Just Sayin’ – Poverty and the Gospel

by Alex Hentschel

Hello. Nice to meet you.

I am a middle-class, white American woman. Growing up, I always had something to eat, presents on Christmas morning, sweaters for the winter, and now my parents have a house in the suburbs. I’m attending college, a monstrous expense, without worrying (too much) about how it will affect my future.

I have an American passport which allows me into most of the world’s countries if I can just afford the plane ticket to go. I am a native English speaker, which means I can walk into any establishment from a restaurant in Israel to the U.N. General Assembly and expect to be understood.

I can say that I have never felt hunger or thirst for longer than a few hours unless I was intentionally fasting. Food has never been a paramount concern. I have never, ever wondered if I will go hungry. I have never, ever struggled to find somewhere to sleep. I have two jobs which pay me moderately well — enough to afford a $5 latte once a week, my textbooks for my classes and small luxuries.

All of this means that I am wealthy — considering that 10 percent of the world’s population lives on less than $1.90 a day, according to the World Bank. The number of Americans living under the poverty line in 2017 was 39.7 million. On the global scale, I am exorbitantly wealthy.

Why is this important? Jesus said that it is harder for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. Is this because it is evil to be rich? (I’ve debated that question for days, but I certainly can’t give an authoritative “yes,” so we’ll give a tentative “no.” I still think that if you can afford things like jumbo jets and yachts, you have a large amount of excess money to give to the starving.) It is because, I believe, it is impossible for a rich man to recognize his need for God, without divine intervention from the Holy Spirit. Because …
It is incredibly difficult to see miracles if everything is provided for you. If you have no need for the Lord to provide for you the way he does for the birds of the air and the lilies of the field, if you are completely self-sufficient in your nourishment and safety, you have precious little room to see God provide for you.

Maybe our hearts are so hardened to miracles because we have become our own miracle-makers.

I am not saying you should sell everything you have as God commanded the man in Matthew 19. I’m just posing a question and a challenge: Let’s situate ourselves in a global context and wonder how much we really need, and whether, in our individualism and self-sufficiency, we are leaving no room for God to work.

I am not arguing that it is a sin to have nice things. Surely everything you have has been provided for by a loving and generous God. I am only arguing that our lack of need for Him physically may be contributing to our lack of need for Him spiritually — we should think about how to fix that.

God commands us to care for and identify with the poor among us. James even calls this “true religion.” So how do we do that, instead of just looking at PowerPoint slides of starving children, feeling sympathetic, donating some money and returning to our air-conditioned dorm rooms?

You don’t need to go to central Africa to see the poor. Go out to the city center in Dayton. In my time in Valencia, some of the best conversations I had were with the homeless. I watched a man take the food we brought and cheerfully portion it out for the cats, because “they need to eat too.” The face of Jesus, the character of Jesus, is there with the needy.

We need a revolution, church. We need to be saved from our wealth. We need to feel a true need for God — if not physically starving, then spiritually starving.

I’ll close with a quote that’s been bothering me for several weeks:

“How can you worship a homeless man on Sunday morning and then ignore another homeless man in the street on Monday?”

Alexandria Hentschel is a junior International Studies and Spanish double major and the Off-Campus news editor for Cedars. She enjoys old books, strong coffee, and honest debate.

3 Replies to "Just Sayin' - Poverty and the Gospel"

  • comment-avatar
    Carrie Isler January 19, 2019 (4:02 pm)

    this is great Alex, so proud of your thought provoking words

  • comment-avatar
    bill January 24, 2019 (5:32 pm)

    the poverty gospel fits with Jesus made himself poor in order to make others rich, the kenosis. the rich man rich in good works doesn’t fit in with this emptying. anything short of this is compromised disobedience. just men not made perfect on Abrahams bosom didn’t have access to the kingdom of heaven and the Holy spirits perfecting of the saints. concerning the eye of the needle the rich men in the last group of the vineyard which are first and elected by Jesus, he will unconditionally work out their salvation with great difficulty which doesn’t nescessarily mean barely saved. and it doesn’t say how hardly shall a rich man wait in Abrahams bosom before he enters the kingdom of heaven. that’s how I view it.

  • comment-avatar
    Johann April 2, 2019 (1:59 am)

    I have struggled with the same questions and found Patrick Morley’s take on it quite helpful (see his book, “Man in the Mirror”, it has a chapter on money). Three mindsets exists, namely a poverty mindset, a prosperity mindset and then a stewardship mindset. Neither of the first two mindsets are good, the third one is what we should be striving for. Being rich is relative, doing the best with what you have is not.

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