Poverty, the Daunting Problem

The Census Bureau released the 2013 annual Income and Poverty in the United States report[1]. Poverty among children under 18 fell from 21.8% in 2012 to 19.9% in 2013.  This is the first statistically significant year-to-year decline in child poverty since 2000.  For the second year in a row, there was an increase in the median income of families with children.  So let’s pat ourselves on the back, and give ourselves a round of applause on a job well done.  But when you know that globally nearly half of the world’s population (more than 3 billion people) live on less than $2.50/day, that more than 1.3 billion live in extreme poverty with less than $1.25/day, that one billion children worldwide are living in poverty and that, according to UNICEF, 22,000 children die each day due to poverty; we start to ask ourselves, have we really done enough?  While the reduction of the poverty level among children in US by 2% is significant, we cannot ignore the fact that there is still about 20% of children living in poverty.


We are to provide for the hungry and the thirsty as we would provide for the Lord Himself and we are to provide to the Lord through the hungry and the thirsty.  As long as there is poverty somewhere in the world, we ought to attempt to eliminate it.  We are called to go, sell all what we have, to become poor by choice, and follow Him, but we are also called to eliminate poverty for others.  In a sense, we become poor so others become satisfied, sheltered, and feed.  The scripture says, He who has two tunics, let him give to him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise (Luke 3:11).
Have we given our one extra tunic?  Definitely not.  Giving is our gate to heaven, as the scripture says, Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:  for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink(Matthew 25:34). Poverty is a very perplexing subject because where poverty occurs there is Christ, but it is also where sickness, lack of education and homelessness exists.  We take poverty on our shoulder so it can be lifted up from the shoulders of others and in that sense; we are doing the work of Christ.

The scripture says, “This time your abundance may supply their lack, that their abundance also may supply your lack—that there may be equality.  As it is written,  He who gathered much had nothing left over, and he who gathered little had no lack. (2 Cor 8:14-15).  What St. Paul is saying is that we ought to give until we all are at the same level, which was the case during the early apostolic time, where the people sold what they had and placed it under the feet of the disciples and the needs of everyone were fulfilled.  This will be considered socialism by many, but if we are truly concerned about our salvation, eternal life and applying the scriptural commandments then we ought to give much more, and even until we sell all what we have.  So why aren’t we giving enough?  I believe that one of the reasons we do not give more is that we are not exposed to poverty, we do not see it on daily basis and we do not relate to it.  We think poverty is far away from us, while in many times it is in our own backyards. Giving is not only important for the poor but it is more important for the giver, as we step out of ourselves and give from what is not even ours.  We ought to be unfaithful stewards over the unrighteous mammon[2], which God had entrusted us with.  Many believe that all those who live in impoverished conditions are in it because they are lazy, unwilling to work, have some sort of substance abuse, or just want to live on government assistance.  This is not true at all, there are many homeless who maintain two jobs and yet they are not able to cover their expenses.  I believe that these are our responsibility to care for and to provide to them until they stand on their feet.  We distance ourselves from the poor and the needy and hence we distance ourselves from Christ.  We made it a habit to pay our tithing every month to the church or to some nonprofit organization, which in turn takes care of the needy in their community, which is great and should continue. But by doing so, we lost our personal encounter with those who are less fortunate and become less aware of their condition and therefore, unwilling to help more. We need to come back to directly connecting to those who live in poverty, we need to go to Christ at His manager, to personally draw water for Him from the well, to find Him a place to lay His head and to visit Him where He lives.

[1] This report is in a later year than the year in which it represents.

[2] This needs to be understood within the context of the parable of the unfaithful steward in Luke 16.

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