As Christians, we need to ask: does it matter to us that people live in poverty and in conditions that prevent healthy stable, safe lives and a more positive and fruitful future?
Overwhelmed? You should be. Poverty stats stare us right in the face. These stats (and far many more) can be found on almost any poverty website, NGO website, or among the number anti-poverty agency websites here in the USoA or around the globe. A quick Google search will hunt them down for you.
What I am most concerned with here, however, is not just simply connecting you with issues of poverty, but that you understand these statistics are not numbers but real, living human beings--our neighbors, locally and globally. One should recall as you are reading these stats what Jesus referred to as the command like unto the first, Love your neighbor as yourself.
Children who live in poverty are
“Everyone should just pull up their bootstraps and get to work, then they won’t be dependent on government or charity.”
How many times do I hear this or something akin to it in words and attitude? Problem is, some people don’t even have boots; and some don’t even live long enough to put on these mysteriously, magically appearing boots. (As if everyone is born with these boots.) But enough of the clichés. Fact is we all certainly not on the same playing field; some experience major setbacks, obstacles, and barriers that prevent them from playing the game well, even on the field they have. (Sorry for another cliché and metaphor, but you get the point.) Children—at least the children that make up these demographic profiles—do not have the same level of access to the advantages of our own constitutional rights and economy.
To put it in biblical terms, there are unjust situations within our communities that prevent children from growing up, getting an even start out in life, that oppress their abilities to access the same advantages of other children. Might this be what Isaiah meant when he rebuked Israel?
“So as to deprive the needy of justice
In light of facts like those listed above, we, too, should hear the prophet’s words, “Now what will you do in the day of punishment?” (Isaiah 10:3a). Perhaps, considering what you will do in these days can be a remedy for our indifference and privileged arrogance and the blight of those living with disadvantage.
Chip M. Anderson, advocate for biblical social action; pastor of an urban church plant in the Hill neighborhood of New Haven, CT; husband, father, author, former Greek & NT professor; and, 19 years involved with social action.