Friday, March 14, 2014

Deuteronomy: Poverty

It's a cultural buzz these days to focus on the elimination of poverty. Since I am at a Christian based university, my students call it the "Christian thing to do". To be honest, it probably originates from both cultural and Christian sources for them. If you think of the major issues being addressed in Christian circles today, it seems that they are the same issues of culture - LGBT community, gender equality, environmental concerns. That's not a bad thing - a Christianity that does not connect with culture is not reflecting the values of Christ - though hopefully its not the only source of motivation for Christians.

Which brings me back to poverty in the Torah. I find Deuteronomy to be insightful. In one chapter, the text makes these three statements.
15:4  However, there need be no poor people among you, for in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you . . .
15:7 If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites . . .
15:11 There will always be poor people in the land. 

Some might read these as contradictory but I think there is more to it. The entire Torah is written to reveal God to us. If we begin with that concept in mind, then what the text is telling us is that the Father will supply his people with enough resources so that everyone will have plenty. He is generous and calls us to be the same. However, being fallen humans, we tend to be selfish not self-less. We accumulate resources for the good of self rather than administrate them for the good of others. Therefore, poverty will always be present not due to a lack of resources but due to the fallen nature of those of us who administrate the resources.

So it seems to me that we can continue LBJ's "war on poverty" at many different levels; but if the human heart is not addressed, all other corrections are doomed to fail.

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