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To the editor:
I’m reflecting on Jim Killebrew’s comments on
poverty in the USA. I agree that poor choices can contribute to
poverty. So can bankruptcies caused by huge medical bills that are
beyond the poor family’s control. Children who are poor – and most
of the American poor are kids – can hardly be blamed for the fact
that they’re poor. They had nothing to do with their parents poor
choices if, in fact, that’s what led their family into poverty.
Simple chastisement based on proof texts from the Book of Proverbs
is not really relevant to the situation of poor American children.
Help from the Scriptures could come from the prophet Amos who said
(in 5:11-12) to the wealthy of his time, “You trample on the poor
and force him to give you grain. Therefore, though you have built
stone mansions, you will not live in them; though you have planted
lush vineyards, you will not drink their wine. For I know how many
are your offenses and how great your sins. You oppress the righteous
and take bribes and you deprive the poor of justice in the courts.”
[to top of second column in this letter]
Following the prophetic tradition, Jesus of Nazareth called us to
ministry to the poor. In Matthew 25: 34-36 Jesus said “Then the king
will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by
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 something to drink, I was a stranger and you
welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and
you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’”
Rather than assume that the poor are getting the fate they deserve,
I prefer to follow the lead of Amos and Jesus. I believe our task is
to straighten out economic systems that treat the poor unfairly, and
to accept the commission to feed the hungry. At least that’s the way
I see it.
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