In discussions regarding economics, poverty and the like, people will call upon the words of Jesus that proclaim that the poor will always be among us. Many people have a sense that, well, inequality is just a result of the nature and function of social and economic systems, and they are certainly right. I have as much of a sense from scripture, however, that we as Christ-followers are called to witness to an alternative of this in our respective communities. Dr. Rah made the point well in his sermon on Sunday when he said that typically Christians are actually BEHIND the culture in caring for and responding to issues of economic justice and race, rather than visionaries setting a new standard, by the power of the Spirit that is in us. (But that is another post, entirely!)
The thing I have been realizing this week is that Jesus’ words speak to me of another reality. The needy that are among us are not “quick-fixes”, and how rare it is that a need is met for an individual or family that is not followed by yet another need and then another. And this is where “life together” with people who have not had access to education, racial privilege, stable families, quality health-care, etc. can really become draining. Most of us are willing and even eager to intervene in a situation of critical need and give help that can make a difference. Helping to pay for first and last month rent for a homeless family so that they can get into their own place, or giving someone in need of transportation our used car, are examples of the kind of generosity that can feel pretty satisfying and mostly easy. It is the second and third and tenth request for assistance that can make you want to stop answering your phone or front door.
It’s funny, though. Our invitation to generosity is not occasional. It is not reduced to our tax-deductible charitable gifts that we make in December. It is daily and weekly and sacrificial and self-denying, and it goes against every message our culture gives us concerning how we should think about ourselves. And while we should of course love people in ways that work against damaging forces of dependency, we should not chafe at the continual stream of need that is brought to our feet. We dare not, like the early disciples Ananais and Sapphira, decide that it really isn’t required of us to bring all of our excess to the table ready to share.