Saturday, November 19, 2011

Helping Those Who Are Poor: Self-Reflection

As I have contemplated further how to recognize and help those who are poor (especially in non-monetary ways), I have been struck by the need to step back a bit and make a very simple but profound point.  I hope I can do so in a way that is instructive.

For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.  (Romans 3:23)

In other words, in very real and critical ways, all of us are poor - especially in non-monetary ways.

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  (Matthew 5:3

In our striving to become more Christ-like - and to be able to be "saints" or "disciples" of Jesus, it is easy to get so focused or caught-up in that attempt that we lose sight of the fundamental, foundational reality that all of us are non-monetarily poor - and that we actually are counted as "blessed" if we remain or become poor in some ways.  It's easy to view our "wards" at church more like political wards (which was the original meaning behind the organizational term) and forget that we also can see gatherings on Sunday like hospital wards - where sick and hurting and needy people gather for care and healing.

That, perhaps, is the greatest failing I have seen in too many congregations within our modern church - a lack of conscious, intentional, comprehensive, openly expressed recognition of our own "sinnerhood" and the  accompanying masks we too often wear to cover it.  Sometimes we preach the ideal so much that we fail to acknowledge the real - and we too often end up hurting those whose "poverty" is harder to hide than our own. 

Yes, I need to strive to recognize and help those who are non-monetarily poor - but I must do so from the standpoint of someone who is not yet non-monetarily rich (from the position of someone who is "in the same boat", so to speak, and simply is trying to help others find and wear the life-jacket he has found).  I need to understand that, in relative terms, I might be less poor in some ways than others - but that, in absolute terms, I still am a poor beggar who, ultimately, will need to rely on the mercy of He who is mighty to save.

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