Thursday, December 3, 2015

So you want to help the poor?


What is the image you have of the poor? When you think of Africa and India the BoP (Bottom of the Pyramid) approximately 1.4 billion people receiving less than $1.25 a day what comes to mind?Maybe you see hands reaching up, asking you for money, begging. Maybe you see crying, family members dying, suffering and pain.

And then you envision yourself? A superhero. Flying in to Africa or India prepared to hug the children (take a selfie of course) , feed them food, buy them brand new toys, and change their life for the good. Even though you are only prepared to spend a couple weeks living with them in their misery. You are making a great sacrifice indeed (or so you are reminded by 10 other church members who applaud you when telling children's story from the pulpit.)

You want to help- that's why you do it..
 Well at first you really do. At first you think you can make a difference and you have a genuine love for the people. You want to be Jesus' hands and feet.
That's how it starts (hopefully) and that's great because Jesus commands us to help the poor (and not just when we feel like it). He says that whatever we do and don't do for them we do for Him and goes to show us that how we treat the "least of these" is a salvation issue. For if we know Him surely we will love our brothers.

But then you read the Bible verse that says "the poor will always be with us". You look at the statistics of 5 billion people earning less than $40 a day while you the top of the pyramid makes so much money. And you start to feel a little guilty- like maybe you aren't giving enough.

You go to church and they shove pamphlets down your face showing you pictures of children wearing nothing but bones an dying of thirst from unclean water. You go to your school convocation with five more ways you can do something to make a difference. And so you leave a dollar here and there, to justify your guilt, and continue to live a rich, "blessed" life- the way God wants you too right? You leave some money here and there, do your school's community service project, and you even go on a mission trip. Helping the poor one step at a time? You think?

Yet we have a problem.

The cost of short term missions every year is around nine billion.
The US issues around 50 billion a year in foreign aid.
There's more than 17,000 charities that represent more than 30 billion collectively in revenue.
Somehow giving money doesn't seem to be solving the world's problems..
Short term trips and charities (while not all bad) don't seem to be the full solution either.

And we have an even bigger problem.

The poor are not miserable people living miserable lives crying out for our help. The poor do not want money or bread sent to their door *. The poor have families, they have relationships, they play soccer, they do their hair. The poor are probably on average happier than most Americans who while having everything still have not discovered how to have joy.

We typical Americans know almost nothing about the poor. The poor are individuals. They are families. The woman who needs to find water to give to her child in Africa is completely different than the South American who has been raped and is fighting to get through college. We cannot just travel over to another country and think that we will be of service. Especially if we are not asked.

So if you want to help the poor...
If I want to help the poor..
Maybe I should help myself first.
Maybe we should learn to love- to love God.
Because in a world where everyone is suffering,..
Where everyone is poor. Because we are all lacking something are we not? We all have needs. The poor just have bigger material ones that are life and death

In a world where we are all drowning..
If we don't have Jesus Christ
If we don't listen Him
If we don't follow Him. If we don't love Him enough to hate our selfish ways. If we are not prepared to give everything up and to love others enough to listen to them, to see them for who they are, to take time to study about what they really need..
Than who are we to try and help them?
Who are we to help the poor?

*Note not all points are fully evidenced. This is an unedited, opinion paper about my personal reflection on poverty.




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