People like witty sayings and if you are a user of social media, this is obvious. People love to use wise things that people have said as their status updates–and I do, too, especially if it’s something that makes me laugh.
One of my favorite parts of the Bible is the book of Proverbs. The leaders at Crosspoint Church in Nashville have challenged their members and friends to read through the book of Proverbs in January–31 days in January, 31 chapters in Proverbs. I really like it when things fit neatly and I love schedules and plans, so I decided to do it, too, since I haven’t read through Proverbs in a long time. Today’s passage is Proverbs 22 (see, it’s also easy to remember where you are in your reading!).
Proverbs 22 deals a lot with the difference between being rich and being poor and the difference in what it means to be rich with God or rich with the world.
Those who are generous are blessed,
for they share their bread with the poor. (v. 9)
Oppressing the poor in order to enrich oneself,
and giving to the rich, will lead only to loss. (v. 16)
Do not rob the poor because they are poor,
or crush the afflicted at the gate;
for the Lord pleads their cause
and despoils of life those who despoil them. (v. 22-23)
This is a time when the spotlights of the world are focused on poverty. From the earthquakes that have destroyed a nation that was already one of the poorest nations in our world, to a food crisis in Africa, to our own main streets where people wait in unemployment lines and visit food pantries, need is obvious.
It’s so easy when faced with such terrible need (such as with what is happening in Haiti) to question why God would allow poverty. The fact, of course, isn’t that God allows poverty, but that we allow poverty. It seems the gap between rich and poor continues to grow as those who have keep getting and those who do not keep suffering. The response to the disaster in Haiti has been enormous–we are generous like that, when our hearts are wrenched by what we see on our televisions and computers. But Jesus promised that the poor would always be with us and we would not have to look very hard to find poverty that is not covered by NPR, CNN or Fox news.
I’m not blogging about this because I think I have all the answers, because honestly, I don’t have any answers. I mean, obviously, I think that those who have (and if you make more than $2 a day, you have more than like 80% of the world’s population) should give to and for those who do not. And I know a lot of people who are giving until it hurts. For Haiti, for relief in Africa, for local people who need a meal and a chance. But it’s bigger than that.
When my youth group students talked about injustice last week, one thing they agreed on. The Church has to stand together against injustice. They also agreed that this is a difficult thing to imagine because it doesn’t seem like the Church (meaning all followers of Jesus) stand together on anything very well. It seems that we get too easily distracted by smaller issues and issues that offend our doctrines more than they offend our senses of justice and humanity.
I suppose I really believe the answer lies in what we know about the early church.
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at homeand ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved. Acts 2:42-47
What would it look like if we shared everything in common? A lot different than it looks right now, I suppose. I guess this proposal would seem too much like “socialism” or “communism” or another “ism” to feel like a good, comfortable idea for many people. Yet, doesn’t this seem to be the secret of the early church? Being together, sharing all things in common, selling goods and possessions to give to those in need…
[That’s hard to think about living out for most of us, but it’s not for some. My husband, for one, would probably like to sell all of our possessions. He’s been on this anti-“Hoarders” kick where he’s been looking at websites of people who have proclaimed themselves minimalists. He especially like the 100 item challenge–some people have 100 items or less. That’s all they own–100 things. And everything counts (except, apparently, all of your underwear counts as 1 item, which I think is good because otherwise that could get gross).]
My hope is that people in leadership and with influence in the Church would continue to wrestle with these issues. What would it mean for the church to reverse a world wide crisis? What would we have to sacrifice? What would it mean for our church agendas? What would we have to release? Yet, I also know that in order for change to come, I need to struggle with this, too. We all need to be struggling with this and working it out in our day to day lives. What can I do? Who can I help? What can I teach my youth group about this issue? What does my giving look like and what can I eliminate from my life in order to help those in need?
So many questions, not enough answers. Yet, I find hope in the words of the proverb:
The rich and the poor have this in common:
the Lord is the maker of them all. (v. 2)
We’re all created by a loving God who cares for us. I’m praying for my brothers and sisters for whom physical need is a struggle today. And I’m praying for myself and my brothers and sisters who can do something about that.