Making peace by addressing root causes of poverty
Rev. Rachel Shepherd
“There is still one thing lacking. Sell all that you own and distribute the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”
Reflection: Jesus is like that person who stops you on the way out of the office and says, “Do you have time for one more thing?” It’s never as quick and simple as they make it sound.
Whether selling all that you own and distributing the money to the poor counts as ‘one thing’ is questionable, but Jesus’ words remind us of the difference between simplicity and easiness. Most of Jesus’ commands are simple; none of them are easy. Love your neighbor. Pray for those who persecute you. Come, follow me. It’s only a series of ‘one thing’ after another. It’s just that each ‘one thing’ will take a lifetime or more to understand, much less to do.
In this case, it’s at least two things. 1) Sell all that you own, and 2) distribute the money to the poor. Jesus could have simplified it by telling us to give all that we own directly to the poor. I always wondered why he adds the extra step — getting the money for our goods and then giving the money away. But anyone who’s been poor knows why: money is the best way to help! It’s simple, versatile, efficient, and basically universal. It maintains the recipient’s dignity. She gets to decide how to use it, unlike the T-shirt which she might have a whole pile of, or the food which she might be allergic to, or the house that might not be right for her family.
Followers of Jesus are beginning to face the hard truth that our charity is often more about us than the people we help. Mission trips make us feel good. Giving old clothes to Goodwill frees up space in our closets. But what do my neighbors really need? We’ve all heard the stories of buildings being repainted just to give mission-trippers something to do. When we give money, we honor dignity and autonomy. Local economies can thrive on their own terms. A pair of shoes or an old coat is not going to get someone out of poverty. Money can, and it is just about the only thing that can. It’s still not easy, but it is that simple.
Action: Make a donation today to an organization that enables people to lift themselves out of poverty.
Prayer: Dear God, thank you for the bluntness and clarity of your Word. Give us strength to let go of those things we think we need. Give us eyes to see the truth of poverty and abundance everywhere we go. Amen.
Rev. Shepherd is associate presbyter for Discipleship in the Presbytery of the Peaks. She bakes occasionally, writes when possible, and always wonders what her dog is thinking.
This year’s A Season of Peace Resources are designed to help Presbyterians explore different forms and lenses for peacemaking. From the personal level to global issues, these reflections and prayers will help grow the faith and witness of the whole church. Through the 29 days of this year’s Season of Peace, we are invited to reflect upon:
- What does it mean to commit to Peace?
- Making peace by addressing root causes of poverty
- Making peace by disrupting systematic racism
- Making peace by ending violence
- Making peace by supporting refugees and migrants
- Partaking in peace in worship and at table this World Communion Sunday and through the Peace & Global Witness Offering
Each author represents a variety of vocations and experiences in peacemaking efforts. Individuals and households are invited to make use of these daily reflections beginning on Sunday, September 1, and concluding on World Communion Sunday, October 6.