catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 4, Num 12 :: 2005.06.17 — 2005.06.30


Late night thoughts on necessities in the divine economy

While those enamored of the prognostications of the Left Behind

series read the tea leaves of current events (often with an appalling, lip-smacking spiritual hubris), I find other signs which point to the apocalyptic character of our times. Chief among these is the tendency to major in minors in many corners of the Christian community. Specifically, endless debate is fiercely embraced over matters such as abortion and homosexuality, even though the Bible devotes (depending on what one counts) less than ten verses directly to these topics, while poverty, the topic to which over three thousand verses are devoted, is often and curiously overlooked. How is it that that which clearly is near and dear to God?providing the poor with the basics of food, shelter, and clothing?is so easily set aside for topics that are bare footnotes in the biblical narrative?

While I am thankful that Jim Wallis of Sojourners is seeking to build a coalition of concerned Christians around such primary biblical issues as justice for the poor, I think it helpful to ask why we choose the issues we do as the focus of our attention. Are we just letting the religious right dictate what subjects are most important? Perhaps. But I think it more likely that we are tempted to attend to matters like abortion and homosexuality because they are safer for many of us. Those who would not ever consider having an abortion find it easy to pontificate about the issue for others. Likewise, those secure in heterosexual identity can readily articulate how others should manage differing sexualities. Ironically, it is our safe distance from these matters that allows us to be passionate about them.

But poverty? Now that takes effort to avoid. Perhaps not so much in day to day life where the poor are often out of sight down unpaved rural roads, in trailers well off the highway, in neighborhoods given a wide berth by major streets. But for people of the Book, it takes real effort to avoid the unending refrain from Torah to the prophets to Jesus that a society is judged by its treatment of the poor. Biblically, an unjust society will fail and fall, not because of allegedly apocalyptic events in current Middle Eastern politics, but because of the way the poor are treated.

How is it that we miss the biblical imperative that the treatment of the poor is the moral issue that lies closest to the heart of God? How can we know, but not have heard, the repeated litany the Bible uses to speak of the poor: the widow, the orphan, the sojourner among you; the halt, the blind, the lame; the hungry, the naked, the thirsty, the strange, the sick, the imprisoned. James Forbes, pastor of NYC?s Riverside Church, rightly proclaims, ?Nobody gets to heaven without a letter of reference from the poor!? We don?t get into heaven for having the right position on the headliner moral issues of our political day, but by how we treat the poor.

Jesus said, ?The poor you will always have with you, and you can do good to them whenever you will? (Mark 14.7). The question is, will we? Will we finally see that basic necessities are not only a right, but the will of God?

Discussion: divine economy

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