Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Did Jesus End Poverty?

Regarding This...
We are making a statement to the world about ending poverty in the third world.

Jesus predicted, in another context (yet also somewhat related to the situation in the Anglican church), that, “...many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.” (Mat. 24:11). The Apostle Peter also assured us that heresies would occur. “...there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them...” (2 Peter 2:1). Tertullian, in his work, Prescription Against Heretics," with the preceding Scriptures in mind, warned that heresies were to be expected, because, “When it has been determined that a thing must by all means be... it is impossible for it not to have existence."

The same, may I say, must also apply to poverty. Jesus said, "You will always have the poor among you..." (John 12:8) Therefore, we can be confident that... well, we will always have the poor among us, no matter how many wonderful plans we put in place to, "end poverty" forever. Now let me be clear that I think there is a world of difference between helping the poor (which is an admirable work and which we are called to do) and "ending poverty." Deuteronomy 15:11 puts it into perspective; "There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land." In other words, as Christians, we certainly are to help the poor in our midst, but ending poverty completely, I'm afraid, is not really a realistic goal, and declaring that you are going to do so does nothing but diminish your credibility. Asserting we can and will do so indicates, in a way, that we think we somehow know better than God.

What should the Christian's focus be? Certainly we are called to have pity on the poor and give them aid and comfort, but our real actions should be governed by our view of eternity. If we believe there is an eternal existence beyond this life on earth, and that our eternal destiny depends on coming to faith in Jesus Christ here on this earth, then we must believe that preparing for that eternity carries more weight than simply satisfying our needs here on earth. To the universalist, who believes that everyone will eventually attain salvation, or to the person who believes there is no afterlife at all, the needs of the moment are all that are important.

Another aspect here is that many of the people who are calling for an end to poverty are not so much making personal sacrifices to that end themselves, but calling on others (namely governments) to do it for them. It is, as Doug Wilson put it, a way of saying, "I gave at the office," and thinking they've done all they could. But after the march to end poverty referenced above, the Lambeth bishops returned to a sumptuous multi-course meal. Their message might have carried more weight if they had partaken of bread and water, or, at the very most perhaps, grilled cheese sandwiches.

Food for thought.

Take Care

1 comment:

David said...

John,
Well said. I have the greatest respect for those who give their lives to serve the poor for Christ. And nothing but contempt for those who adopt this as a posture while doing nothing.