All Forms of Human Poverty (a repost)
When you hear the word ‘poverty,’ what picture comes to mind? Do you see the starving children in war torn Sudan or do you see the HIV/AIDS orphans in South Africa? Do you see the homeless in New York City or do you see the immigrants coming from Cuba or Mexico? What picture comes to mind?
I would imagine it’s difficult to think holistically, but please try. Try thinking of poverty in more than simply physical terms. And once you try thinking this way, please imagine doing something to eradicate poverty that isn’t just physical. For example, how would you eliminate the poverty within the soul of the white suburban girl, who is on antidepressants, recovering from an eating disorder, and struggling with absent parents? She will probably get in to college, will probably never struggle with clothing or shelter, but she is a shell of a human being. She is quite poor.
Let’s now move the camera to focus in on the gay man who was raised in the church, wants to worship God, but feels unwelcome by people who sing of grace and hear preaching on forgiveness. This man came out because he loves another man and wants to spend his life with this other man and they both want to know Jesus. Yet, the followers of Jesus have no more patience and there are some sins that only God can forgive. And so the rejection and loneliness of the people of God leaves some seekers rather poor.
So, we peek through yet another camera lens and see a portrait of a young girl without status in society and no chance of receiving a formal education. She lives in parts of the Middle East or maybe even parts of Africa and while she has dreams and aspirations, she has no hope. She is a woman who possesses a wealth of potential, but lives in utter poverty of spirit.
All of these portraits decorate the landscape with the Darfur region as well as the genocide survivors. The tapestry on the wall has panels of girls sold into prostitution and suicidal Ivy League coeds who hate the way their bodies look. There are children of divorce sitting next to children who to this day have no idea where their father lives. Men, who are addicted to porn, sit next to men who are workaholics and are home one day a week.
These pictures are disturbing, familiar, haunting, and normal all at once. Issues abound on the streets of our cities for all to see and point their finger at, while similar issues wreak havoc in the suburbs, behind gated communities and closed doors where no one will notice. More and more, these images describe a group of people known as the church. And this fact is both invigorating and instructive as we see that the ones commissioned to reach out to the poor are also quite poor.
After all, the only way in to the church is admission of sin, guilt, and shame. And the only way in to heaven is admission of helplessness, guilt, and one’s need of cleansing. So, let’s take seriously the call to reach the poor. Let’s take seriously the call to feed the hungry, bandage the wounded, visit the imprisoned, loose the chains of oppression, and rescue the enslaved. Let’s mobilize and reach all forms of human poverty because in the depth of our being, we know that we can’t live only by sight. There has got to be more than meets the eye.
The solutions to eradicating poverty must involve the physical and nothing less than seeking to feed, clothe, and provide shelter for every human being on the planet. Yet, those stumbling after Christ don’t live by sight. People fumbling through life listening to the words of Jesus of Nazareth must peek beyond the physical and do something about all forms of human poverty. The physical is never separated from the spiritual. Indeed, this is a picture for your mind. Think on it and then don’t waste it. If you get this picture fixed in your mind, then don’t call it hopeless, call it art. For a vision of true humanity isn’t just helpful, it’s priceless.