This is the first of 3 posts that I plan to do regarding alleviating poverty. This will not be comprehensive in any way shape or form, but aims at doing some critical reflection on the situation we now find ourselves in as American citizens. Everything I write is an interaction with a book titled: Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada’s Quest to Change Harlem and America; by Paul Tough (thus the title). Specifically this will be based on chapter two of this book titled: “Unequal Childhoods.” I must admit that I have not read this book in its entirety, but thoroughly read chapter two as an assignment for a seminary class. I am reflecting therefore, on the issues presented in that chapter, and have not necessarily made a decision about the ‘whole’ of the approach outlined in the book. And actually, this first post is not in dialogue with the book at all, but rather lays a brief theological basis for why issues of poverty matter to the church of Jesus.
Post I: Why is helping the poor and alleviating poverty an aspect of the mission of the church?
The above question is one that has much relevance in recent weeks. There has been an intense dialogue between political voices and various Christian voices on the role of social justice and the church. It is quite clear that the witness of the bible gives us an ethical imperative to care about issues of poverty. Not simply as abstract feelings of empathy, but out of a concrete realism of action and relationship (meaning that the bible invites us to be in relationship of those who are impoverished and to act on their behalf). If we look at the narrative of Scripture it becomes clear that poverty is not part of the good design of creation, but is a result of fallen powers of evil who have lured in rebellious humanity to join in the vicious cycle of exclusion. The word that the bible often uses to describe the world and relationships as they ought to be is shalom. This is a view of reality that is holistically peaceful, meaning that every relationship is right: to God, others, self, and creation. It is such a state that God created this world for, and it is to the same that God intends to eventually take the creation project as expressed in the new heavens and new earth (Revelation 21-22, Romans 8). So, the short answer for the biblical theologian is that: if God intends for us to have a world that is free from suffering and poverty, then it follows that Christians ought to reflect such an intention in the present. In other words, God’s future new creation reality can become partially realized in the present time as the church chooses to work for justice in the world as a signpost of what is to come. Not only are the eschatological implications strong in Scripture, but also the words of Jesus about the poor, the rebuking statements of many of the OT prophets, and the 500 verses devoted to justice in the NT.
Do you have anything to add?