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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

No Facile Answers

If you had to choose between being (a) prosperous and wicked, or (b) poverty-stricken and pure in heart, what would you be?  Why?  (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, 818).  I would like to expand this to related questions.  If you had to choose between being born into a prosperous and wicked country (or family) and one that is poverty-stricken and righteous, which would you choose?   I think it is much too easy to give the “correct” Christian answer to these questions without really imagining the horrors of abject poverty—say that encountered by all citizens in a poverty ridden state or members of a poverty ridden family.  This level of poverty in such a state would include malnourishment, lack of all economic opportunity, lack of health care, persistent disease and affliction, no economic safety nets, no modern conveniences, no educational opportunities, constant hunger—being ill-clothed, ill-housed, ill-fed.  With this stark prospect in view, reconsider the questions again.  Is it so easy to choose the “correct” answer of righteous and purity of heart over the bleak alternative?  Is it so easy to choose true happiness over ever-present misery?  To the extent that there is a hierarchy of needs, which is more fundamental in the end, physical health or spiritual health?  In Luke 12 Jesus utters the following:  “And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it.  For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them.  But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.”  Does inexorable poverty make a mockery of faith?  Is it so easy to affirm this tenet of the Christian faith when viewing the bloated belly of an infant with eyes covered with flies?   

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