By René Myers
There is a growing awareness across the PC(USA) that racism and poverty are crises that must be addressed.
Thanks, in large part, to the Matthew 25 initiative, many of us are taking intentional steps to address our own complicity in perpetuating the systems that advantage some people while disadvantaging others. For that reason, I have made it my practice for the past few years to attempt to read Scripture from the perspective of the poor and the oppressed rather than through my own lens of privilege.
Through my work with the Presbyterian Mission Agency — work that has allowed me to enter into relationships with communities that have deepened my understanding of structural racism and systemic poverty — I discovered Lynne Twist’s book, The Soul of Money: Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Life[i]. In her book, Twist offers a very practical approach to following God’s plan for Creation as she identifies three myths of the “great lie of scarcity” in our culture:
“There is not enough.” When we believe this to be true, we behave out of a sense of fear that we and our loved ones will be left out or left behind if we do not accumulate enough for our security. This fear necessitates that there must be winners and losers.
“More is better.” This describes the American way being promoted by our culture of consumerism and exploitation of Creation. Americans comprise 8.5% of the world’s population while holding 30% of the world’s wealth. The U.S. also ranks in the top 10 nations with the highest wealth gap between its wealthiest and poorest citizens. During this pandemic, the wealthiest in our country have accumulated more than $1 trillion while 45% of our citizens lost ground. This result is not unexpected when we accept that more is always better and we place our faith in wealth rather than in God.
“That’s just the way it is.” This is the most insidious of the myths because it tends to paralyze us from working against the great lie of scarcity. Subscribing to this belief results in justifying greed, prejudice and inaction to change the systems that benefit the few over the many.
As followers of Christ, we are called to be stewards of the gospel. Romans 12:2 (NIV) tells us, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — [God’s] good, pleasing and perfect will.” Following Jesus means we are called to be countercultural.
Do we believe in a God of scarcity or a God of abundance? We who claim to be followers of Christ would most certainly answer that, of course, we believe and serve a God of abundance. Yet, if we critically analyze the way we act, the reality we live may be out of step with our belief.
God’s Creation was established to be self-sustaining — that is, when we don’t take more than the manna we need for today. When we truly live out our faith, we will embrace the call of Matthew 25 to eradicate systemic poverty. We will diligently work to change the policies and practices that perpetuate a “that’s just the way it is” mindset. We will free ourselves to share freely what has been placed in our trust by the God of abundance whom we know and serve, because we know it is not God’s will that some must lose so that others may win. For as Jesus’ words so powerfully remind us in John 10:10b (NRSV), “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”
[i] Lynne Twist: The Soul of Money: Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Life, 2017, W.W. Norton & Co. Inc.
René Myers is the Presbyterian Mission Agency’s mission engagement advisor for the West region.