On Saturday of Holy Week I was invited to speak to a group of people on the topic of Jesus’ invitation to become involved with poverty. It was a wonderful group of people and an overall positive experience. I took took two of my friends with – Kutloano and Eddie. They wanted to be part of the day and I dislike going to talks alone. Plus I thought they could give some valuable non-white input. The last session on Saturday evolved into a heated debate; I loved the honesty of it. It all started when I put some stats on the screen. It consisted of the current situation in terms of (in)equality in our country (South Africa). After I put it on the screen I asked how one is to respond to it as a follower of Jesus, keeping Matthew 25 in mind.

% of population:

% of income:

Black African

79.4

41.2

Coloured

8.8

8.6

Indian/Asian

2.5

4.8

White

9.2

45.3

Totals

100

100

The stats elicited varied responses:

          Some were shocked at the inequality that still reigns after more than a decade of democracy.  [Under the white population there is a strong myth to the contrary].

          Others questioned the validity of the stats and pointed out that any stats can easily be manipulated. Where do these stats come from?

They come from the latest round of findings published by Statistics South Africa on their website.  My next slide stated that we should always remember the dangers of stats and that we are supposed to live in an incarnate narrative. In other words, stats represent people – and we have to “move into the neighborhood” like Jesus did (John 1:14).  As followers of Jesus we are called to exposure, relationship and involvement with the people represented by these stats.

What followed was a deluge of rationalizations for not getting involved – and this is what this post is about (sorry for the long intro). Whenever I’ve talked about Christ’s command to be involved with the poor, predictably a set of reasons are uttered for not becoming involved. These rationalizations are designed to pacify. In the following few weeks I want to take these “thoughts captive” to obedience (to use a favorite verse of those in deliverance ministries)– but I need your help to compile a list of reasons you’ve used yourself, or heard others use for not becoming involved with the poor.  I’ll start us of with a few examples and I would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section:

  • Didn’t Jesus say that "we’ll always have the poor with us"?
  • "If you give a man a fish you feed him for a day if you teach him to fish you feed him for a lifetime" – (the person saying this usually possess no intention in teaching to fish, it rathers serves as a way to divert from obediece).
  • The government is doing such a bad job with the taxes I already pay. They have to do a better job (or how can we prophetically help them to do a better job?)
  • Our church is not called to engage society in this way.
  • What does it help, I once ….. (followed with a story of trying to help someone with no results – this usually initiates counter-testimonies of how people got burned trying to help)
  • Africans cannot be helped because of all the corruption.
  • Poor people are poor for a reason : sloth, drunkenness, stupidity, ungodliness.
  • I want to help the poor but not in a "fleshly" way – I’m waiting for a revelation from God … (the revelation usually doesn’t come).
  • This stuff reminds me of the ‘social gospel’ – what does it help if we send someone with a full tummy to hell?
  • I just preach the gospel.
  • It’s dangerous to become involved with poor people – you can loose your life if you go into the squatter camps.
  • Black people are not ‘my kind of people’ aren’t there white people that we can reach out to? (this can have a variety of ethnicities in the place of white and black)
  • I did a spiritual gift inventory and I don’t have a passion or the spiritual gifts to help the poor.
  • I don’t want to fall in the trap of doing ‘good works’, it’s all about grace.
  • Charity starts at home, I’m doing my best to give my children the best …

….  (please add your thoughts) …..