Wednesday, February 21, 2007

what to do about the poor

A new blogger friend, Alan Knox, has some good thoughts along with opening his heart on this question.

I'm far from being any kind of expert on economics. I have blogger friends who know plenty more on it. So I hesitate to venture forth, here. But I'm not a fan of "trickle down" economics. In theory it works great. Those at the top are unencumbered so they can use the best possible strategy to make the most money. And in that process, the people they hire to make the business go, make money. And the bigger the business, the bigger the impact in providing jobs.

That sounds good. The only reason I lack the confidence that I've heard from one proponent of that view, brilliantly, I must add, in a debate, is that there are fallen humans at the top of that "trickle down" economics. There has to be at least some regulation, yes, government regulation. The laws of the land are going to have to be in place to do that.

I believe in a chastened capitalism or free enterprise system. Which incorporates socialistic elements. Or are we just going to leave the poor behind? Even for self-interest alone, this is untenable. Crime is impacted when poverty is dealt with. Though self-interest should be no consideration for us of the kingdom of God in Jesus. And abortions are reduced when poverty is dealt with.

But what about the church? What about us? We should know the answer there. It is all over the Bible. We're to help the poor. The gospel of the kingdom of God in Jesus is, in part, about helping the poor and afflicted. Bob Robinson has some good examples of Christians serving in this way.

This needs to become a way of life with us as Christians, and as churches. We are out to help those who need it. And not just to help ourselves. That we're going to be generous, whether we have plenty or not. Some of the most generous people I know are those who don't have much. And others of us, who have more, are constantly thinking about what might happen if we give up such and such amount to help another in distress. Though in theory I love to give, and have done so, in practice I have plenty of room to grow. Of course we need to be wise in all of this. You don't just hand someone $5. Chances are they'll be buying some cheap liquor with it.

Governments have their responsibility. And America, (/o/v/e/r/a/l/l/, I believe /i/s/ /a/ /m/i/s/e/r/a/b/l/e/ /f/a/i/l/u/r/e/) has some serious work to do, in this area. /S/o/r/r/y/./ (editing changes) I see it from the perspective of real people in which the system simply does not work. Leaving them on the street. Or without essential medication.

And the church, though doing better, needs to really wake up. We've got to be there for each other. And for the poor in general. Doing good especially for those in need in the family of believers. But also doing the same good to all people. If this isn't part of our passion, than our Christianity isn't worth much.

What might you add to my thoughts, here?


Dave J. said...

Ted, what's on my mind today is that finding where and/or who to help is almost as frustrating as deciding whether to help at all.

When do you wait for a call...when do you make the call?

If there are millions in needs, and even just a half-dozen that I know, who do I reach out to?

Its all so much easier to push past and not do anything. Kinda helps you understand the Samaritan story from a different angle.

Dave J. said...

A bit more:

Maybe the amazing thing is that 'individual freedom' to help is hobbled by a lack of unifying vision and support structures of the community. That applies to so much of what I am dealing with, on so many levels. Your comments about socialism continue to make more sense.

L.L. Barkat said...

Here's a good question... is the free market really "free"? In other words, is it unbiased and totally open? How we answer that question is very important for solutions, and also for truth in our philosophy and practice of capitalism.

Ted Gossard said...

Dave, Great point. And to bring the good Samaritan story into the picture, very appropriate here. Makes me think we should start where we are, praying for eyes to see and ears to hear. And also pray about the world, and our part as we pray the prayer, "Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."

Your second comment and point is excellent and a clear way of putting it. We lack the needed vision, and therefore are not based or geared in this direction. But hopefully this can change, or we can at least work at that.


Ted Gossard said...

L.L., I like your thought and point made. Of course it really isn't. So that is one great starting point to work towards a solution. And in working towards a better understanding of an appropriate, kingdom of God philosophy and practice of capitalism. That at least we Christians can push and live out. Certainly a highly compassionate, thoughtful capitalism. And not pure capitalism, as I understand it, either. (now I'm getting even more over my head)


Ted Gossard said...

Though maybe capitalism as in the buying and selling of goods, in and the freedom to do so, is not wrong in itself. But it's our misuse of fallen humans in sharing our goods and services to each other, the way we do it, that's at fault.

Ted Gossard said...

sorry about the poor grammar on the last comment. I think you can get the gist of it. I need to get back to proofreading my comments!

Kim said...

Ted, I believe that the care of the poor should fall almost entirely on the church at large. And the way it should happen is that each of us should come to the aid of those who are known or become known to us. This keeps it personal.

When the church takes on the responsibility of caring for the poor it also secures the ability to win the hearts and minds of those it cares for (for Christ). Islam has become the fastest growing religion because they understand this concept and come to the physical aid of many in need in Third World countries. The poor have the opportunity to acknowledge their state of need, receive help gracefully, extend gratefulness and hopefully have the opportunity to help those more needy than themselves in the future. Those with means have the opportunity to acknowledge their state of means, feel compassion and empathy, extend help gracefully, divest themselves of excess and build for themselves treasures in heaven.

When government becomes involved all of the emotion is stripped from the exchange. Government is faceless. Its involvement does not elicit from the needy any grace or gratitude or inner need for recompense. Instead, it seems to foster "entitlement." Those with means become detached. They believe that they pay taxes and the poor should be cared for with tax monies (Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?). There becomes a backlash effect where those with means actually feel superior to those in need and resent them as a drag onthe economy. There is no opportunity for compassion or empathy in the exchange.

I also believe that the church (I mean the body of Christ) is (should be) much better able to give without judgment. That is, government programs dispassionately require proof of need and are inclined to have time limits, proof of pursuing ways out of need, etc. that the church wouldn't/shouldn't.

Government programs automatically demean the poor and needy by forcing them into welfare offices and the use of food stamps, WIC coupons, etc. that are a stigma in society. The church can be (maybe should be)a completely anonymous exchange.

Sorry for the long post!

Ted Gossard said...

Kim, Thanks. And it wasn't long for me, but good.

You make great points. And I've believed down that line most of my life.

But God does call to account how nations treat their people. You see this in the Old Testament prophets. And not only to the Theocracy, but also to other nations as well.

So I agree. The church should be the weight of where we're working and thinking (we in Jesus) in terms of helping the poor.

However, I believe we should also put whatever political weight and influence we have on the government to do their part as well. This can be a big problem, when governments are insensitive to the plight of the poor. The religious right does not believe helping the poor is as important as fighting against abortion and gay marriage. So evangelicals are known (at least partly unfairly) as those who are against abortion and gays/gay marriage. But the Jesus way would be different (not sanctioning homosexual sex, but taking in gays to the Table). And it would definitely be for the poor and afflicted, not only in our own activity as one holy nation, but calling to account govt's treatment or mistreatment of them!

I don't think govt programs have to be demeaning to the poor. We need Charles Colson's in this venue. What he is doing for prison reform, we also need for welfare reform.

So Kim, maybe you're more right, and I'm more wrong. But that's where I'm at right now. But I really appreciate your response. And you have some good points to ponder. Thanks.

Ted Gossard said...

To be fair to the religious right, they don't believe the poor should be a priority for their own political efforts, as they probably have a philosophy more akin to yours, Kim.

They certainly believe Christians and churches should help the poor. And they do, themselves. So I'm not here to slam them. I have done that, and surely sometimes, at least, unfairly.

And the church needs to become much stronger in our thoughts and work. Seeing the work of helping the poor as part of the gospel of the kingdom of God come, in Jesus.

Ted Gossard said...

I want to add this:

I strongly believe this is not a case of either/or, but and/both.

Just as we're now celebrating William Wilberforce's work, in the abolition of slavery and of the slave trade, so we need more good work in the area of government.

This can surely be a joint venture. But it would be a major undertaking for the church at large to meet all the needs of just the poor and uninsured in America. There needs to be a combined effort here.

I stop for now. Too many words from me....

Lukas McKnight said...


While I am quick to point out government's mistakes (especially the current campaign), I think it's going quite a bit too far to call the US a "miserable failure."

They system is far from perfect; you are right. But I challenge you to look at other governments around the world and see one that has it all figured out. Poverty is pretty low here, but we need to do better. I'd argue for socialized health care as well.

I think we need to be careful about abandoning our own country- instead, campaign for change. Work to elect officials that will seek to help the poor and needy, and will make this a large focus when in office.

But it's a step too far to call this country "miserable failure." There have been plenty of systems that we could lend that name to, but this is not one of them.

Ted Gossard said...

Lukas, Thanks for your comment. And your point is well-taken. It is going overboard to say that.

I would like to say, though, that among industrialized countries, we're ranked low (by UNICEF), at or near the bottom (21 of 22, or 22 of 22). Michael Kruse had read that report, and e-mailed me, that though he didn't buy in totally, he did think we can do much better.

I speak out of pain. Both in regard to what I see in front of me with struggling people on health and money issues; and in what I pick up in the church's and government's response. We're a far cry, in my view, from where we need to be, across the board. Though I would grant, that there are wonderful works and organizations that are exceptional in this. As well as Christians and churches that are doing better.

I do live in Michigan, and even West Michigan has suffered much with the closing down of manufacturing jobs here. Health care remains high, and the hospital told my friend they won't be able to treat her, unless she's insured. It is at least an uphill battle at times, it seems.

Ted Gossard said...

I decided I ought to edit, here, in regard to Lukas' comment. I did think I was over the top, but sometimes, in a conversation, do that, to make a point. Though it's probably not that helpful, unless there would be plenty of opportunity to qualify the statement.

Kim said...

Hey Ted, Thanks for your graciousness towards me and my post. Sometimes I can get a little dogmatic (it's a character flaw I'm working on). I cringe to think that my comments might be associated with the "religious right," mostly because I've been trying to distance myself from things political in general. I do think it would make a difference if this were a Theocracy. Unfortunately, I think Believers are "used" in the political process (on both sides) and I honestly believe we have bigger fish to fry than to get caught up in politics. What I mean is: "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's." Peace, Kim

Ted Gossard said...

Kim, Great point! I struggle with what place politics should play in our lives as those in Jesus. I am gravitating more towards my anabaptist roots (Mennonite) these days.

The kingdom of God come in Jesus does speak to everything. And our influence as salt and light should permeate everywhere. But how?

While we do need William Wilberforce's today (in both parties), I so much agree, that both the religious right, and the religious left are often used. And I think fall prey to worldly thinking that is not kingdom of God in Jesus, oriented. Thanks!

Kim said...

Funny you should mention Wilberforce, my wife and I just saw the movie Amazing Grace last weekend. Highly recommend it. Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

i urge you guys to go back to the handbook of man. the Word of God. plse look at the following: Prov.22.9; Deut15:10; Prov19:17; Isiah 58:10; Prov29:7;Luk6:33 and Prov19:17. Plse accept this as from a devoted follower of Christ and meant to be of subsistence to them that seeks the will of our Shephard. i also believe that through the guidance of the Holy Ghost and not by our own efforts will we be able to understand this Godly instruction. i pray that we all will understand and fulfill Gods request

Ted Gossard said...

Anonymous, Good verses. And certainly we want to grapple with this subject in view of the Story of God we find in Scripture. And by Scripture, which is God's Word, and is to impact the world, largely through us, I believe.