Posted by Forrest Parkinson

Next Week
Jesus’ principles of God’s reign,
#1: It belongs to poor people.
Q 9 (Part 1)
Poverty and abundance as signs of God.

Poor people are fortunate because the Realm of God is theirs.
Around this time, Jesus went out into the hills seeking solitude and spent the entire night in prayer.
At daybreak, he came down with his disciples.
A great crowd of people from all parts of Judea, Jerusalem and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon
had come to hear him and be cured of their diseases.
Fixing his eyes on his disciples he began to speak.
“Fortunate are you who are poor, for yours is the realm of God.”
Borg-Powelson-Riegert Reconstruction (1996) ref:
Matthew 5: 1-2, 3, 6 & Luke 6: 12, 17, 20-21

There is a solitude in poverty, but a solitude which restores to each thing its value.
Albert Camus (1913-1960),
French philosopher. ‘Between Yes and No’, World Review magazine, March 1950
Dear Jesus Way friends

God’s reign belongs to poor people. We know, on the face of it and from other words of Jesus that poverty is not a good thing in itself. How then is poverty linked to the God’s Reign… or the Kingdom of God? Does Jesus rise up poverty because some quality of poverty connects people to God. Is it to say that some quality of being rich interferes with a connection to God’s Reign? After all, isn’t abundance a good thing?

For the last several years the CEO of Nestle, Peter Brabeck, has been criticized for comments about the “absolute right to water” in the context of privatizing the water supply. His subtitled comments are here in this link.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qyAzxmN2s0w Some folks figure that Nestle wants to hold the world hostage to thirst through control of the world’s water supplies. Mr. Brabeck says no, quite to the contrary, that putting a value on this most necessary resource is the only way to understand its usefulness and become aware of wastefulness. He says that the 1.5% of water used for hydration and hygiene is a human right http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t2P7lqDsle4
that governments need to assure. But the use of 98% of water for agriculture and washing cars, etc. is best regulated by giving it a value. As a merchant of water, he predictably believes the marketplace should assign that value. Meditating on water, which is a basic element of survival and abundance, forces us to consider resources

Consider Walter Bagehot’s comment

In truth, poverty is an anomaly to rich people. It is very difficult to make out why people who want dinner do not ring the bell.
The Waverley Novels (1858).

Just another way of saying “let them eat cake” and so demonstrating neither the comparative values of bead and cake nor the comparative resources of the rich and starving. Why are the lazy free-loaders mooching off charity/government when they would do so much better standing on their own two feet? Riches can disconnect people from truth about their needs and distance them from the experience of people who have difficulty organizing resources. I read the quote with the good fortune of birth in mind and just how lucky some people are and how difficult it is for them to attribute their good fortune to anything but their own work, virtue or “birth-right.” Distance and disconnection keep the rich form understanding the true state of the poor.

Speak out in order to judge with righteousness and to defend the needy and the poor.
Proverbs 31:8-10 (CEB)

Jesus would have known this proverb. In speaking out the Sermon on the Mount he was BOTH assuring the poor and shaking up the rich. The distance/disconnection between rich and poor then, as now, challenges our capacity to judge with righteousness, that is, to understand human need and resources and access. If the rich are obliged to defend the poor, they surely must not despise them and even create access to resources for them. As I see it, Jesus acted out this Proverb with a sharp attack on the self-centered attitudes and relations of the rich in his day. How about the rich in our day?

For the first time in our history it is possible to conquer poverty.
Lyndon B. Johnson’s
Special Message to Congress (16 March 1964).
Do you believe we can end poverty? Economists disagree over the definitions of poverty, much less its potential ending. Still, I agree with President’s Johnson’s meaning over 50 years ago; that we, as an organized society, can and should overcome social and economic injustice. So yes, I support the political will that would end poverty. Here is the reason. In order to truly commit to ending other people’s poverty we would need to get close enough and connect ourselves enough to believe *their* poverty is bad for *us.* Our commitment to poor people means that *we* are poor with them. This is how the rich man can become poor and so enjoy his place in the “Reign of God;” they say “your poverty is my poverty and I will raise you up and by God’s grace I rise with you.”

Here are three political quotes about poverty and the woeful outcomes of being disconnected and distanced from the poor.

We must address the root causes of terrorism to end it for all time. […] I believe putting resources into improving the lives of poor people is a better strategy than spending it on guns.
Nobel Peace Prize-winner Muhammad Yunus;
“Nobel laureate: Poverty fight essential”.

The hopes of the Republic cannot forever tolerate either undeserved poverty or self-serving wealth.
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Poverty is like punishment for a crime you didn’t commit. And one never really forgets either — everything serves as a constant reminder of it.
Eli Khamarov

Poverty was a real, in-your-face condition in Jesus’ day. There was little social mobility and people did starve to death. Jesus would not use that terrible condition of the people around him just to guilt comfortable people (like us) into personal piety and more generous almsgiving. Jesus wanted the social/economic classes of his day to connect with each and share each other’s abundance and sorrows. Jesus boldly said the poor had something the rich would want, the most important thing, even. So the rich could not ignore the poor, they would have to ally themselves with the poor in order to make cause and the prize of the poor their own. In effect, Jesus called upon the rich to share with people they wouldn’t ordinarily relate to.

The reign of God is known by people who know their need of God. While sitting at my computer, I do not know the immediate need of God as experienced by a soldier under fire in Afghanistan. Making freezing my family’s dinners for the week, I do not know the prayerful longing for God’s provision experienced by the refugee on a food line in her camp.

Jesus Way members felt a connection to our Habitat Family by helping to build their house. I think we felt the presence of God’s reign because we shared in the poverty of a family and called the “neighbor” one nail at a time. We will need to find more ways, opportunities really, to share in poverty and know the suffering of neighbor to be our own.

Years and years ago, the most theological of teachers, St Augustine, said:

Give then to the poor; I beg, I advise, I charge, I command you.
St. Augustine,
Sermon 11:13 on the New Testament [2]

Next Week
Jesus’ principles of God’s reign:
#1: It belongs to poor people.
Q 9 (Part 2)
Spiritualizing and Almsgiving.

Poor people are fortunate because the Realm of God is theirs.
Around this time, Jesus went out into the hills seeking solitude and spent the entire night in prayer.
At daybreak, he came down with his disciples.
A great crowd of people from all parts of Judea, Jerusalem and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon
had come to hear him and be cured of their diseases.
Fixing his eyes on his disciples he began to speak.
“Fortunate are you who are poor, for yours is the realm of God.”
Borg-Powelson-Riegert Reconstruction (1996) ref:
Matthew 5: 1-2, 3, 6 & Luke 6: 12, 17, 20-21

Matthew 5:1-2, 3, 6
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain;
and after he sat down, his disciples came to him.
Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Luke 6:12, 17, 20-21
Now during those days he went out to the mountain to pray;
and he spent the night in prayer to God.
He came down with them and stood on a level place,
with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people
from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon.
Then he looked up at his disciples and said:
‘Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
‘Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled.
‘Blessed are you who weep now,for you will laugh.