All of our efforts toward
ending poverty must begin and end with the individual in need. Yes, there are many things that we must do as
a society, but while we striving to make those things come to pass, we know
that very real people are living and dying on our streets. Others are living way below a standard that
most of us would find acceptable. We
must start with the individual and get that person help, and then we can focus
On one occasion an expert
was stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher he
asked what must I do to inherit eternal life?” -Luke
Jesus responds with one of the best known
and least understood of all his parables.
The story of the Good Samaritan has become a rallying cry for many who
would want to come together to help the hurting, the lost and the forgotten. The critical task that Jesus gives in this
passage is that we must do something. Over
the years I have been in multiple church services in a wide array of
denominations and often there is a time of prayer and or a message that tells
us that God loves the poor. Too often
these messages are met with polite nods, a smile and a look at the watch to
determine how long we need to wait until we get to the buffet.
If one of you says to
them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about
their physical needs, what good is it?
Action is what impacts
lives. Many cannot and will not hear a
message of salvation because their stomachs are growling too loudly or they are
shivering too much from living out in the cold.
Jesus encourages us, even goads us to step up and take the risk to serve
those who are in poverty.
Through words and actions
what we must communicate with those in poverty is that God sent His only
begotten Son to earth and then Him (Jesus) living obediently even to death on
the cross and then being raised from the dead to get us a shot at
paradise. But what happens to us when we
accept that truth? If it does not change
us; was it real? Jesus made the point
that salvation should so overwhelm us that from deep within wells a feeling of
compassionate action that impacts those around us. The action does not get us into Heaven. The action comes from within us like the tiny
stream in Minneapolis that ultimately becomes the Mississippi. Jesus starts this process and journeys with
us through the process. Along the way He
will introduce us to people who will shape us and change us and help us to see
Him more clearly. This is the quest of
the man or woman of God.
If the man or woman of God would rise to
the occasion than the church would be seen in all of its glory and society
would be better. Instead the church of today builds big buildings, develops
great programs, entertains the masses and then pats itself on the back. Consider an alternate version of Acts 2 that
is played out in many churches today. If
you remember, in Acts 2, the apostles are all in the upper chamber and the Holy
Spirit comes upon them all. A great
worship service happens as the Holy Spirit shows up, prophesies and truth is
spoken. In the original story they tell
the truth to the people who gathered because of the sounds coming from the
upper room. Over 3000 are saved that
day, most of which did not come to the church service and did not intend to be
a part of the events of the day.
But consider this version, the service goes
on and the people gathered in the upper room are touched and blessed. Afterwards, they all rush out for a nice
lunch and an afternoon of watching football.
Over the next several years people who were at the service chat about
that great service way back when. What a
waste that would have been. We should
gather in our churches, be refilled with the Life of Christ and then expend all
ammo to share the Gospel with this world; when necessary use words.
Better yet, consider the
following. What if the man or woman of
God took Jesus’ model of the Samaritan seriously and rose up in compassionate
action? While Jesus said that the poor
will always be among you, He did not mean that people would always be
homeless. He meant that not all would be
believers, remember the poor in spirit?
There will be the downtrodden, the hurting and the confused within the
body of Christ. Those are the poor. Let us take compassionate action.
The Original Model for Ending
“Who is my neighbor?” Maybe the question was asked to limit the
scope of who needed to be helped. For
others maybe it was a very real question.
Should we help anyone and everyone?
Curiously, Jesus searched the faces of
those around Him. Some were focused and
hanging on whatever words that He might use next. Others were just passing by and seemed to
hardly notice that He was even there.
Others were obviously watching very carefully hoping to catch Him in
something that He might say that they could use to bring Him down. Friends and enemies were all around Him as He
carefully chose what story He would use to illustrate His next point.
“A man was traveling on the road to
Jericho. Along the way robbers attacked
him, stole what he had and left him for dead.”
The crowd nodded. Most had heard
about bandits along that road. Some
considered how foolish it would be to go along that road alone. Others waited for the story to continue.
“While the man lay there
bleeding, a priest happened by and passed by on the far side of the road.” This made sense to many of the crowd. If a priest were to touch this man and if the
man died, the priest would not have been allowed to participate in the
sacrifices. “With the priest far up the
road a Levite also happened by and saw the wounded man. He too passed by on the far side of the
road.” This also made sense to the
crowd. Levites were focused on duty and
did many unpleasant tasks. He too would
have been rendered unclean should the wounded man die on him.
“But along came a Samaritan
who saw the wounded man and had pity on him.
His heart broke as he surveyed the damage on the man. Reaching into his bag he pulled out some oil
and wine and used them to begin cleaning the wounds. A short conversation ensued but little the wounded
man said made sense. The loss of blood
was getting to his brain. Ripping his
own clothing, the Samaritan worked to stop the bleeding improvising bandages
and putting them in place. By the time
he was done the Samaritan was a mess. He
had dirt and dried blood all over him.
Using a piece of cloth that was on his donkey he wiped his hands as
clean as he could get them. Quickly, the Samaritan laid the man across his
donkey and took him to an inn. At the
inn he cared for him. A thought simmered
in his head that he needed to get his business done so he paid the inn keeper
to care for the man. He let the inn
keeper know that he would be back and would pay him for any extra
expenses. The inn keeper happily
Jesus looked around at the crowd. Several were still showing the shock of a
story where a Samaritan was the hero.
How could that be? Samaritans
were traitors and half breeds. But
Jesus did not care for their racism and hate.
“Who was the neighbor to the wounded man?”
The only answer that anyone
had was to say that it was the Samaritan.
“Go and do likewise.”
This story has been the lynch pin for the
social Gospel. How can we hear the heart
of this story and not long to be the Samaritan?
Oh I want to be the hero that works to rescue the hurting man! But how often do I fail like the priest and
the Levite? I choose duty. Responsibility is right and good. If I stopped and helped every needy person
between my home and work I would rarely make it to work. How often do I become annoyed when traffic
stops because someone’s car has broken down instead of pulling over, getting
out and helping? It would only take a
few moments. It would feel good and I
might actually get home faster. But I
would be inconvenienced. I might get
dirty. But maybe that is the point of Jesus’
story. His great grandfather David told
the men around him that he would not present a sacrifice that cost him
nothing. Helping people will get you
dirty. It will make you tired. It will cost you something. But it seems to me that taking some time is
loving your neighbor.
What is clear in this story is the
definition of who is our neighbor.
Anyone who is hurting, lost, confused and hurting is our neighbor. This includes people of different faiths,
different cultures and different nations.
Based on other portions of Scripture this also includes our enemies,
people who would like to hurt us and people who would like to knock us
down. There is no thought by the
Samaritan about the morality of the man.
All he saw was that there was a man in need and bent down took time and
helped the man.
What is not as clear is what does it look
like to love your neighbor? Let us look
at some of the basic patterns of this challenging expression of love.
He came to where he was (Luke 10:33)
He saw the man (Luke 10:33)
He had compassion (Luke 10:33)
He went to him (Luke 10:34)
He bandaged his wounds (Luke 10:34)
He brought him to an inn (Luke 10:34)
He set him up for future success and left him (Luke 10:35)
Join us for next week’s blog where we will examine each of these areas.
There is a strong temptation
to start with a discussion of the causes of poverty. However, this tends to
lead to debate and argument about who is to blame. Typically these discussions will focus on two
areas. First it is the fault of the
poor. If they just tried harder or got
off of drugs or countless other things than there would not be poverty. In many cases this is true. No solution to poverty can ignore personal
choices that lead to poverty. Choosing
to skip work in order to drink alcohol or if your work performance is
negatively impacted by drug use than yes you will be poor. If you are lazy you will not be able to
maintain a household and relationships, much less a job. However, it is too simple to blame people for
their own pain. We will need to address
personal choices in whatever plan that we institute. The second area that gets much attention is
the environment or the society that is to blame for poverty. This too is valid. Racism, the restructuring of the family,
businesses moving overseas and other environmental and societal issues are all
a factor in creating poverty in this nation.
A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the
hands to rest—
and poverty will come on
you like a thief and scarcity like an armed
Now a famine came over all Egypt and Canaan, and great affliction with
it, and our fathers could find no food.
These are both valid
explanations. We will explore solutions and ideas around both of these areas around
this issue; it does not benefit us too much to debate and argue over the
causes. While the debate is happening,
the next generation is hungry, and ready to join the masses of men and women
who are experiencing poverty. Instead of
starting with the causes, let us start with the issues right in our face.
William Booth the founder of
the Salvation Army believed that if you were going to end poverty you needed to
provide people with food, shelter, work and hope.
While we will discuss this
further when we talk about nutrition, we must start with an understanding that
people need to eat. Think about how you
get when you are hungry. How is your
energy level? How about your mood? How productive are you at work? I once read a study of decisions made by appeals
court justices. Because of great
documentation of the processes, we can tell what time all of the decisions were
made. The study noted that in the
morning the defendants were more likely to get a favorable decision the earlier
in the work day that their appeal came before the judge. As the morning wears on and the time gets
closer to lunch the decisions tend to be more negative for the defendants. The same thing happens right after lunch. The
justice is softer with a full stomach than when he or she is hungry. Maybe part of any trial lawyers’ tool kit
should be candy bars. This hunger factor
does not just impact judges, people tend to become more negative when they do
not have much to eat. Food is a critical
piece of the solution. We must make sure
that all of our people eat.
Food needs not only to feed
the stomach. Food banks are full of
canned foods and other foods that have been donated because they were
approaching the end of their shelf life.
They also have a wide variety of foods that common folks don’t eat. We give this to those who are living in
poverty and expect them to be grateful.
Additionally our shelters, soup kitchens and other free eating sites are
overwhelmed with an assortment of processed foods. Because of the difficulty in gaining funding
these foods must be served. The problem
is that these foods will lead to health problems. Those with health problems have trouble
keeping a job, have trouble functioning in a society that worships good health
and youth and will ultimately create health care costs for all of society.
I once read that there is
junk and there is food, but we really don’t have junk food. I have come to agree. When we get to the section on nutrition we
must try to figure out how to get more healthy foods to those in poverty.
Food will give energy and
health to those in poverty. That is
where we can start to make a difference.
People are hungry. Can we find a
way to feed everyone? We will explore
this throughout the book. But consider
that our current system of food stamps does not seem to be working. We have way too many abuses and we have
caused people to become dependent on the government to supply the
resources. Since we are a government by
the people and for the people if we are to supply food for everyone we will
need to take it from someone else.
Taxpayers often balk here. They will correctly state that they work hard
for their money. They ask why they
should give away what they have earned to those who are lazy. That is exactly what is being done when you
pay your taxes so that the government can pass it on for you. How can we feed the hungry people that will
encourage them not to sit back and simply treat it as a handout? How can this
There is a Biblical concept
called gleaning. Throughout the Old
Testament the rich were commanded not to harvest to the edges of their
fields. They were commanded not to go
over their fields twice. The idea was
that the poor could go out and gather for themselves and be fed. Yet, the food gathered through gleaning was
healthy and good for you. The work in
the outdoors was also beneficial. Beyond
that the concept is brought out that those that are currently wealthy by
manmade standards need to share with those that are experiencing need.
caused the great depression?
An investigation into the
causes of the great depression will show that greed was one of the primary factors
that led to the suffering of millions, worldwide. Selfishness does not look pretty in society. Yet we see this often as businesses try to
squeeze every penny out of their enterprise regardless of who it hurts.
Our goal must be to honor
these men and women by allowing them to work for their food in some
A solution to our hunger
This gleaning concept seems
to solve our problem. At first glance
this is a great idea for those who are hungry.
They get fed and the wealthy are not greedy. But wait it’s not that simple. What about those who have disabilities? They may not be able to go out to the
fields. If they have families they can
help. Families are a part of the
solution. We will discuss that more in
detail later. But in our current
discussion, what if there is no family?
Also consider that if a man or woman is out picking fruits and
vegetables all day they are not looking for work that will help them not need
to go out and glean. If we are not
careful we will entrap folks in the world of poverty. Also at issue is that currently most of those
experiencing poverty are living in urban settings. Growing foods may not be very common and so
opportunities to glean may also be lacking.
We will explore solutions to this problem when we discuss some promising
opportunities around hydroponics and community gardens. One final challenge comes to us in the form
of those that really are lazy. Some will
simply not go out to gather the food and then expect others to come through for
them. There are those folks who will
work really hard to show that they cannot work.
What do we do with them? Do we
simply sit and watch them starve? What
about their children? This is a
difficult problem with no easy solution.
Once men and women are fed
they are ready to be concerned with security and stability. There is a tendency to believe that shelter
is all about a roof over their heads.
While that is part of the story, we must look deeper. We focus on temporary solutions and wonder
why people are unstable. We offer rental
subsidies, rescue shelters or tent cities or other short term, unstable answers
to the housing problem.
“Everyone then who hears these words
of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.
And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and
beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the
rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and
does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.
And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and
beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”
This temporary mindset
carries over and suddenly folks begin to look at things differently.
One example of where it
impacts people at work as this mobile mindset carries over and they are always
looking for the next job. They feel the right and privilege to do a poor job,
be rude to their supervisors and give less than their best. Why not, they can just change jobs. It won’t matter all that much. When they get fired it is the boss’s fault or
the company is crooked. Never is it
their own fault.
Poor is he who works with a negligent
hand, But the hand of the diligent makes rich.
It can even be argued that
this same mindset carries over to family life as flexibility becomes the rule
of law. There is no need to be
respectful of family if you can leave at anytime and couch surf or shack up
somewhere else. There is no need to heal
relationships because they will accept you as you are and take your side down
at the tent city or the local rescue shelter.
to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.
Values also are impacted by
this as folks waver when they are not in a long term permanent home. If you are only living in the temporary and
tomorrow does not matter who cares if you lie, steal or cheat? A person has to do what they have to do to
survive don’t they?
Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness
for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.
– Isaiah 5:20
Our target needs to be a
home, not simply a place to lay their head or leave their belongings. A home is
stable and is also passed onto the next generation. The stability is felt and understood by
children and it will benefit them for many years. How do we get there where everyone is stably
housed? Building smaller homes that
those experiencing poverty can afford is a step in the right direction. This could take the form of tiny houses or
small cottages. The difficulty comes
when we think that we need to house them first and then deal with the issues
that cause someone to become homeless.
Without the incentive of living on the streets or in a shelter we have
seen clearly that most will not make new choices. They are secure in their dysfunction. If we want to develop a sustainable housing
plan we must deal with the issues that cause folks to become homeless
first. That would require dorm like
settings in rescue shelters where men and women can be re-parented with right
values and right work ethics.
works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits
lacks sense.” Proverbs 12:11
Work is about more than a
paycheck. If the only benefit was the
paycheck than the welfare systems that have been in place since the New Deal
would have done wonders for our nation.
Work equals purpose. Work gives men and women a reason to get out
of bed and impact their place of business and their communities. Work gives a reason to shower, to dress in
ways that connect them to society and strive to get along with others. This purpose is also carried over to
families. A strong work ethic leads to
cleaner homes and students who study harder.
I have known men and women that graduated college because they wanted
better jobs than their parents. It is
the work ethic that really changes the hearts of people.
you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from
the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the
Lord Christ.” Colossians 3:23-24
At work you will forge some
of the best friendships that you will ever experience. While on the clock you learn the discipline
of knowing when to speak and when to shut your mouth. When you work you learn manners and how to
talk respectfully to those in authority.
Work gives you projects that will be completed even if it is only the
conclusion of a sale with fries there is completion. Completing things is good for our minds as we
realize there is a reason for our efforts.
A side benefit of work is that for at least a set amount of time it
keeps folks out of trouble. The old
saying that says that idle hands are the devil’s workshop often proves to be
Having work does of course
come with the benefit of a paycheck. But
now that check has meaning. When you are making a purchase of a movie ticket
you no longer think of that movie costing you ten dollars. You think is this movie going to be worth an
hour of work? When you go buy a one
dollar candy bar is this worth ten minutes of work? That changes how people shop. Consider how you spend money when you receive
it with a card for your birthday verses how you typically spend a
paycheck. Work makes us think
differently about how we spend our money.
So how do we get people back
to work? Long forgotten programs that
were part of the New Deal could be resurrected for the benefit of us all. Money that is allotted to welfare programs
could be combined with money set aside for building roads or state parks could
be combined to reform the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corp) or the WPA (Work
Progress Administration). A revised CCC
would take men and women who have demonstrated a lack of discipline and put
them into a military like setting and put them to work taking care of our state
and national parks. We will dig into
this deeper later. The WPA style program
would be for those who are disciplined, have special skills and can provide
work that will benefit our communities.
Here again we run into
difficulties. Unions have fought for
higher wages, what happens to those wages when we take work from the union
workers? Again, no easy answers. Another difficulty does deal with those who
have physical or mental disabilities. What
do you do with them? I would suggest that everyone who is drawing
breath can do something to benefit our community. There is no disability that can stop a person
who is willing to work from performing an admirable job.
As many take time to
complain about the growing gap between the rich and the poor I wonder how many
have taken time to consider the truth that many of the government programs
might be feeding the gap?
One time I was playing
Monopoly with my kids. They have a
standard policy not to negotiate with dad because when I negotiate I tend to
end up with property that will enable me to win. As the game progresses and the kids own all
of the properties and I am unable to build any houses or hotels I realize that
it is only a matter of time before I will lose.
That lack of hope makes the game lose all of its luster and fun. Now imagine a life where you believe that the
odds are so stacked against you that you can never hope to win? For many in our nation this is a sad
reality. If we can even dream of a
nation without poverty than to be successful we must give men and women
hope. As a Christian I believe that the
only lasting hope comes from a relationship with Jesus Christ. Everything else that might give hope is
temporary. A job is temporary, family is
temporary but Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. He does not change. That is hope that I can believe in.
29:11For I know the plans I have for you,”
declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to
give you hope and a future.
Even if they or you reject
this form of hope you must enable them to dream again. What did they want to be when they were
kids? What happened to that dream? What part of that dream can we bring back to
life? How do we help folks get back in
touch with who they were created to be after a long season of neglect? These are all challenges that we must address
and not surrender until we find a solution.
is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and
Many of the men and women
that I work with will tell me all of the things that they cannot do. While I do care about these things, it is not
particularly helpful. No one will hire
you for what you cannot do. My question is always the same. “What can you
do?” If they can breathe and force a
smile on their face there is hope for them.
Help these men and women in poverty consider the things that they are
capable of and watch what happens.
father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believed
Within everyone there is
something that is often sitting there, stagnant waiting to be called up when
needed. I have been hearing the term
grit more often than before and this is that something that is often lacking in
lives without hope. We need to stir up
grit within folks and motivate them to rise up and live courageous, heroic
time, grit is what separates fruitful lives from aimlessness.
An additional element
discovered by that Catholic Priest in Paris is the importance of service. Even those with fewer financial resources are
strengthened when they serve others. As
we develop our programs we must strive to empower those who are currently
experiencing poverty to find someone to serve.
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. Galatians 5:13
This might be serving our
senior citizens so that they can live their final days at home instead of in
the overpriced, understaffed and hopeless environment of most nursing
homes. This might include those
currently homeless in the cleaning of our streets, parks and empty lots instead
of standard employees. The possibilities
are only limited by our imaginations.
Give people purpose and they will never cease to amaze us.
So we have begun this journey together. I hope that you will go onto the next chapter and continue on in the adventure. In the meantime consider the following questions and discuss them with others.
Questions Chapter 1
What is the mental image that I conjure up when I think about poverty?
What are my emotions around those in poverty?
Where do I fall on the personal choice cause or environmental cause debate?
What am I willing to sacrifice to really help make poverty vanish from my community?
What benefits can I think of for our community if we were to end poverty?
Being poor might actually be
the oldest profession. I mean Adam and
Eve did not even have clothing until after the fall. That is when God intervened and conducted the
first sacrificial offering to help those in poverty. Many over the ages have noticed the plight of
the poor and were touched by God to do something about the issue of
poverty. Yet, it is still here about
7000 years or so after creation. What
can we possibly do about it? Of course
most of us feel bad about people sleeping on sidewalks, under bushes and
otherwise not eating good food. If we
think about them while we are sitting down to dinner in our warm homes
surrounded by loving family with lots of laughter we might feel a twinge of
guilt. It is easy though to shrug it off
and say, “Well they made choices.” Many would then add in a wide assortment of
labels for these men and women like addict, bum, hobo or any wide range of
derogatory terms and then we feel better about enjoying the blessing of our
home and hearth.
We might think, “Well I can’t do anything about it so why even try.” I know that I have felt guilty sitting at a banquet with servers bringing me refills of tea or coffee while I hear a presentation about the plight of those in poverty. It is not my intention today to induce guilt. That guilt is already there. Isn’t that part of the reason that you don’t look at the panhandler at the intersection that is looking at you while the light refuses to change to green. While it is not our intention, we hurt for our fellow man but just simply feel unequipped to actually do something about the crisis. The purpose of this book is to encourage you to do something. Take action today toward this quest of ending poverty in this most wealthy and powerful of nations.
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what
Note: I do recognize that even doing the best that
we can to help; some folks will simply reject true love and will continue to
live in poverty. But let that not stop
us from giving all of mankind a chance to experience abundant life. Everyone
deserves a chance to succeed.
The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have
The idea of a quest to end
poverty seems a bit insane. This feat is
beyond the wisest of men and animals and it seems impossible so why even
I want to point out that it
has been done at least twice. In the
first case after many years the people forgot what they did to end poverty and
it returned. That is why, once we
succeed, we must build museums to remind us of the suffering that can take
place when we refuse to bring justice and peace and hope to our fellow
humans. In the second case those living
in poverty had no one living below them economically to serve.
One from ancient history society
that ended poverty started as a small impoverished village. This village was so poor that if they had
kept statistics like we do today over ninety percent of the population would
have been living below the poverty line.
Things were looking bad. In
addition to abject poverty and uncertain opportunities for food, the people
also had to be concerned about raiding parties from empires and nations around
them. Fear was very real for the
citizens of the village. The village had
many things going for it. Among the
population were many highly intelligent and creative people. After many generations of rough living the
people were hardened and strong. But the
one thing that would ultimately help the people the most is that they were part
of a kingdom that had a very wise king.
As the king considered the state of the village he knew that there was
potential for so much more. This king
loved his people and they loved him too.
Unfortunately love does not fill the belly or warm the body. Like I said, though, this king was very wise.
Calling his court to his
side he launched his plan. First he took
each family of the village an olive tree.
He simply gave it to them with the understanding that someday they would
pay him back. Wise men came and taught
the villagers how to plant the trees and care for them. The climate was perfect and the trees prospered. Throughout the process the people were
visited by wise men that helped them continue the care of the trees and ensure
that the people were always knowledgeable about olive trees. Stories, myths and legends would be told that
made the trees seem almost magical. The people were hopeful but they did not
know why. Soon the olives had their
first budding and then in the blink of an eye it was time for harvest. Again trainers descended on the village and
the people were helped along. When the
harvest was complete others were responsible for taking the excess olives and
taking them to other villages. The
people sold the olives and the village was not as poor as before. Over time things like olive oil and other
olive based products were created and the market grew. Olive products from the village were
traveling many miles and the village became prosperous. After just a few short years the king was
reimbursed for the original trees.
Experts continued to be available but for the most part the olive
growers could do things on their own. It
became obvious to the villagers that they would need better roads and other
things to help the trade to continue to prosper so they happily paid taxes that
were put to good use to create these things.
When rumors of foreign armies were heard they joyfully paid taxes to
build an army and navy. The village grew
and prospered many years. Eventually the
people were able to specialize into those who made tools, made olive oil,
warriors and the arts came into being.
Now the village had wealth and there was no poverty among them.
NOTE: They had slaves that
they had bought from foreign lands.
While I would say that these are poor they all had a roof over their
heads and food in their bellies. This is
not to excuse them. Life without freedom
is not worth living.
This village I am sure you
have heard of is Athens, Greece. Too
many years of wealth and prosperity took place and they were no longer the
hardened people from the early days.
When the Persians came they could not stand. With war came famine, infighting and
disaster. Instead of working together
they lived divided by artificial factors like politics and family lineage. Poverty returned with a vengeance.
There are a couple of things
to point out here about this ancient story that are important to take note of
and we will come back to later in this book.
If the King had simply gave the people food they never would have
prospered. He helped them get started
and offered training and other helps along the way. But each family only had success in
accordance with their level of work.
Handouts will destroy civilizations.
Handouts are only appropriate after a disaster and only for a short
season. We must empower those who are
experiencing poverty. They have value
and skills. Let them use their ability
for the forces of good. Secondly,
society had to work together. When
enemies threatened they had to work together, pay taxes and encourage
others. We must begin to see others as
valuable to our own growth and prosperity and work together to face the
difficulties that will come.
Our role in the church and
in society as a whole when it comes to issues of poverty is to offer those in
poverty a ladder. It is up to them to
A second case of success
took place in Paris, France in the early 1950s.
A young priest walking through the city after church one Sunday noticed some
men that were experiencing homelessness going through trash. Curious he began a conversation with the
men. They told him that they could take
the bottles to one guy who would give them money to eat. Another told him about another guy who would
take bricks and other items for scrap. They would travel taking a few bottles
to the bottle guy and other items to others who would buy those items. At the end of the day, each man would have a
little bit to eat that night. In that moment the priest had compassion on these
men and he set out to organize these men.
He gave them assignments. Some
collected nothing but bottles and another nothing but bricks. When the day was done all of the men came
back together with big smiles and plenty of money for them all to eat well. Again the priest organized the work party and
they went out again. Soon they made
enough to rent a small place they could all live. Eventually they were able to buy a building
and they managed it themselves. The
priest continued to teach and train them on how to handle conflicts with each
other. He helped some learn to read and
how to do math. Most of all he taught
these men to serve one another and also to serve others who were
struggling. The city was getting cleaner
and the small group continued to prosper and their numbers swelled. Some would leave the group to pursue
education or other careers. But service
was embedded in their hearts. One day the priest noticed there were no more
homeless in Paris and he became concerned.
He knew that if these men did not have someone to serve that they would
become arrogant and proud. They had to
serve someone or poverty would return just as in the days gone by. The priest went to third world countries to
recruit folks to come to Paris, but it was too late. Without someone to serve the men returned to
bad choices and men were once again to be found living on the streets, feeding
themselves by going through garbage. Returning to their selfish nature and
experiencing the loneliness and pain of life alone, the great experiment came
to a screeching halt.
priest built these men a ladder and for a season they chose to climb it.
Service is an important
key. I don’t drink or gamble. It is not my purpose here to debate the
merits of that choice. But I don’t drink
or gamble because I want to be fully available to serve others. If I am drunk I am not of much service to
those in need. If I lose my money to
casinos I have less to share with my fellow man. Service must be what shapes our character and
inspires us daily.
I have often been surprised
throughout my years of working with those in poverty how the men and women in
poverty tear each other down, steal from one another and attack those who are
making changes in their lives to get out of poverty. They remind me of the story of crabs. If a fisherman goes out and catches one crab
and puts it in the bucket he must put a lid on the bucket. However, if he catches two and puts them both
in the bucket he does not need a lid.
The two crabs will prevent each other from getting out.
Don’t be a crab.
In both stories also notice
the important role of inspirational, revolutionary and inspiring
leadership. Every community has someone
with a voice that is filled with truth and grace. Those voices must be supported and encouraged
or the silence will drive people into poverty.
So it has been done. What do
we do? Where do we start? That is what this book is intended to
do. That is, start something of a
movement. Find your piece of the action
and get involved. Each of us has God
given passions. We must find our role
and move forward. This book does not
have all of the answers or all of the solutions. It is meant to create conversations and to stoke
the fires of passion for our neighbors.
This book will discuss patterns and ideas and they are debatable. You can refute them, argue them but even in
that there is conversation and if that happens I will consider this book a
success. Strive to add a verse to this
book so that we can make progress.
Note also that this blog is written from a Christian world view and many illustrations and patterns that will be discussed will reflect that view. If you believe in Christ as your savior, this book will enhance your knowledge of Him. If you are an unbeliever, I ask you to not to throw out the whole concept because of your prejudice against people of faith. This book has much to say about humanity and the process needs your help so stay with it and you too can add to the story.
Poverty is complicated and
too many times policy makers and people of good intentions have begun a good
work but have lost energy. That is why
it is only TOGETHER that we can do this.
We must forge an alliance with others who also want to do their
part. No one part is any more important
than any other part. The Bible teaches
us that if we are united nothing will be impossible. That is the reason why I think this is
The LORD said, “If as one people speaking the same language they
have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for
By together I mean that we
must also include those in poverty in on the discussion. After all they are the subject matter experts
on what life in poverty is like. My
feeling is that they can identify the difficulties and the challenges. For those in middle class and above I charge
you to listen to their wisdom. I have
learned more from these men and women than I have from most of my college classes. These are incredible survivors. They make meals out of next to nothing. They
can fix broken things without tools.
While they should be open to learning from you, you need to return the
favor. My experience is that when you
listen to them, they will make more sense to you.
Wide or narrow attack?
It was toward the end of the
World War II, the allies were approaching the German borders and a great debate
began. Some felt that the allies should attack with a select front throwing
every resource on a small area in the hope of piercing the front lines of the
enemy? Others believed that they should
take on a wide front and engulf the enemy.
Ultimately, General Eisenhower chose to go with the wide front. Many commentators believed that his decision
extended the length of the war. Most
likely they are correct. The Germans
were in disarray and the Allies could have easily driven straight up to Berlin
with little resistance. Going with the
wide front enabled the Germans to regroup and ultimately to make a final push
through the Ardennes forest. While some
point a finger of blame at General Eisenhower for allowing that to take place
and say he should have listened to General Montgomery and others who believed
in the small front; it is important to
look at the big picture. Ending the war
too quickly would have enabled Germany to get out of the conflict with little
impact on their homeland. Another man,
maybe worse than Adolf Hitler, could have arisen and gained power. The quick fix would have been a
band-aid. Ultimately it is the wide
front that ended the insanity.
Most of the projects and plans for ending poverty have been done on a small front and has enabled poverty to simply be rearranged on the plate and not defeated. Wins are often made in the short run but nothing is ever sustained and the numbers of those in poverty actually grow. This book will argue for the wide front. We must attack poverty on all fronts with an aim to restore individuals, families and communities to health. Together moving in many areas with one voice and one purpose we can win. Again there will be many areas discussed but as time goes on we will learn of more contributing factors. We can’t keep waiting to find them all before publishing this book. We will move forward with the best we know today but the conversation must be a living organism of its own. Let us talk and share and see what we can do. This generation can end poverty in America. Let’s get started.
A Jewish man had two sons, the story
goes. He loved his boys intensely and
worked to raise them with the traditions and the moral values that had given
him his own success. One day the younger
of the two came to his father. “Father, I know that someday I would inherit a
portion of this land and of your belongings.
I would like that now.” The
father was saddened by this mindset and broken hearted that this son of his
would so reject him. Yet, with a heavy
heart he gave the younger son his share of the estate. A short time later the son sold off all of
his share and left to explore the world.
Each and every day the father went to a small hilltop where he could see
the road and look for his son. Day after
day he was disappointed and returned to his home to pray, fast and hope for the
best for this son of his. The elder son
was dutiful and cared for the family business and tried to keep his father’s
Meanwhile, the younger son was living large
in the big city. With a large purse of gold
coins he was the life of the party. At
first it was difficult for him to overcome the moral teachings of his father,
but eventually his heart was calloused to such old fashioned thinking. Each night he would drink until late in the
night and each morning wake up with a different woman. Rarely if ever did he even remember his
family back home.
Day after day the father continued to go to
that hilltop and look for his son.
Travelers coming through would share with the elder brother about the
wild living the younger was doing in the city.
The stories were always told in whispers so that the father would not
hear and be even more broken hearted. Bitterness,
and to be totally honest, a little bit of envy came over the older
brother. Each day the elder brother woke
up with the sun and would work all day.
“Why should he get to have fun and have no responsibility?” Despite the bitterness the elder brother
continued to do his work and served his father faithfully.
After a particularly long losing streak the
younger brother realized that his change purse was getting lighter and lighter. As the purse shrunk so did his list of
friends. Soon he found himself broke and
alone. With no money the young man
noticed that his stomach that had been enlarged with rich foods was shrinking
quickly. But with the famine raging in
the land there was little work to be found.
Local businesses chased him away from their front entrances knowing that
he had no money. The young man was
A well worn path know showed the route the
father took day after day to his hilltop look out, hoping and waiting for his
son to return.
One day as he looked through some piles of
garbage hoping to find something to eat, a man took compassion on him and took
him to an inn and bought him a nice meal and gave him a few coins to “help him
get on his feet.” The young man was
ecstatic and ran off to gamble and multiply his good fortune. Over the next several days his purse expanded
and shrunk until he was again broke, alone and hungry. Again wandering the street and looking for
garbage behind a building that was used as a synagogue the local rabbi came
along and took pity on the boy. He too
bought him a meal and gave him a few coins.
Again the excited young man took off and gambled the windfall and
repeated the process. Week after week
and month after month, the now aging man would expend his life in wild living
and someone would take compassion on him and he would survive. He was always grateful and typically
polite. He had learned where to hang out
in order to get the best meals and the most money when he again experienced the
loss that he learned was just a normal part of life.
The father continued to wait for his son. Some days he felt hopeful and some days he lost all hope. However, the youngest son was never going to return home. The son would never feel the consequences of his choice. People with good intentions kept feeling pity for him and rescuing him. Unlike the original story the younger son never made it to the pig sty so that he could “come to himself” and return to his father. Ultimately the father died broken hearted. The younger son died on a cold night before he could be rescued. He was buried in an unmarked grave because nobody knew who he was.
this nation has many flaws and has failed in so many ways. It is still a great nation. People from around the world still want to come
here and be called citizens. The people
of this nation routinely donate money to help people for a wide array of
causes. Among those causes that often
are given focus is the homeless. Great
passion is expressed in churches and among the social workers that we must help
these people who are living on the streets.
Businesses are hurt by people begging in front of their store
fronts. Incredible government programs
are developed to get them housed and out of our sight so that we might not be
burdened by the sight of these dirty, ragged masses of humanity.
Unfortunately, most of these
programs only provide handouts and temporary reprieve. These programs take on multiple names but are
typically the same. Churches
particularly reach out to the homeless and advocate for them to get help. Social workers go to lobby congress to give
more money for program to help these men and women.
There is one fatal flaw with all of these good hearted intentions. They all prevent the person in poverty from returning to the father. They never get to feel the shame of being a Jewish man working in a pig sty. They are given resources that enable them to continue in the lifestyles that led them into poverty in first place. As a result the numbers of those who are in poverty continue to multiply.
Imagine a ten story
building. On the tenth floor of this
building are the ultra wealthy. The second floor is filled with those that are
living a stable and moral life just above the poverty line. In between those two extremes is where most
of us live. Between floors there are
stairwells that enable people to move up or down between floors. The stairwells going up represent hard work,
education and healthy relationships. The
stairwells going down are representing laziness, lack of education and choosing
unhealthy relationships. Within this
building are elevators. There are some
with special skills (think athletes and artists) who use those skills to
quickly rise to the top. Most do not get
to use the elevators but they are there.
On the ground floor is where those that are
living in poverty live. Because it is
the ground floor there is much instability there. People come and go and crime is common. Nobody really enjoys the ground floor and
most dream of winning the lottery and getting to live on the top floor. Alas, there is no elevator or even a
stairwell from the ground floor even to the 2nd floor. There is only a rickety ladder. Many are paralyzed by fear of climbing the
ladder. Often people in society shake
the ladder if they even try to climb until they fall back to the ground. (Think
Jim Crow and similar laws). Even others
living in poverty shake the ladder if they attempt to climb. They are like lobsters who when caught and
put in a bucket must be secured with a lid if there are only one but have no
need of a lid if there are two. The
lobsters pull each other down if they try to escape.
The last group that keeps
them on the ground floor are the incentive stealers. Those on the ground know about the stability
of the ground floor and if they get hungry enough or feel unsafe enough will
make new choices so that they can climb.
While the others who are knocking them off of the ladder are mean and
cruel, these are loving and compassionate.
But the result is the exact same.
In this series we will explore what can be done to greatly reduce and even end poverty in this great nation. We will look at how our society often keeps people in poverty and consider what we should do to actually help these men and women climb the ladder out of poverty.
There will be disagreement and that is good. We need to have discussion without calling each other names or demonstrating hate. We just simply see things differently. Let us work together to make a difference. Let us work together to complete this quest of ending poverty in America.