The Poor

One doesn’t have to spend a whole lot of time reading the Bible to figure out that the poor have a special place in God’s heart.  It is relatively easy to make a case that if forced to choose, God chooses to side with the poor. Later this week my home church will host a “Christmas Store.”  This year we will be providing gifts for 1,700 children representing over 400 families.  Every one of the families is poor and their need is real.

This year I began my 18th year working for DOOR.  Our primary hope is to show visitors the face of God in the city.  When participants encounter the poor, God’s face consistently shines through in powerful life transforming ways.

However, there is a downside to 18 years of working and living in economically depressed communities – cynicism.  When it comes to lies and deceit the poor are as capable as the rich.  The wealthy do not own majority shares in greediness; to be perfectly honest, some of the greediest people I have ever encountered are poor.

After spending much of my adult life among the urban poor one thing is clear.  God does not side with the poor because of their integrity.  I think that God sides with the poor because they experience suffering and injustice at a base level.  Poverty in and of itself isn’t holy, but the perspective that poverty creates helps the poor to better understand Jesus’ condemnations of wealth.  It is the poor who suffer when social programs are cut or health care costs continue to skyrocket.  The poor are not morally superior to the wealthy, but they are much more likely to be sinned against because of the attitudes and greed of the wealthy.

This Christmas as you look for ways to serve the poor, don’t miss the opportunity for the poor to serve and educate you.

It’s that time of year… again

That space between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  No longer is it about family, games around the table, watching It’s a Wonderful Life, or reading the Christmas story.  Don’t get me wrong, this stuff still happens, but there is a new priority and it can be best summed up in two words – Black Friday. For the individual it’s about shopping, standing in line and getting a great deal.

For the corporation it’s about profit.

Taken together it seems to me that we are becoming a culture where consumerism is now the greatest social goal.  Sitting around the dinner table and visiting has been replaced by waiting for Target to open at midnight.  Church has been replaced by the mall.  The corporate executive has managed to replace Jesus as Savior.  Acquiring stuff is becoming more important than generosity.  The health of the economy has become more central to American culture than the health of our spirituality.

The hypocrisy of all of this is that believers would sooner argue about removing Christ from Christmas than refuse to participate in a system that is raping our very soul.

What would happen if the church, by this I mean all people who identify as “Christian,” chose to boycott Black Friday?  What would happen if we refused to go into financial debt during this season, even if it meant no iPad under the tree?

Please hear me correctly; I am not arguing that we shouldn’t give presents to each other.  I am not saying that shopping is inherently evil.  What I am suggesting is that we should prioritize people over shopping, service to others over indulgence to self, and worship to God over worship to stuff.

Salvation will not come from Wall Street, let’s choose to quit acting like it will, especially during this time of year.

Merry Christmas!