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An Ecclesiological Response To Poverty: Sometimes Charities Hurt

3528 words - 14 pages

It seems that virtually every church either operates ministry or at least financially supports a ministry that is for those who are in a season of poverty. It goes without question that giving to those in need is accepted as an inherently good cause, but it seems that few ever question the outcome and impact of the money that is donated. Historically the church has been a central institution in providing food, shelter, money, and transportation to those who are in need. Regardless, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 15 percent of the United States citizens are at or under the poverty level, a number that has remained the same since 1965. Churches have worked at addressing the issue in various ways, some more logical than others, some more successful than others, and some more damaging than others. For the remainder of this paper, I will be focusing on particularly the people and churches of North America, particularly in the 21st century, rather than antiquity.
The term poverty is a term of comparison, and whenever it is used, it is important to ask the question “in comparison to whom?” Take myself for example, I live in an apartment with more space than I need, I have food whenever I need it, I have a heated bed, a 40” TV, a fancy laptop, keep multiple aquariums, have more clothes than I ever wear, have a car with heat and AC, . To a vast majority of the world, I am disgustingly rich, as I experience discomfort only when I eat something that I shouldn’t have, or if my roommates turn the thermostat up or down three degrees, and I don’t know what it means to truly need something. However at the same time, to some of the world, and even to some of my own country, I have very little. I don’t own a home, I don’t have a kitchen, I live from paycheck to paycheck, my car is almost 15 years old, I need to pay someone if I want to go swimming, my phone’s data plan is barely enough to get through a month, I buy groceries depending what coupons are and get the no-name brand cereals. To some, I am poor, to some I am rich. The terms are all relative, which is why the government creates a measure to compare to. For a household of four, the poverty line for 2013 is set at $23,550 per year (Families USA 2013), a number that is arguably either too high or too low, depending on who you are and what stage of life you are in. In a report done by Newsweek, U.S. Citizens earning $33,000, $40,000, or even $55,000 a year feel that they are at the edge of poverty. (Sider 1997) Sider, author of Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, and Just Generosity, admits that it would be difficult to live on $30,000 - $50,000 a year if the expectation for the standard of living is multiple cars, an expensively furnished suburban home, a hefty life insurance plan, the most recent technology and an annual vacation, but that’s not what poverty is (Sider 1997).
With the task of identifying who the poor is, it is frequent for Americans to think that the poor is a certain group, the...

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