Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Intentionality and theology of eradicating poverty

Today is Blog Action Day. I was not aware of this day nor its principal action: Fight Poverty. And I'm pretty sure there's a billion ways to talk about this. I could write about how about one half of the world lives on less than two dollars a day. I could talk about the fact that no matter how you try to spin it, two dollars a day is barely sufficient for life no matter where you are. I could talk about how few people get to live the life of luxury that even someone as "poor" as I do lives (I mean, we just bought two computers this year, we have instant access to medical care, we have at least some line of credit, we have clean and running water, our baby is healthy and well-fed and will most likely make it through to the age of three...), I could talk about the fact that though our economy is hitting the sink it really, really effects still-developing countries, I could talk about how many children die of starvation everyday, I could try to convince you to play Save the Planet app of Facebook because then at least you may do something...

Indeed, I could talk about all these things, and they are all tangible things. But I'm not so much into guilt as into motivation. I kind of want make it personal and tell how my mind has changed in the last few years.

It's not that I've never cared before. I would try to help the homeless around me. I would occasionally send money to distant places as a result of a tragedy. I became a teacher specifically for the poor and minorities in my city. These were good things and I'm not knocking them at all, but my faith wasn't at the center of my activities. I did them because I thought God wanted me to do them, sure, but I would have felt guilty if I hadn't. There was no real correlation between my faith and my (sporadic at times) deeds.

What I've discovered since then is not that God wants to bring us all to be with him in heaven forever, so forget about the earth, and you can forget about the poor (eventually), but that God is making plans to bring heaven down to earth. He is restoring all of the heavens and earth to the wonderful way it was at Creation. Lion lays down with the lamb, wipe away every tear, etc. What I discovered is that it is integral to God's mission - through Jesus - to feed the poor, heal the sick, and not just a part of God's mission on the way out of this world.

There is that old adage, Charity begins at home. We've tried to be intentional about that. For us, that means being informed about greater patterns in the world, about being involved in a local level, about welcoming people into our homes (sometimes to stay), about partaking in conversations and trying to gather and spread information that's useful, about making meals, about raising our daughter as a just and kind person. It is about being generous with what we have while preparing groundwork to be even more generous.

I have a lot of debts that we're trying to pay down. Having loads of debt (if this recent economic downturn is teaching Americans one thing, I hope it's this) keeps us from collecting wealth. And those of us with generous hearts, I think, should be gathering wealth to spread it. I think part of the problem is, we wait for the uber-rich, the two percent of the population who hold an ill-proportionate amount of the world's wealth in their hands, to do the work of ending poverty and sharing their wealth. Yet, with few exceptions (think the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation), the wealth consolidate their wealth. There's certainly more reasons to do this than I could possibly fathom, and they're all not selfish reasons at all. The thing to learn from this, however, is:
  1. We cannot wait for a fraction of a percentage of the world's population to do our work for us.
  2. Everyone who reads this blog has the ability - somehow and in some way - to generate and share resources.
  3. Make sure that the ways that we share our resources are sustainable and beneficial. In other words, giving a man a fish is fine, but it only lasts for a day. Teaching that man to fish is also good, but it may be your job to help build a road to the lake, to clean the lake and make sure that fish can survive and thrive in it, to check for bacterial and poisonous levels in the lake and lower them, to teach the man to clean, gut and cook the fish, etc. Not only on an individual basis (the one man) but as a part of a larger campaign.
  4. We play parts in this larger campaign. We cannot afford to spectate nor to all do the same task. We have different talents, different areas of expertise and different passions. Let's use them to eradicate poverty in unity, not conformity.


  1. Anonymous8:06 PM

    We finally agree on something...just kidding. I like the concept of teaching to fish instead of just feeding a fish. I volunteer with adult recovering addicts, which has been a great lesson for me. I also an a Guardian ad Litem. And six weeks ago, my wife and I helped start a feeding the needy ministry. We went from feeding ten to 151 in six weeks.

    Now the concern and question is tying my expereince all together to get to the "teaching to fish" stage....instead of fishing stage. As God continues to supply the resources I pray we will be wise with them and get to that stage.

    Thanks for the post


  2. hey, we're on the same page. yeah, the teaching part is hard work and you're right, it doesn't come instantly. certainly not with a population where you have to earn their trust and find out what you can best offer them (some are, after all, just looking for the hand-out. they already have their defenses up and spend most of their time just trying to survive. that's my experience).

    i'll pray for ya too on that. and i would ask for some for us. God's opening a lot of doors for us right now, but we've got a lot more to go through/do and little time to do it.

    peace bret.


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