As a part of Blog Action Day, I wanted to put up a quick post about poverty. A good number of the posts going up in support of Blog Action Day right now are related to the economy and bailout bill. As a pastor, I’ll admit that I have little training in economics. So, I’ll offer a perspective based on stewardship. All possessions we have are gifts from God which we are called to use not for our own purposes but for God’s. That’s why a Christian can’t stand idly by while the wealthy and privileged misuse the gifts with which they’ve been entrusted, rather than using them to care for those who are in need. Instead, Christians are called to be in fellowship with the poor and to deliberately embrace simplicity so that they can participate in God’s mission – and this means that we proclaim a message diametrically opposed to the greed and economic exploitation of the reigning economy.
In today’s daily lectionary, the Gospel passage is from Luke 9, where Jesus sends out the Twelve on their first “mission trip”. In verse 3 Jesus “told them: ‘Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt.'” He sends them out dependent, stripped of their own strength and resources, and in solidarity with the poor. We may not like it, but apostolic poverty was a part of the original missionary commission. Paul certainly embraced it. On Sunday, I preached at Beechview Presbyterian Church about Paul’s own imitation of Christ in his willingness to suffer. To listen to the full sermon on 1 Corinthians 4:9-16, click here to download an mp3.
This is not to say that all Christians are called to sell all their possessions (though some may be!). But it is to say that as Christians we are called to embrace simplicity and that such simplicity can actually empower mission. And the first place that mission would be empowered by such a persepctive is here at home: As we seek to fight poverty in our cities, how many more resources could be made available by the practice of simplicity? How would Christians respond to (or be affected by) the current economic crisis if we believed in stewardship and simplicity? Would we be able to speak with a more credible voice to the rest of the world if we were faithful stewards of our finances? How much more bold could we be in taking risks for the Kingdom, confident that God will provide however much is needed? The laborers are worthy of their wages (Luke 10:7), though those wages may be only our daily bread (Luke 10:8).