Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Poverty is Not a Virtue

It's true: Poverty is not a virtue; nor is being wealthy.

It's been awhile since I dragged out my soapbox. I'm typically not given to rants, or even to public outbursts. But today my soapbox is a perfectly pitched platform from which to pontificate.

Why is it we have this love/hate relationship with people of means? I can't answer that question, nor do I expect you to. I leave it dangling, confessing that I find it hideous to learn that football players & politicians make bijillions while teachers & train conductors make pennies by comparison.

I find it more hideous still to think that anyone, but especially a child, might be hungry, and living on any of America's streets.

These hideousnesses are followed by heartache when I consider how many believe that poverty - the having of little, or nothing - is a good thing. (I've often wondered who actually defines what, exactly that looks like, or how little qualifies for it.)
On more than one occasion it's sent me scrambling to the scriptures to see what, if anything, God has to say, or intended by His cautionary tone where material possessions are the topic dejour.
The fact is: it takes a tremendous amount of responsibility to handle God's blessings (in any form) obediently - be they creativity, prosperity, good health, opportunity, safety, family, friendships, employment, etc.
Let me be clear: I'm not an advocate of the Prosperity Gospel. I dislike the hucksterism that often props it up. But I also know that there would be no one among us able to obey God's command that we help the poor, serve the poor, feed the poor, love the poor if there weren't at least a FEW people with the means (either a wee bit, or a wow bit) to do so.

The mother of revolution
and crime is poverty.
~ Aristotle
As my post denotes: poverty is not a virtue - at least not that I can discern.
Certainly the poor in our midst are blessed in a unique way (they KNOW they need help), but nowhere in God's good Book can I find an encouragement to embrace poverty as a lifestyle. To give? Yes! To Share? You betcha! To feed & clothe others? A must! To look at one's possessions (and bank account) as a blessing? Absolutely! To walk humbly while holding lightly to one's "stuff"? Definitely!
“The inevitable consequence
of poverty is dependence”.
~ Samuel Johnson
Money, material possessions, and mammon are not in themselves bad, or sinful. Nor is the lack of them. It's how we view them, or use (or misuse) them that brings about their dangers.
Today's soapbox is, in truth, meant for me. This business of poverty has been bugging me for quite some time, but today's the day to ferret out the facts of homelessness & poverty in my community. I need to know about about it. I need to care about it. I need to do more than rant from my soapbox.
Words and rants are easy to come by. What follows them determines whether or not I'm rich, or stuck in poverty myself.
“No man can tell whether he is rich
or poor by turning to his ledger.
It is the heart that makes a man rich.
He is rich or poor according to what he is,
not according to what he has.”
~ Henry Ward Beecher
My initial ferreting produced this: In the span of one month, in one county, in one state we learn ...

Pierce County Homeless Survey, January 2010
According to those surveyed, in 2010, there are 1,807 homeless men, women, and children in Pierce County. Including

  • 1,110 individuals in 333 families
  • 677 children under the age of 18
  • Single individuals comprised of 410 males, 126 females and 18 (no gender) for a total of 554 singles
  • Of the singles, there are 160 chronic persons on the streets or in emergency shelter
  • 16 individuals identified themselves as being chronically homeless before being housed in transitional housing
  • 57 veterans were chronically homeless


Thena said...

It's sad and I always wonder. Why some prosper why others are in such dispair?
My husband does a/c work at jails, and YDC's and it says it really gets to him to see the govt spending millions of dollars on them. One in particular last year the govt spent about 6 million on it then a few months later closed it down. While yet we have a daughter that has a degree in middle school education and unable to find a job because of budget cuts.
Makes you wonder where are their priorities?

Pain to Purpose said...

I totally agree with you. Great post!

Tammy@If Meadows Speak... said...

Yes, yes! I agree. Poverty of spirit is the worst poverty of all. Things have the potential to bankrupt our spirit, but aren't evil in of themselves. I try to hold "lightly" to things because I've held to tightly to them in the past. If nothing else, I can work on keeping myself unspotted from the world and that too is pure religion. "Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world." James 1:27

Debbie said...

Can't tell you how much I have struggled with so many of these thoughts. I particularily dwell on the sports people, movie stars, etc., in comparison with the teachers, coaches, and the like. I loved this post...HUGS, Debbie

Rita said...

Oh my, what a post! Thank you for putting it in words. I don't want to be poor that I have to have help, but I don't want to be rich and let it go to my head instead of my heart. Beecher was right when he said that the heart makes a man rich or poor, according to what's in that heart. I pray that the good Lord will let us keep the right perspective and live as unto Him. Thank you for getting on your soap box and reminding us to think about this.

Beth E. said...

Oh, Sassy, this post speaks to my heart in a very personal way!

We have had our share of financial struggles. There have been times we have been without jobs or health insurance. However, there has never been a time we have not had a home.

The homeless information you've posted breaks my heart. Living in a country that has so much, it's shameful to know that there are people living on the streets, without a home.

Move over, Sassy...I'm joining you on that soapbox!


skoots1mom said...

as jesus told his disciple, there will always be is an especially hard time. Our numbers locally are high also...heart breaking.
Our local food bank gives out of food by mid week. We are trying...wish more pp would help.
How are you feeling since your oral surgery?

Grace on the Narrow Path said...

I agree with you my friend. I have often thought of this many times before. God spoke to my heart and I know if I can help others (no matter how small or how large) God will know I care and so will the people that need help. If we all could help those that are less fortunate what a blessing that will be. Who knows ... we are fortunate today, but what about tomorrow?
God bless you for this post.

Cindy - Letters From Midlife said...

This is an issue I grapple with too. Not long ago I wrote a post about doing what we can do even if it is just a little. Something is always better than nothing and when added to the efforts of others God can multiply it beyond anything we can imagine when we step out in obedience to him.

KelliGirl said...

I'm right there with you on this! I've heard said before that we don't have a poverty problem we have a giving problem. There is soooooooo much money being spent on other stuff for ourselves (and I'm guilty of this for sure).

In his devotional today, Rick Warren says that whatever upsets you, whatever needs stir your heart and whatever causes you to think, "Somebody ought do something," is likely God speaking to you and pointing you toward your destiny.

Looks like you're onto something here.


P.S. I thoroughly enjoyed our trip to your side of the country. Seattle is such a great city...but it sure does rain a lot!

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Kathleen -

A few things went through my mind as I read this:

1) Scripture says that the LOVE of money is the root of all evil.

2) It's not a sin to have money, but it's a sin for money to have you.

3) Poverty has many causes: poor education, lack of opportunity, addictions, sickness, lifestyle choices, and unemployment to name a few. There's no "one size fits all problem," and there's no "one size fits all solution."

Susan :)

Debbie said...

Kathleen, you touched on a topic that is very close to me right now. I know what it is to be rich and I know what it is to be poor. It isn't a sin to have lots of money; it's the love of money that is a problem.

If we look to money to solve all of our problems ...forget it. It actually opens up more temptations.

But I've also heard Christians say that we should give all our money away or live in a more socialist type of way. I don't buy that either.

If God has blessed a Christian with money, use it wisely and share when prompted by the Lord. There are many wealthy people who have helped fund many worthwhile organizations and people in need.

However, in the past year I've really learned much about those who have little. It's changed my viewpoint in many ways and I'm able to truly empathize with the reality of poverty.

I have to add that I'd still rather be rich and be able to be generous to others. Giving is so much easier.

I thank you for your phone call today. You are such an encouragement to me. I look forward to spending time with you very soon my friend.


Denise said...

Very much in agreement with you.

Just a little something from Judy said...

Many are the moments that I have spent thinking over the very thoughts you shared today. I think Henry Ward Beecher's quote says it all, as does James 1:17, "every good and perfect gift comes down from above." I must remember that I am only the channel that He uses to bless others through me. The heart is the determining factor in giving. That is a sobering thought and so individual for everyone. To see need and feel the tug of God to give, is the key to life. It is when I ignore the tug, that I miss the blessing, or to give without the tug and out of the wrong motives can also result in missed blessings. I like when you get on your soapbox however convicting it may be for me. Thank you for sharing.

Nel said...

What a wonderful post! Can you share your soapbox. Don't even get me started on what the gov't spends money on. Like research of life on other planets, I'm sorry how about our planet, right here. It is so sad that we live in a country that we have everything we need but people are going to bed hungry! ooops, I wasn't going to get started was I? Thanks for sharing what was on your mind and in your heart!
until next time... nel

LisaShaw said...

My friend, you're not on any soapbox. You are speaking the thoughts of my heart perfectly. Peter and I often discuss this tender subject. It breaks my heart that we're in a place where there is so much in this nation yet so many people hurting. I believe from a Christian perspective that we're to give and do it cheerfully. We may not have a lot but Peter and I give out of what GOD gives to us. If everyone gave as the LORD provides, we'd see the needs met more like in the book of Acts.

So much more I could say but I agree with you.

Praying for the hurting always.

Love you.

P.S. How are you feeling?

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