This past Sunday I stated I believe I Thess 4:11-12 is a statement of God’s goal for the poor. In it Paul states “But we urge you, brothers (and sisters) …to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may live properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.” This means God is offering Deliverance from the Drama that often accompanies the struggle of poverty and the Dependency that often develops with it to Stability. I say stability not self-sufficiency, a word that does not conceptualize a community that cares for each other and shares its resources. But what I should have also mentioned is that I Timothy 6:17-19 is God’s call to the rich – “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life”.
What happens when the poor who are ready to quietly move forward to work with their hands (meaning exercising their own resourcefulness) trusting God to make their efforts prosper toward stability meet the rich person who is generous, and ready to share (gifts, job opportunities, skill development, social capital)? The poor person or family tangibly experience God’s delivering grace on that journey from the drama of poverty and from various forms of dysfunctional dependency toward God wrought sanctifying stability. The rich person or family experience release from the idolatrous bondage of mammon, from the deceptive certainty of riches, from the temptation of pride to the reality that it is more blessed to give than to receive, laying up untouchable treasures in glory. They are actively laying aside a weight (Heb 12:1) that could ensnare them on their pathway towards salvation and relationship with Jesus, something the rich young ruler was not willing to cast off.
In these days, the rich person can not only impact individuals in poor communities directly, they can do so through institutions that work in these under-resourced communities. These kinds of person to person or person to community institution interactions are far richer, more beneficial and provide greater opportunity for people development and spiritual transformation than the bureaucratic interaction that characterizes government transfer payments from anonymous workers to recipient mailboxes.
The funds of the rich cannot eradicate poverty, no matter how much top-down bureaucracies redistribute resources extracted from them. The fallen human condition and the reality of sin will undermine such efforts again and again. Further, God has appointed a day when all things will be made new and sorrow and crying will pass away. But as Jesus healed many people short of eliminating disease from the earth, God can and will use the generosity of the rich to bring relief and development to the poor short of eradicating poverty from the earth while the poor provide opportunity for the rich to be spiritually transformed, secure a good foundation for their future and take hold of that which is truly life. Hallelujah!