I have been amazed over the past weeks at the venom believers let fester within themselves against the poor — the Canadian poor in particular. Whether someone is a street person, an addict, a panhandler, a sex trade worker, a member of the 'the working poor', homeless, or combination thereof and/or more, it seems there is a large contingent that harbour deep-seeded resentment towards the down and out in our country.
The one statement that made my blood boil was: "Jesus said the poor would always be with us, thus they were created to be poor. That is their lot in life."
God is the Supreme Creator of all people, their destinies, their races, their fates, their choices. But does this mean God created the Hitlers and Pol Pot's of the world? He designed evil as he designed poverty?
My sense is no. Jesus said the poor would always be with us because as humans… we take. We create for ourselves worlds where there are people who have and people who have not. Until the day Christ returns, our selfish natures will dominate the planet and poor people will always live side by side with the rich.
Now… does God bless us financially and with material wealth? Yes. I believe He does. Does He want us then taking our ease and believing that because He gave US those things, we are at liberty to simply do what we wish? No. But all too often we think we deserve what He gives us, thank Him in lip service, and ignore His wishes for further use of that material blessing.
Not only does material wealth create a sense of exlcusion within our communities, but we become numb — sometimes even allergic — to the other blessings of God so far beyond material stuff that we're just plain content with trips to Mexico every year, new cars, stylish clothes and lots and lots of food.
… I could go on and on over the blessings of God. But our Western capitalist mindset disguised as Christianity (sometimes) says that "blessings" are material wealth or money. How narrow… how enslaving… how sad.
Poverty exists in Canada. If you're going to blame the system, then point at yourself because you are the system. I am the system. People ARE the system.
There are endless reasons why people end up homeless, friendless, addicted, abused, jobless or otherwise. But we judge based on what we see: lazy, disgruntled, welfare money-grubbers who don't know how to keep a job, sponge of taxpayers dollars, and harbour truly disgusting attitudes. They don't deserve our help at all!
Eesh… risky ground.
Remember what I said about our selfish natures creating the breeding ground for poverty? If we're going to blame the poor for using the rich, the very same can be said of the rich using the poor. And remember which group Jesus was hardest on. Not an easy thought.
Not only is bitterness taking up space meant for Christ, but it spits in the eye of Christ's love for the poor. He sees where they came from, their stories, their choices – good and bad, their attempts, their failures… and their need for His salvation. Just… like… me.
Some people are bitter because they've tried helping the poor and are burnt on being abused. But guess what? People without Christ will abuse. They will take. They will overstep boundaries. They will use.
But you know something?
Take another second to see past the guy asking you for coins and see how they give, how they offer their lives to us, how the yearn for love, how they share, how they hope, and how they learn. Just… like… me.
Do you know how a person ends up on the street? Do you know how close we all are to that very same state, month-to-month? Do you know that in order to have a job, you MUST have a permanent address (in Canada)? No address, no job. No job, no cash. No cash, no money for first and last month's rent+damage deposit for a place to live. No place to live, no job.
And the cycle spins out of control.
Allowing fear to masquerade as wisdom — refusing help when help is called needed, for example, fearing the person will use your coin for drugs — is also letting the devil get a foothold. We need to get a grip! We are NOT God!
We allow ourselves to become so pliable in the Potter's Hand that every push, every press, every single touch the Spirit imprints on our souls… we obey. We spare that change (again and again and again), we stop to listen, we give our coats, we feed, we house, we clean… we see the people Jesus died for instead of the ungrateful bums making our lives miserable.
We see people. Just… like… me.