I realize that what I’m about to post isn’t going to be very popular. But I’m willing to post it because I hope it will start a healthy discussion.
Here it is: Over the past few years, I’ve heard this phrase come up literally dozens of times at missions conferences, ministry events, churches, on blogs, etc. The discussion turns to poverty and inevitably someone says “this is the generation that can end poverty.”
I don’t know if I believe that. In fact, I’m not totally sure Christians are called to end poverty. Before you go looking for handy throwing stones, allow me to explain:
First, let me say that I do believe there are enough resources in our world to take care of everyone. There’s enough food. Enough water. Enough materials for shelter and clothing.
But to make sure everyone gets their fair share, it would mean an end to greed and corruption. It would mean a massive shift in human nature. I don’t think this generation, or any other, can accomplish that.
Secondly, I don’t know of any scripture that says we are called to end poverty. We are called to fight injustice. We are called to be a voice for the voiceless, look after the orphan and the widow. But I don’t know of any verse that says we are expected to end poverty.
And third, I wonder if saying that we can end poverty is contradictory to what Jesus told us:
“The poor you will always have with you…” –Mark 14:7 (NIV)
Granted, a lot of people misuse that quote. They use it as an argument against doing anything about poverty: “We’ll always have poverty, so it’s fruitless to try to fight it.”
That’s not the point I’m making here. What many don’t know is that Jesus was actually quoting a passage from Deuteronomy. That original scripture goes on to tell us what we’re supposed to do about poverty:
“There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore, I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.” –Deuteronomy 15:11 (NIV)
Notice that the command is not to “end poverty” but to give. To share. And when a command is given, obedience is what’s expected.
I don’t think we’re called to end poverty. I do think we’re called to be obedient to God’s command.
It’s about taking care of those who are less fortunate. I think it’s about making sure that no child ever starves to death for lack of food, or dies from a preventable disease. It’s about making sure no one has to drink unsafe water. It’s about making sure everyone has a chance at life.
I think God allows poverty so that His glory may be shown … through His people doing His work … obeying that command.
My boss reminded me of the old ad campaign, McGruff the Crime Dog. Remember his famous catch-phrase? “Take a bite out of crime.” Not END crime … but take a bite out of it. I think we can take a bite out of poverty. I think we can stop some of the injustices. I’m just not sure we can end it.
Okay. Now you may grab your stones.