Anti Poverty week 2015 The poor will always be among you

Welcome to Anti poverty week.

What is it?
Anti-Poverty week aims to strengthen public understanding
of the causes and consequences of poverty and hardship
around the world and in Australia;
It is meant to encourage research, discussion and action to address these problems,
including action by individuals, communities, organisations and governments

Churches across Canberra – and across Australia –
of a whole range of different denominations
pick up a pretty solid emphasis on APW.    And that is important

Concern for the poor has been a major theme of Christianity from its earliest days
The Bible has over 2,000 verses referring to issues of poverty and justice
which is WAY more than there are about matters of sex, or about heaven/ hell

Our faith tells us that Christian social justice action
is based on God’s love towards all people, regardless of wealth or social status

Over and over again we are told about how important it is
for us to care for all who are socially vulnerable, bereaved, abandoned, widowed
deprived, and forsaken

Holiness is not – certainly not as far as Jesus is concerned or the gospels depict –
about a radical separation from society,
but an involvement in – a DEEP involvement in – the needs of the poor and isolated

So what do we do with Mark 14:7, (also John 12:8)
You will always have the poor among you … leave her alone.

Stripped of its context, and put into a capitalist world view,
this passage can end up being interpreted to say
We are never going to ‘solve’ the ‘problem of poverty’,|
so dont get too caught up in trying to give everything away for the sake of the poor
Instead we should realise that we are entitled to live comfortably.
So, if anyone tries to tell us to sell our nice things
we should rebuke that person just as Jesus rebuked Judas

Don’t you believe it!

When Jesus says, ‘you always have the poor with you’,
he is actually quoting from Deut 15.11 —
from a chapter explaining the outworkings of the Sabbatical year,
the 7th year of rest, dept forgiveness, freedom – all marked by its concern for the poor

If there is among you anyone in need,
a member of your community in any of your towns within the land
do not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted toward your needy neighbour.
You should rather open your hand, willingly lending enough to meet the need,
whatever it may be…
Give generously and be ungrudging when you do so…
For the poor will will always be in the land;
So, I command you saying,
‘Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbour in your land

The poor will always be among you.   So give generously

That well known Biblical scholar, Ross Gittins (actually the Ec editor of the SMH)
has done some really good and confronting work for us
about the gospels, Jesus and economics.

He has worked with a book by Ched Myers (who is a biblical scholar)
He points out that Jesus did not accept poverty
as an inevitable characteristic of the economy,
or part of the divine plan.
Rather the divine vision is that poverty be abolished

As long as it persists, God and God’s people must always take the side of the poor –
and be among them.

Economics is always meant to be communal –
it is about the wellbeing of the oikos, the household  (“ecumenical”)
But chrematistics is about the building up of wealth.   Especially individual wealth

Be generous, as your heavenly father is generous
Be aware – and be very wary – of the accumulation of personal wealth
and national wealth
for its accumulation inevitably places the well being of others at risk.

But Isaiah and Deuteronomy are not merely about giving one’s extra cash to the poor;
it is about structural justice.
Jesus, in alluding to this text,
is not simply reminding people that they must piously give to the poor;
charity is not a sufficient response.
It is our whole lives that must change,
including the systems in society with which we engage and from which we, the rich, benefit

As we head into Anti Poverty week
it is a good thing for us to keep in mind and in practice
and to be invited again to make the changes we need to make

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