The Rich, the Poor, and Jesus

In November of 2013, Oxfam International released the results of a study that found an ever-growing concentration of the world’s wealth into the hands of a very few. The Irish Times quoted Oxfam chief executive Winnie Byanyima: “It is staggering that in the 21st century, half of the world’s population—that’s three and a half billion people—own no more than a tiny elite whose numbers [eighty-five souls] could all fit comfortably on a double-decker bus.”

The concerns of Oxfam over the findings are political inasmuch as this kind of wealth concentration rigs government processes in favor of the rich, which makes the divide between the haves and the have-nots permanent. This effectively destroys the reality of equal opportunity. Their research shows that “opportunity hoarding” is as rife as the hoarding of goods and resources.

The troubling nature of these findings seemed self-evident to me when I shared the Irish Times article about this report on social media. The response I got is a bit of a surprise. It didn’t surprise me that some people objected immediately to the conclusions of Oxfam. What surprised me was the visceral anger and resentment—with a tinge of hurt feelings even—coming from people I know who call themselves followers of Jesus Christ. They reacted as if I’d lobbed a Molotov cocktail into their living rooms.

[Read more...]

Two Tribes: Good Wishes and Good Works

One summer my family got evicted from the house we were renting in Florida. The welding jobs ended and my stepfather refused to do anything that wasn’t union work so we burned through our money while he watched television and waited for the union to call.

My mother worked and did most of the cooking and put up with her husband’s liquor and drugs and abuse until one day she wasn’t there. She’d gone to the hospital for “her nerves,” he told us. Then someone nailed the red poster to our front door.

My stepfather stayed indoors. Each afternoon he gave me a couple of bills and I would bike along a winding blacktop to a convenience store, where I bought lunchmeat, white bread, and soup.

Now that I have four ravenous boys, I realize that he must have gone hungry, given how much my brothers and I ate. I want to remember him as the devil. I recall cigarette lighter burns and punches and humiliations, but I have to remember this as well, that he went hungry so we would not. [Read more...]

Love Thy Neighbor…and Her Lice

Guest Post
By Cathy Warner

I’d only known her a month when Blythe called with a problem: The family puppy had parvo. She needed money. Would I pay her twenty-five dollars in exchange for a massage?

Blythe lived in a run-down cabin up the road from our remodeled cabin. She had three grubby kids whose noses always ran, a grimy husband who drove a rusty van, and was missing two teeth (my eyes always focused on the gaps).

I didn’t know what parvo was (expensive and deadly) and I’d never had a massage. My husband drove a company car and worked in Silicon Valley, we had two clean and intelligent daughters, and I had all my teeth—straightened and shiny.

I was used to rescuing struggling family members, doling out advice and funds. But I didn’t do so with the cheerful heart God apparently admired. I gave fearfully. My checks were readily cashed, but my advice was never taken, trouble always returned, and somehow I felt responsible. If only I’d done more…. [Read more...]


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