Monday, April 8, 2013

I do not know the poor.

"As I wandered around my conservative evangelical college, wearing my shoes and drinking my fair-trade coffee, I sometimes thought about the good deed that had come of my purchasing power. I must confess that I never actually thought about the child who might need a pair of shoes, what they looked like or how they felt about their own lack of resources. I didn’t know this faceless, barefoot child. I only knew me and people just like me. I only knew that I needed my justice to be quick, tangible, and easily acclimated to my life.

I didn’t understand how our current economic systems are built to enslave us all, no matter whether we are at the very top or on the very bottom. I didn’t put much thought into shopping malls, into how so many of our livelihoods are either earned or spent there...I was just one of many, trying to buy our way out of the guilt we feel, the soul-crushing transactions that we mistake for connection, the way we so desperately want to help the poor but can’t be bothered to join Jesus in joining them...

I never used to know the poor, and this was such a comfort to me. I could envision how I had helped them, in so many small ways, just based on what I had bought that day, the kind of grocery store I frequented. I didn’t know their names or heartbreaks or triumphs or dreams or visions. But then I started to read the words of Jesus, and he kept talking about them all the time; David too, and all the prophets many times over. And they all said the same thing, in so many words: blessed, blessed, blessed are the poor.

And conversely, to everyone else, to those with their boots on the necks of the poor, the rich and ruling, to those who wined and dined while suffering and misery was outside their door, those who offered sacrifices to God but did not treat others with mercy or kindness, it was all woe, woe, woe. And there came a point when I couldn’t ignore it away anymore: in the hierarchy of economics, I most certainly was at the top. And scripturally, this wasn’t the safest place to be. I found Jesus telling me to sell everything, give to the poor, devote myself to a king and a kingdom that was not going to come through the normal, powerful channels. And in return he promised me real relationship with God, the blessings of seeing miracles, and the heartaches and joys of community based in mutuality."

--From the always thought-provoking D.L. Mayfield.

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