Poverty is a monster. It saps the will and can kill the spirit. For the nearly one in six American children who grow up in it, poverty is also a dream snatcher, oftentimes snatching the dream of a better life before it can rise above the cracked plaster ceiling.
Nearly every religion gets this. One of the Five Pillars of Islam is almsgiving aimed at helping the poor. The Hebrew Scriptures laid out an entire economic system designed to eliminate poverty: There were gleaning laws requiring that a certain amount of grain be left behind for the poor and tithing laws that provided similar sustenance. There were even laws that prohibited lenders from charging interest. So strong was the Hebrew commitment to ending poverty that every seventh year, all outstanding debts were to be forgiven. Every 50 years, land was returned to its original owners. No one could own Boardwalk or Park Place forever.
America's churches have also done their part to confront the scourge of poverty. The Salvation Army and Catholic Charities have been serving up free beds and breakfast to the poor for decades. As we speak, the National Council of Churches is in the middle of a 10-year mobilization against poverty, and the Catholic Bishops went so far in November as to instruct voters to make helping the poor a top priority during the election.
No wonder. The Bible is filled with these little gems: "Happy are those who help the poor. The Lord will help them when they are in trouble." Psalm 41:1. "When you give money to the poor, it is like lending to the Lord. The Lord will pay you back." Proverbs 19:17. Even Jesus' inaugural sermon in his hometown of Nazareth begins: "The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor."
Read the whole thing. Courtesy of The Country Parson.