Poverty is the state of being poor. St. Francis: "When you see a poor man, brother, an image is placed before you of the Lord and his poor mother." When he met a man poorer than himself, Francis felt only jealous of the poverty that made the poor man more Christ-like than he. Wesley recognized that poverty was not merely a "sore evil", but a social problem, which the government ought to be concerned. For, however worldly its practice might often be, the Church never ceased to exalt poverty as one of the highest values and one of the chief means of attaining sanctity.

The great divide in the church today seem to be between those who see poverty as the fault of the poor and those who see it as the fault of the rich. We need to all be seeing the big picture and the only time worth spending is in denouncing the materialistic excesses of this present generation. We have a beast among us intent on bringing us war in the name of democracy to bring about peace. There is no justice here, it is to appease the god of mammon. It is based up the ultimate lie and the Lord sent a strong delusion through the darkness of Babylon to the Christian Right.

The poor have always been socially powerless. For reasons beyond their control, they cannot help themselves. Most persons find themselves in poverty because of conditions not of their own making, divorce, loss of jobs, prejudicial hiring practices, low wages due to exploitation, disabilities and many other reasons. They are born going downward, and most of them stay down. Many were born without a family structure that inspired learning. Jobs have been destroyed by new technology, and many skills have been rendered useless. The U.S. government and social agencies seem content to know more about the health and welfare of children in distant lands than those in America.

Our option for the poor and oppressed is not one among many others, it is the key act, and it represents the key message of the Manifest Sons of God. Our responsibility is a life commitment to the kingdom of God and its eschatological function. We recognize that the poor are the bearers of the message of human solidarity. Only as the church is open to the moving of the Spirit among the poor and dispossessed people of God will they be able to contribute. As the fact is realized that the relationship in which wealth causes and produces poverty, one is forced to choose between oppressor and the oppressed.

The poor are not just the mission of the Church, they are also its salvation, and the presence of Jesus will be felt especially to them as the latter rain intensifies. Only by incarnating itself in the reality of the Third World and serving the most needy can the Church hope to purify itself, renew its life, and recover the true impulse of the gospel message. If it does this, it will immediately turn into a sign of contradiction and suffer persecution; and this will prove that the Church is the authentic bearer of the word and the promise of its founder.

The alcoholic poor, long defined as a major problem in our society is not understood as a problem of poverty, and that is an important fact about them. The poor tend to become pessimistic and depressed; they see immediate gratification instead of saving. There are more Americans living in slums than on farms. Speculative real estate sitting idle is many more times the size of which these people live on. This is a grievous sin in the eyes of God.

Thoreau: "The town's poor seem to me often to live the most independent lives of any. Maybe they are simply great enough to receive without misgiving."

Poverty in a wealthy society because a question of the distribution of goods and opportunity. If the religious project and its reference to God is to be meaningful for our people today, then it must be lived and expressed within the liberation project of the poor. For it is there that our relationship to the world as religious will find real historical roots. The overwhelming fact about the third world is that the majority of its people are poor, exploited and marginalized. This forces us to recognize the chief sign of the times in all its force and meaning. That sign is Jesus, the poor person. We cannot disassociate the condition of the poor and oppressed from the mystery of Christ. Christ presents himself to us as the chief liberator, and we can recognize himself as such.

Jesus likens the poor to Himself: "Then shall the King way unto them on his right hand, Come, you blessed of the Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. I was hungry and you gave me meat, I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you took me in, naked and you clothed me. I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came unto me... Truly, I say unto you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me." What does it mean to feed and clothe the sons of God? We can only look on the poor and oppressed with new eyes and resolve to heal their hurts and help end their oppression.

The city of Sodom is described by Ezekiel as if he was describing America. "Behold, this was the iniquity of your sister, Sodom; pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good." Affluent white-washed Christians stress Sodom's sexual misconduct and ignore her sinful unconcern for the poor. Those with deep religious beliefs are no more concerned about assistance and development for the poor than are persons with little or no religious commitment at all.

God is on the side of the poor and admonishes us to be so. The law of Moses is very clear. "You shall not harden your heart, nor shut your hand from your poor brother, but you shall open your hand wide unto him and shall surely lend him sufficient for his need... And when you send him out free from you, you shall not let him go away empty. You shall furnish him liberally out of your flock and out of your floor and out of your winepress, of that wherewith the Lord your God has blessed you, you shall give unto him."

The United States provides its worst off citizens only a percentage of what they desperately need. It is the poor who will be most cruelly used but the entire nation has experienced a decadence and pay for it in alienation and violence. The millions who are poor in the U.S. tend to become increasingly invisible - and politically invisible. Social programs are voted out, anti-social and police state politicians are voted in, homeless people are warehoused or thrown in jail, every where you look in the inner cities, you find alienation and discontent. Today's poor missed the liberal political and social gains of the thirties. There is a language of the poor, a psychology of the poor, a world view of the poor.

Untold millions of Americans live below the official poverty line. When people are deprived of the fundamental necessities, as are even more millions of human beings in other countries, their capacity for development is frustrated at the most basic level. Within the social welfare fraternity, it is axiomatic that programs for poor people tend to be poor programs - inadequately funded and widely resented by the majority of the population who are ineligible for their benefits. President Johnson's War on Poverty was such an example; if the government had been really serious about it, we could have won the war. It is no secret why Nixon gave up on it, Republicans care more for the rich than doing anything about poverty. Poverty exists in a wealthy society like our own because we allow it to exist. A prosperous society that allows poverty in its midst is guilty of murder. It generates the association of poverty and individual moral failing and thus the belief that poverty itself is a sign of poor or weak character. It suggests that poverty is a sign of individual failing, not a symptom of social or economic injustice. America does not invest in the poor, it invests in the rich so that they may get richer and throws money to impoverished countries as a bribe to exploit and impoverish the poor even more. Poverty and riches stand in God's estimation in the reverse position.

Spiritually, humble poverty is true wealth and pampered wealth is real poverty. The luke-warm church is comfortable in their riches and have no idea of what is coming soon, in fact they are deluded into thinking that they will be taken up and won't be bothered with it at all. Living in their bourgeoise mediocrity makes them look upon poverty as something to look down on instead of up to, so they pray for riches and the delusion becomes even greater. "Let the poor brother glory in the beatitude of poverty, it is a gift of God. Rich man, weep and howl because judgment is soon coming to you."
[49, 51, 58, 75, 99, 132, 155, 160, 163, 166, 185, 189, 216, 238, 372, 330, 388, Matthew 25, Ezekiel 16, Deuteronomy 15]

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