physical poverty. We have friends here who I love dearly. And I see that physical poverty is hard. And I would not wish it on my worst enemy. I think absolute spiritual poverty is a blessing. Absolute physical poverty is terrible.

Poverty is not the issue. It is awful. Our hearts are the issue. And they are spiritually needy. Thanks be to God that he has come to save us. And that one day our hearts and our world can live without poverty.     

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In other news, if you haven;t done so in a while, check out the pictures tab. We uploaded some new pictures of life all-around.
 


Comments

10/15/2009 8:56pm

That picture of Jay and that little boy is the most precious thing I've ever seen. Give Sweet Reina a hug for me and hugs all around...I love you guys!

Reply
kyle
10/17/2009 3:47am

fresh words birdo! im rezon8n.

i look forward to the followup when you grow up.

Reply
Cameron
10/19/2009 3:38pm

Nice work Jay. I have often fallen into the temptation to talk about poverty in primarily positive ways. On the one hand, Christianity is growing exponentially faster in poor parts of the world (Asia, Africa, South America) than in rich parts (Europe/America). But on the other hand, you are right that poverty is a form of injustice that God must hate. Perhaps the (mistaken) way we talk about poverty might flow from the (generally correct) way we talk about religious persecution. As you say, “Poverty is not a virtue,” whereas experiencing religious persecution is a virtue. In the case of religious persecution there is more biblical support for the notion that we should be inclined/even eager (rather than just willing) to join Christ in the condition. I am prone to conflate the two types of suffering, poverty and religious persecution. Thanks for distinguishing poverty by pointing out that there is nothing inherently virtuous about it. -Cameron

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Britta
10/27/2009 7:01pm

Jay--
Such sweet words and moving reminders of the way(s) our hearts just don't quite ever get it right, no matter how high-class our 'things' or high-class our 'ideas on non-things.'

Nothing about physical poverty is sexy. But wouldn't we like to fix our minds around ideations rather than salvation and transformation?

In the face of tragic brokenness and of my own pride, I must be reminded of the truth daily-- the truth that you are so honestly working through: as we spend countless hours dedicated to the restoration of broken lives to dignity, may we be reawakened to the amount of dedication the Father has to his people - including ourselves, especially ourselves.

Love to you and D and the team.

B

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