Tonight I went to the FRWY in Hamilton, a church that I’m growing to love more and more every time that I spend time with them. There was a panel discussion tonight and they were talking about the neighborhood where they are in that is rated the third most poverty-sicken neighborhoods in Canada. In talking and listening to the panel speakers talk about how we should approach it and why they think that although millions of dollars are thrown into this neighborhood it still remains like it is, with seemingly no hope for change.
One of the questions was why they thought that the neighborhood wasn’t changing and what they think it will take to actually help it. This is a great question. This is the question that we all really should be asking ourselves about every poverty stricken area and person in the world. As Christ-followers this should be our first priority: to help redeem and make whole that which or who is broken and in need. It was interesting though that the government has poured millions of dollars into this neighborhood and there has been no sign of change. It’s like they are trying to buy wholeness; buy freedom. Consumerism is at its finest when we think that we can buy people back out of poverty. For some reason, I think it’s a bigger problem than a lack of money that keeps places like this the way they are.
This brand of consumerism has found itself rooted deeply within the church also. How many of us have thrown money in an offering plate for a missions team or sponsored a child? These are all great things. After a while though, don’t you think it just becomes yet one more thing we consume? It’s like we act like the government and we think that just sending money or giving money to people is fixing the problem, or is taking care of our part. I’m not discouraging anyone from giving money, or sponsoring children or participating in canned food drives, these are all necessary. I am discouraging against our consumer mindset that we can just buy out our job of taking care of the poor and loving the widows by throwing money at them. We like to throw money at everything and think it will go away or we will get what we want. So we throw money in the plate thinking that we are doing our part. If we don’t have money, we don’t feel guilty at all, as if the ratio of money in pocket to money we give to pour people equals spiritual maturity.
We can’t buy our way into following Christ. People in poverty don’t just need our money. They need something bigger than money, our love and our hospitality. Don’t stop giving your money; I’m just saying it’s not enough. We need to give of ourselves. These people need to know that they can come to you when they need help, someone to talk to or someone to lean on. Hiding in our private homes isn’t following Christ. Inviting these people that we would never in a million years interact with on normal terms into our private homes and spending time with them over a meal seems more like following Christ. It’s hard, its uncomfortable, its vulnerable, time consuming but it’s the way of Christ and the way of Christ is the only fulfilling way to live.