Can Poverty Be Eradicated?
Jesus said, “You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me. John 12:8
A quick search on Google on the subject of “eradicating poverty brings up 469,000 hits in a split second. Those who have announced the eradication of world poverty as one of their major objectives make strange bedfellows for they range from evangelical to extreme liberal religious church associations, from one religious faith to the opposite, from conservative to left wing political groups, from one political philosophy to those diametrically opposed. It seems that most everyone is in the hunt to eradicate poverty from the world. And why not? For those who have witnessed it firsthand it is a horrific, miserable, unforgettable sight. The degradation of humanity to the extreme in the midst of the worst slums of the poor in the world is nigh unbelievable if you did not see it with your own eyes. Those who choose to live in the midst of it for a lifetime of service to do what they can are the real heroes of the world though they are neither idolized nor pursued as models on how to spend your life. Such is reserved for Rappers or athletes, fashion models or successful politicians, billionaires or movie stars. But the real question is this: Is the objective of eliminating poverty even achievable?
Such goals have been pronounced with grave seriousness 50 or even 100 years ago. Trillions upon trillions of dollars have been spent in the meantime, yet the poor are still here. Jesus said over 2000 years ago that the poor will always be with us. It is most enlightening to examine the biblical text around Jesus’ statement. The Gospel of John passage relates that Judas Iscariot immediately complained when Mary poured out a pint of pure perfume on Jesus’ feet, equivalent to a year’s wages. Claiming mercy for the poor Judas angrily said it was a waste of precious resources which could have gone for the alleviation of poverty. The Holy Spirit reveals the true intent of Judas’ concern; his own pocket! Apparently it was the “last straw for Judas who proceeded immediately to betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver for himself. I rather doubt he intended to share any of it with the poor. This attitude has accompanied poverty programs throughout history. Just look at the annual salaries of the head of the Red Cross, the Boys and Girls Club of America, or the government officials and administrators appointed to dole out tax monies to eradicate poverty in America and around the globe.
Jesus rightly sees the heart of poverty and the reason for its existence: sin. He also sees the hearts of the rich when he says it is harder for a rich man to enter heaven than for a camel to go through the eye of the needle. Sin is not relegated to the hearts of the poor. But sin is the key to eliminating poverty in each individual soul mired in it. The gospel and the Jesus of the gospel borne by his servants is the only medicine that will transform a life and eliminate the poverty in it. Money has never been the answer to eliminating poverty. If you immediately stopped the world long enough to evenly disseminate its resources to every single living individual within a very few years we would see some in poverty and still others becoming rich on the backs of the poor. Sin is and has always been the problem in every man’s heart.
The recognition of the truth never removes the responsibility of those rich in grace to be merciful to the poor with the wisdom of the gospel message able to transform lives. At the Paul Anderson Youth Home we see young men with attitudes that would result in their extreme poverty if it were not for the sustenance of those around them. The source of such attitudes is sin. The remedy is Jesus Christ. His presence alone eradicates poverty.
“Bless thou the truth, dear Lord, to me, to me, as thou didst bless the bread by Galilee; then shall bondage cease, all fetters fall; and I shall find my peace, my All in all.
(2nd verse from Mary Lathbury’s hymn, “Break Thou the Bread of Life, 1877)
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