Memoirs of A Pastor: Entry 72

*I have decided to share a choice few entries of my memoir.*

April 5, 2017; 2213 hours

In dealing with poverty, for the past few decades, it appears to me we have been addressing the dilemma from the wrong angle. It seems to me we are largely focused on bringing unearned wealth to the poor. The remedy, we think, is to give them wealth. Yet free money would merely treat the symptom rather than the root cause.

Upon the horrific discovery of the concentration camps in Nazi-occupied territories, the Jewish victims were tremendously malnourished. The remedy to their starvation was not to give them a feast, for they would literally eat themselves to death as a result of their bodies having to overcompensate for the sudden abundance of food and its nutrients. In the same way, giving the poor unearned wealth, I suspect, would likewise self-destruct and thus exacerbate the problem rather than remedy it. With no prior financial discipline, the poor would likely squander it all as a result of not knowing how to use such money. Thus, they’d be back where they started.

Poverty is one of many symptoms of the Fall of Man. While money would certainly alleviate poverty, it is certainly not the final remedy. The core of the issue is a deeply spiritual one, which could be any variety of issues depending on the individual: addiction, divorce, mental illness, or even something as simple as financial stupidity. The remedy is a spiritual one.

We first need to accept the reality that, as a result of the Fall of Man and, therefore, products of original sin, poverty is a perennial dilemma on this side of the eschaton. As such, all throughout the Old and New Testaments God has called for our deontological duty to care for the poor. God’s care for the poor is one of His highest priorities (e.g. Exodus 23:6, 11; Leviticus 19:15; Psalm 9:18; 14:6; Isaiah 1:17; Jeremiah 22:3; Matthew 25:35-40; Luke 4:18; 14:13; Acts 10:4; Romans 15:26; Galatians 2:10; James 1:27; 2:2-6; 1 John 3:17-18). Care for the poor goes beyond merely giving pocket change to a homeless person every fortnight and donating to a charity once a month to check it off our list of good works for the month. While these acts indeed help and are generous, they are not enough. I acknowledge this with my own guilt. Biblically speaking, care for the poor is all about being with the poor. We see this ultimately illustrated in Christ.

Our discipleship with Christ is more than being like Him. To be like Jesus is to be with people. If we truly want to be like Jesus, we would treat people as Jesus treated people. How He treated people begins first and foremost how He was with them. What exactly does this look like for modern people today? This is what I aim to discover, particularly as it relates to my personal pastoral call. What can I, Garrick Sinclair Beckett, do for the poor in my future pastoral ministry? How can I bring them the Gospel and teach my congregation to do the same? Yet not only teach, but also inspire them and serve the poor with them?

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