The picture you see is two of our church members on a recent trip to a Haitian slum in the Dominican Republic. The kids they’re holding are poor. They don’t have any of the things we look forward to this time of year: summer camps, trips to the beach, vacations to Disney World. They don’t even have many of the things we take for granted every day: televisions, deep freezers, electricity, running water, a stocked refrigerator. By all accounts they should be pitied. But please, please, don’t do them that disservice.
Now when I talk about the poor I’m differentiating between poverty and extreme poverty. Extreme poverty are those without access to one of the three building blocks of life: food, water, and shelter. People in extreme poverty are to be pitied and helped whenever possible. But don’t feel sorry for the poor. They have the basic necessities of life, just not with the obscene abundance that we have it.
If we have opportunity, we should always help the poor. That’s scriptural. But we shouldn’t feel sorry for the poor. Why? Because they know a deeper truth about life than we do. As Americans, we’ve fallen for the dangerous myth that money equals happiness. They more you own, the happier you should be. By that reasoning, poor people should be miserable. In America, you’ll find a bunch of miserable poor people, because they’re convinced that money equals happiness and they don’t have enough of it.
So by all means help the poor when possible, but don’t feel sorry for them. They just might be happier than you are.