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Larry C

There are so many who claim Christ but do not follow His teachings. This latest post clearly places you in that group. You jump up and down shouting about "what the Bible says" and totally ignore what Christ did or His teachings on the Law and Prophets (Old Testament).

In this case you should start with Deuteronomy 15, specifically verse 11, but please read the entire chapter so you might understand Christ’s view of the poor.

Deut 15:11 "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."

I would guess your reply would be that Christ did not say this, God did. So then read John 11:14 and Paul’s Letter to the Church at Colossae, Colossians 1, specifically verses 15-23. But again, you would benefit from reading the entire chapter.

Jobezking

Nope. Poverty has a singular cause: the fall of Adam. Therefore, poverty cannot be eliminated with market-based economies and capitalism (which by the way did not exist until about 450 years ago anyway; before then most economies were feudal or tribal). And it cannot be eliminated with hard work (haven't you heard of the phrase "working poor"?). An example: Christian Dalits in India. Very hard working and very poor Christian people in a capitalist country.

Now the purpose of the gospel of Jesus Christ was not to eliminate poverty. That is where not only the liberal Christians (liberation theology et al) err, but also strangely enough a lot of religious right types, including the ones who assert that America's wealth and power is due to our having some sort of special covenant relationship with God, or having a large population of churchgoing people. Never mind the wealthy powerful pagan empires that the world has seen, or the many nations with lots of Christians that are poor. (It also ignores the poverty of the early church ... called Ebionies because the term means "poor.")

Instead, the purpose of the gospel of Jesus Christ is to save sinners. Not to lift people out of poverty or to transform nations, cultures and economies. And there will be rich Christians, middle class Christians and especially poor Christians until Jesus Christ returns and sets up New Jerusalem.

And I would caution against your claiming that poor people are in this condition because they are lazy. Luke 6:20 reads "And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God." Of course, in America, people of a more conservative political bent tend to look at Matthew 5:3 and insert "in spirit" into Luke 6:20. Sorry, that type of hermeneutics is just as political agenda-driven as is what the liberation theologians do, especially when we interpret Luke 6:20 in light of the rich young ruler, and of the negative examples of the rich man parables (Lazarus and the man who stored his goods in barns). Of course, the liberation theology people purposefully misinterpret those parables, but politically conservative evangelicals and fundamentalists simply ignore them, and are more likely to pay attention to the poor-bashing of politically conservative radio talk show hosts than what the Bible - and especially the New Testament - actually says about the poor (and the rich).

Mike Baker

There are more causes for poverty than the few that this article mentions.

Poverty is also caused by the external sources and circumstances of this fallen world which are beyond human control (natural disasters, famine, overpopulation, plain "bad luck", etc). To exclude these circumstances is to oversimplify the problem of poverty as a purely human condition divorced of the particulars of man's environment.

It is true that institutional unfairness is not the only cause of poverty, but to blame the poor as the only alternative is to “fall off the donkey on the other side”. There are causes of poverty that are not anyone's fault per se. Sometimes people are poor without it being self-inflicted or having it inflicted upon them by some other human agency. To assume that, if the guilty party would just do what their supposed to, poverty would not exist is unrealistic. The presupposition that man is master of this world rather than just a steward of it is a level of human pride on par with the Tower of Babel. We are not the unencumbered masters of our own destiny. There are problems in this world that we must battle against, but should recognize that we will never fully eradicate.

We must have the humility to admit that human potential is woefully limited. Even if you could have a perfect economic system that was perfectly fair and just, there would still be poor because there are things in this world that are just beyond human control. Even if you work hard and do your best you can still be mired in poverty because there are things in this world that are just beyond human control. This gets to the root of the problem on both extremes: The assumption that man (corporately or individually) is the key variable that controls his environment if he would just get his act together. There is no promise of this--not in Scripture and not in the example of recorded history.

One needs only look at the example of Job to see that some circumstances defy man's ability to understand or mitigate. No social system could have prevented Job's loss. No hard work on Job's part could have kept him from the junk heap. It was God who restored Job. It is God who provides our daily bread. We must not lose sight of that.

Both Social Justice and Rugged Individualism are unrealistic in that they operate in hypothetical worlds that simply do not exist after The Fall. Poverty is part of the curse and is a problem that will never be overcome as long as this fallen world exists. While individual situations can be cured and localized improvements can be made, there is no promise that a particular situation is fixable or that the problem on a macroscopic level will ever disappear. We can treat disease, but we will not eliminate all infirmity. We can cure illness, but your individual malady may be beyond our reach. Humans have limits both corporately and individually. We seem to forget that in these modern and post-modern ages.

We also should not exclude the small minority of individuals who are voluntarily poor and choose to live that way. If one assumes that poverty is the most undesirable state and no one would WANT to be poor then their addiction to worldly possessions has been made obvious. This greed and shallow materialism is rampant on both ideological extremes of this topic.

Paula

Mike, did you read the article?

Chris said
There are many causes of poverty and it is beyond the scope of this article to provide an extensive look at all of the causes of poverty

Mike Baker

I did read the article. Did you read my comment?

Chris said, "There are many causes of poverty and it is beyond the scope of this article to provide an extensive look at all of the causes of poverty."

I said, "There are more causes for poverty than the few that this article mentions."

It looks like we were in agreement on that point. That’s why I started my comment that way. I then went on to generally point out some of the other causes that BOTH Chris and I agree exist. I guess my only disagreement that I have with Chris (which is a minor one to be sure!) would be that I think that we should at least mention the other causes of poverty because they are important to the topics of poverty and social justice.

The other causes are important to the topic because the nonhuman causes of poverty make Social Justice even more untenable. The real problem with Social Justice is not just that it is wrong, but also that it is unrealistic. It presupposes that man can completely control his environment so that he can eradicate social ills when this has never been the case in human history. This was the point that ultimately proved that Prohibition was a bad idea: not so much that it was wrong, but that it just did not work in the real world. I think that this is a strong argument against social justice because it points out that their goal is impossible.

And so the intent of my comment was to include some examples that were beyond the scope of Chris' original point rather than just parrot what has already been said. It serves this topic to discuss these matters further and deeper. Why? Because the additional causes of poverty are important for us to discuss. They also further prove Chris’ original thesis which was in the title of the post: That there is “no one-size fits all poverty victim narrative”.

As “Jobezking” pointed out, there is also a danger in blaming poor people for being lazy without qualifiers. This should always be considered because it is so prevalent. There is a large strain of thought among our own camp that has embraced the political boiler plate that basically says "if someone is poor in this great land of opportunity, it must be their fault". This popular misconception must be explicitly disproved when we talk about causes of poverty. This is a popular excuse that people fall back on when they sinfully avoid charity to their neighbor. In my work with the poor, I have found that this assumption runs rampant through an Americanized Christian Church that seems to listen to the founding fathers more than Scripture. You probably know people who believe that all homeless are just lazy and/or felons. This is just not the case and we should correct this misconception as strongly as we do the errors of Social Justice because it serves as a significant barrier to charity and compassion. So I think that any mention of the poor should include the point that some people are poor through no fault or sin. It is important... not just to win an argument against our opponents, but to remind everyone that there are actual victims of poverty through no fault of anyone that need our help.

In Summary: I agreed with Chris. I didn't address Chris’ points because he did a good job of laying them out. I just felt they were incomplete and wanted to broaden the discussion. I thought that the comment section was a good place to do this. I think that my intent has been misunderstood. My goal was not to argue with Chris but to openly discuss this important topic. Sometimes people aren't engaging in Red Herring arguementation. Sometimes they agree with what has been said and just want to expand, broaden, or deepen the discussion beyond the scope of the original point.

I'm sorry if I have confused, mislead, or frustrated people.

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