The annual poverty report was just released. And the debates rage over the 50 year war on poverty. “Poverty is not as bad as they say.” “People just need to stop living off the government and get a job.” “Let’s stop coddling the poor.” The New York Times reported this week on more municipalities passing laws to criminalize loitering, sitting on a public sidewalk, and other activities aimed at moving the homeless off the streets and into prisons. Apparently it’s fine to sit on a sidewalk for hours waiting for the iphone 6, but don’t have a cardboard sign anywhere near you.
I think many American’s don’t understand who the poor in America are. They are not a permanent underclass living off the government. They are our neighbors and they need our help. This short video might help.
Here are some messages from the recently released report: marriage matters. The only group to statistically move out of poverty were married couples. Most of the poor have a job. But stagnant wages and low wages are pulling the middle class into poverty. The only group to advance in income were the top 5% adding to a widening income inequality in America. Young adults are struggling and there is a significant increase in shared households (people living together to make ends meet). 43.7 percent of young adults (25-34) if they did not live with a parent would have incomes below the poverty line. So if your adult child has returned home – you are not alone.
Another report – Accessing Justice in the Contemporary USA – released in August interviewed hundreds of people in an urban and suburban setting in the Midwest to discover that 2/3 reported at least one civil justice issue in an 18 month period of time. These issues involved employment, money (finances, government benefits, debts), insurance, housing and others. This was across all race, ethnicity and income. 47% reported significant negative consequences as a result such as fear, loss of income or confidence, damage to physical or mental health, verbal or physical violence. But only 22% sought help from anyone – pastor, social worker, lawyer, police – because they assumed no one would help and nothing could be done. Another 22% were too embarrassed. Sadly 56% of this random, general population described their situation as “part of God’s plan”.
Church and Christian friend we need to correct this terrible theology. God’s plan is not to harm, but to provide hope. Jer. 29:11. Justice seeks to restore all that is broken, beginning with us. Without God’s grace we would all be objects of His wrath, but he loves us so much he died for us. Why do we take that grace and turn it into a club to beat up the widow, fatherless, alien and poor. Our neighbors have real needs and we should be agents of God’s grace, hope and love. He doesn’t need us to pour out His wrath. In fact, it’s pretty clear that Jesus poured out most of His wrath on the strict, judgmental, religious people of the day. So let’s help our neighbors see that God’s plan for them is not that they suffer in silence but that they be restored in grace. Let’s be agents of that grace as we…
Go and Do Likewise!