Give Up On Serving the Poor?

I read a blog post the other day that I want to share with you. It’s titled Why I Stopped Serving the Poor, and it was written by Claudio Oliver of Curitiba, Brazil. His grandparents founded the Salvation Army in Brazil.

“Without exception, rich and poor have the same conviction that what they need is something that the market, money, the government or some other agency can offer them.”

I don’t remember how I stumbled across his post, but I do know it rocked me to the core. And it’s a pretty timely subject since Saturday is the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.

“The only way to remain with the poor is if we discover that we are the miserable ones. We remain with the poor when we recognize ourselves, even if well disguised, in him/her who is right before our eyes. When we can see our own misery and poverty in [the poor], when we realize our own needs and our desperate need to be saved and liberated, then and only then will we meet Jesus and live life according to His agenda.”

Pretty much every word I read resonated deeply within me. It was refreshing to hear a Christian talk in such a counter-cultural way about poverty.

“Jesus doesn’t have any good news for those who serve the poor. Jesus didn’t come to bring good news of the Kingdom to those who serve the poor; he brought Good News to the poor. He has nothing to say to other saviors who compete with him for the position of Messiah, or Redeemer.”

The thing that struck me most was the author’s humility. He speaks about his own journey with a transparency that gives credence to his words.

“Over the years I’ve discovered that the very position of serving the poor from a commitment to “liberate” them, has been filled with a sense of superiority.”

I have been racking my brain for days trying to come up with a way to get you interested enough to read the post. After many abandoned attempts, I decided to just take the direct route.

You should read the article, Why I Stopped Serving the Poor. I promise … it will be worth your time.

“I have given up on serving the poor. I’m going back to encountering the poor and finding myself in them.”

8 Comments |Add a comment

  1. Nate Ernsberger October 20, 2009

    It’s not about serving the poor, doing something to make someone better (because we are in a better place they are, etc…) – it’s about being in relationship! Here’s a great book to help with this perspective – “Compassion, Justice and the Christian Life: Rethinking Ministry to the Poor” by Robert Lupton. Excellent Read.

  2. Vicki Small October 16, 2009

    Jesus said, “In as much as you have done it unto the least of these, my brethren, you’ve done it unto me.” When we think we are “being [or bringing] Jesus” to the poor and the needy, we find that they are, in fact, being Jesus to us. Isn’t this what so many of us have found, when we’ve traveled with Compassion?

    Thanks for the reminder, Becky!

  3. Claudio Oliver October 16, 2009

    Hi Becky
    Thanks for be so nice on commenting my little article. I found your quote by accident, but I would like to say it was a nice accident.
    ONce somebody coud be interested in add some visual complement to that article, I would , humbly, invite you to watch a video where I speak (even with my broken and macarronic English) in that perspective about “What is poverty”. The video can be seen at The Work of the People Website, I hope you will find it useful in some ways. If not, it is just to say again, thanks for being so kind.

  4. Jill Foley October 15, 2009

    Thank you for bringing this to our attention…definitely worth my time. I will be reading it every day for a couple days to really let it soak in.

  5. Barbara M. October 15, 2009

    Becky, Thank you for bringing this article to our attention. It is well worth reading and contemplating.

  6. Mike Stephens October 15, 2009

    He made some interestng points, but if I was hungry it wouldn’t matter much to me if people served top down, bottom up, or middle through as long as I got some food. It’s hard to see what someone is really saying from writing b/c seeing the person changes how I would view what he is saying. Like in II Samuel 23:8-23 talking about David’s Mighty Men killing hundreds of men on their own. It sounds so amazing but if I witnessed it I know the impact would be different. thanks for sharing it was good to read!

  7. Cheryl J October 15, 2009

    I love this article. How well it brings our life and service into perspective. I often wonder at having the opportunity to be born in this country with all of the blessings that affords while others are born into seemingly hopeless situations. I have recently been confronted with the fact that I often don’t really “see” others who are in need. I really like how this points out that we are to see “us” in those God calls us to bless.

  8. Brittany October 15, 2009

    Very convicting post!!

    This struck me deeply:

    “Whoever serves out of the sense of having something to offer, serves from the top down.”

    THAT was a great reminder!

    When I first became a Christian, I thought, “I (emphasis on the I) am going to help the needy.” As time went on, I realized that I was not the one doing anything…but instead God through me.

Add a Comment

Read the ground rules for comments.