Usually, and I mean most of the time, the problem is systemic. These are the larger issues the CNN piece brings out, but because they're also political hot buttons, we can't have an honest conversation about them in the church. If I mention giving people dignity through a livable wage, I'm met with arguments for or against raising the minimum hourly rate. If I want to discuss the shortfalls of public assistance, I get buzzwords like big government and welfare and personal responsibility.
What we get wrong about poverty is we treat it as an issue. Jesus saw it as people. He sat down to dinner with those affected by it, and spoke directly to the individuals causing it. He was never harsh with those caught in poverty. He was livid with those who brought it. And this is throughout Scripture.
I have a challenge for you. For the next two weeks, read Isaiah 58 as if it is the only part of the Bible you know. As if you are in a country where owning a full Bible can get you arrested, and you live on one ripped page of verses at a time. Imagine all you know of God is what you can learn from this one chapter. Sink into it. Then come back to this post on Christmas week, anytime after the 21st, and share what you've learned in the comments below. Thanks.
It was like walking in a corn maze. I'd been told a group from my church was going to meet at a community Thanksgiving pancake gathering. Plans changed last minute and I didn't get the memo. I walk in 15 minutes late.
Three women surround me at the door of this church gym/cafeteria. "Are you hungry?"
"You want us to fix you a plate?"
"You want a plate to go?"
I'm looking at the plates and see green beans, so I tell them I might be in the wrong place. "What church is this?" (I'm new in town and saw no sign, just cars.)
Yes, it's the place, but nearly empty. "They've just gone into the service," one said. I'm wondering -- how did they feed the whole town in 15 minutes? Maybe I had the time wrong, too. I tell them no thanks; "I'm looking for my group."
As I enter the auditorium, the usher wants to help. "I'm looking for my people," I tell him. He lets me stand at the back and scan the crowd. Nobody I know is there. I remember something about our staff helping in the kitchen so I step back out and look there. Nope. I go back. The whole night I'm scanning the crowd. There's a dessert afterward and I'm still scanning. I meet others along the way and tell each one I'm looking for my people, looking for my group.
Finally, I leave the building and find myself in a crowd. The local food ministry is handing out boxes from a truck. Some are helping, some are receiving, and I realize here's the whole town I've been praying for, all in one place. I look around at their faces and realize -- you're my people. You're my group. You're the reason God's moving heaven and earth for me to be here.
I am home.