Poverty News Round Up

With the Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other.

The newspaper:

1. It’s expensive to be poor.

Her weekly toil – which includes nearly 30 hours on buses – underscores one of the truths of life for the millions of American living with poverty: it’s expensive to be poor.

2. The American Dream doesn’t work like it used to.

“My hometown — Port Clinton, Ohio, population 6,050 — was in the 1950s a passable embodiment of the American dream, a place that offered decent opportunity for the children of bankers and factory workers alike.

But a half-century later, wealthy kids park BMW convertibles in the Port Clinton High School lot next to decrepit “junkers” in which homeless classmates live. The American dream has morphed into a split-screen American nightmare.

3. The House held a hearing about the war on poverty.

“In the midst of all the bickering and posturing, some genuine issues emerged. To me, the biggest of all was what we should expect anti-poverty programs to do — and how we can know whether they’re doing it.”

4. Poverty is more harmful to babies than crack. From the Christian Century.

“Now that we know that poverty hurts innocent children’s lives more than prenatal crack exposure, will we see even a fraction of the outrage?”

5. Hunger is about not recognizing our abundance.

“I refuse to give in to a sense of futility. Being overwhelmed doesn’t do anybody any good. Jesus invited us in to a life lived with a sense of abundance. God has made a world that is very good, where there can and should be enough–and more than enough–for every living creature to receive his or her daily bread. How can we give up on that?”

The Bible:

The lectionary this week features one of my favorite passages. Isaiah 1:12-17:

1:12 When you come to appear before me, who asked this from your hand? Trample my courts no more;
1:13 bringing offerings is futile; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and sabbath and calling of convocation– I cannot endure solemn assemblies with iniquity.
1:14 Your new moons and your appointed festivals my soul hates; they have become a burden to me, I am weary of bearing them.
1:15 When you stretch out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood.
1:16 Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil,
1:17 learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.

The idea that love and mercy trump ritual shows up elsewhere (Matthew 23:23, 1 Corinthians 13) but is given its fullest and most rhetorically powerful expression here in Isaiah. Your hands are full of blood and God will not listen.

In the Gospel this week we are also instructed not to seek wealth on earth, but rather to do God’s will. Luke 12:33-34:

12:33 Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.
12:34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Sell your possessions and give alms or give them to the poor is also a repeated theme in the Bible, and usually in a way that reminds us that attachment to material wealth interferes with our commitment to God. We are stewards of God’s creation, including all that we have made from creation as good (and sometimes not-so-good) stewards. Those possessions, however, ultimately belong to God, and should be used according to God’s will, not ours.

 

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