Pastor's Blog

Christmas is a time of giving, and very often it is a special time of giving to the less fortunate.

Over the years pastoral ministry has directed my eyes, my heart, and my footsteps to many poor people and to many ministries that help those in need.  One of those is Pottstown Bible Church in Pottstown, PA.  Pastor John Applebach serves there ministering to street people, preaching to them, teaching them, and providing a warm meal and assistance as they try to navigate the welfare system.

I had breakfast with Pastor John a few years ago and he rocked my world with a very unpleasant thought.  Middle-class evangelical Christians believe that helping the poor means moving them from a state of dependence upon handouts (whether from the state or private charity) to a state of personal responsibility and independence.  If you can do that – that’s wonderful, he said. 

But the fact is – and this is the hard part – there are some souls that will always be dependent. 

Always. 

They will never be personally responsible, never able to hold a job, never able to break free and climb the upward ladder out of poverty. 

Never.

Many can’t because they are mentally ill.
Many are mentally ill because they abused drugs.

Many “can’t” in the sense that they won’t because it takes more input than is practically possible.  They were raised in dependence.  They only know dependence.  They don’t know how to think in terms of independence.  For them, personal responsibility means finding nice people to depend upon.  If they successfully navigate the welfare system or learn how to get money out of nice people and churches and charities, they feel they are being independent and that they are doing well.

The middle-class world of TOTAL personal responsibility is worlds away and they aren’t quite aware of it, don’t understand it, and don’t have a clue on how to get into it.  They usually can’t without a lot of help and a lot of patience.  And most of us run out of patience before they can even get close to the first step upwards.

And so, their “work” is, in effect, begging.

Formally and politically, we’ve been fighting the war on poverty – and losing – since my childhood.  I am convinced we will never win it.  Jesus is surely correct – the poor we will always have with us. But their presence calls, not for a final solution to the problem of poverty, but for the ongoing practice of patience and mercy.

Those thoughts from Pastor John Applebach were a hard pill for me to swallow – so I’m sure it’s hard for many who are reading this to accept it.  I get that.

We can’t solve the problem of poverty, nor can we carry every poor soul every moment of every day.  Most of those living in dependence live from moment to moment and bringing blessing to just one of those moments is meaningful to them.  That simple blessing solves that moment of poverty for them.

And that’s a good thing.

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