Saturday, September 04, 2010

Generous Spirit: A Somewhat Political Reflection

"Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God." Acts 10:4

Some weeks ago in my bible study, we discussed giving to the poor. The leader of the study talked about two groups of people, one that cared for the poor but did not care about scriptural reasoning behind it, and one group that tended to believe the poor were in their position because of laziness alone and did not deserve help. I found, and have always found, myself a bit at odds with this dilemma and struggling with the question of whether or not to give to the man with the sign on the side of the road. Often I'm told by my liberal friends that conservatives do not care about the poor at all, that they are stingy and far too individualistic and down right selfish. On my end I've always said that the liberal side is way too idealistic and and a bit self righteous themselves. But recently, I've discovered a far better solution to my own judgmental reactions and my dilemma regarding the poor. It most certainly is not an easy solution, nor one that I have all the answers to, and quite honestly I don't even know how to begin except on a small scale and through prayer.

My solution came with the realization that my main problem with wellfare is the fact that all it is is another form of slavery. The big government sitting on its high throne in Washington is convinced that the only way to solve poverty is to throw money at the problem, enslaving the poor by keeping them in thrall to their new slave masters. Having gone in to politics possibly with good intentions to help people (I am being perhaps overly optimistic here) these politicians are too far removed from the actual problems to do anything productive about it. (I could got into a spiel about how they are really in politics in order to gain power but I would prefer to remain somewhat naive.) The result, unfortunately, is that at the local level, the level where action could truly bring about change, people have become lazy, believing that the big government is some sort of magic genie and that if we give them enough money they can make all of our problems (including having to look at the hurting people around us on the street) go away.

Change is absolutely necessary, but the government in Washington is not the place for it. In fact, it is the Church and local charities that really need to step up. Instead of trusting those too far removed to really do anything good, we should be working to find the hopeless and the hurting, train them for jobs, feed them, clothing them, helping them physically, emotionally, spiritually, and not just assume that money will solve all of their problems (Matthew 9:36). It is a tough, painful job that will require the sacrifice of time and money and sometimes our own mental stability, but it is something we are called to do, especially as the church.

34"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

37"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

40"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' Matthew 25:34-40

If for no other reason, we should be reaching out to serve others because in doing so we are serving God. I see it starting in my church here in Katy, and I pray it will continue. I pray that God's kingdom will be advanced so that the world sees change, sees that we care about the whole person and not just their financial situation. But it has to start locally, and I don't just mean our hometown, it has to start in our hearts. Pray to the Lord, as I will pray, for generous hands and a gracious heart.

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