Poverty seems to me, as I reflect on it through scriptures and present day realities, an ill that needs to be removed, like any other ill, societal or individual.
Yesterday at church, I had a conversation with my mentor’s wife, who just returned from Congo. Teary-eyed, she spoke about the almost unbelievable poverty she saw while she was there. What struck her more was societal poverty and lack of basic infrastructure that in a place like Canada, we take for granted. Even if you are poor here, there is relative societal prosperity to cushion the effect of individual poverty.
Regardless of belief or non-belief, it is considered a noble thing to strive to end poverty – provide access to basic amenities, healthcare, education, financial inclusion and everything a healthy society needs.
If we consider societal poverty to be an evil that should end, why would individual poverty not be an evil, if it is not a deliberate choice, just as some like Late Mother Theresa have the grace to choose in order to serve God and humanity? Can societies also not choose to be in lack of the benefits “healthy” societies have? There are negative side effects of material prosperity, including godlessness and moral decadence but does that make material prosperity evil?
This morning, a portion of scriptures caught my attention again in Luke’s Gospel. “Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached.”
Most people would agree that it is okay for the Messiah to come to make the blind see, the lame walk, cleanse lepers, restore the deaf’s hearing and raise the dead because those are undesirable conditions.
However, since the Messiah himself mentions poverty with those other ills He came to undo, could it be that material poverty is also a condition that needs to be corrected? Could the poor need the gospel as much as sinners need the gospel? What is the point of classifying poverty with disabilities if it is not? Why preach the gospel to a group of people if it is okay for them to remain in their condition? If they should not remain in their condition, what is the desired outcome of preaching the gospel to the poor? Could it be prosperity?