Global wealth and poverty. When we read scripture we find many lessons and stories about possessions; parables and narratives about being rich and being poor; and sermons and letters about the economy of the community and kingdom. What are we to do about the ever widening gap between those who have and those who have-not?
A clear solution is found in the persistent call of God for us to be in right relationship with God, all of God’s people and with all of God’s good creation. We can only be in right relationship with God when we love one another. Surely, a commitment to care for all God’s people and God’s creation is a directive, a moral imperative.
We have only to hear the words of the Sermon on the Mount as transforming initiatives rather than ideals or to pray the prayer which Jesus taught his disciples noting that it affirms a way one is to live in order to understand the connection between God’s gracious action toward us and our response. Are we not “blessed” to be a “blessing”? Called out to responsibility? According to the beatitude, when one is care-full, then that one is cared for. And, how can one call upon the name of a heavenly “Father” if that one does not respect his or her earthly “brothers and sisters” as part of the family of God? Neither can one truly ask for daily needs if that one turns away from the physical and spiritual needs of those around him or her.
It is that very turning away that we read about in the story of Lazurus by the gate of the rich man who never saw poor Lazurus’ humanity or in the narrative of the widow woman with two coins to give. Failing to give anyone dignity as one of God’s children is not an option. Disregarding others in order to attain and maintain shows no understanding of the abundance of God and God’s hospitality toward God’s people.
Yet, silence and neglect are not the only problematic responses to poverty. Helping the poor can become a self-aggrandizing virtue which merely “puffs up” the rich rather than “lifting up” the poor among us. Where is the dignity in categorizing people as “us” and “them” and perpetuating inequality even in the language we use? Where is the presence of Jesus Christ in some of our attempts? Is love evident? These are difficult questions. Perhaps some of our systems of care must be examined to make sure that the poor are not objectified.
Further, our every day actions have an impact on the lives of every person, every creature and on creation. We often deny the consequences of our lifestyles as people who are wealthy in this era of globalization. God invites us to be part of God’s creating, sustaining and redeeming work, as together we care for this earth and all that dwell upon it.