The Church spends a lot of time talking about the poor. As we should. But we often forget who the truly poor actually are.
This is where the social justice movement frequently goes wrong. It sometimes mistakenly puts a temporal justice ahead of eternal justice, seeking to satisfy temporal impoverishment while disregarding a more important spiritual impoverishment. It’s good to be “poor in spirit,” but not spiritually poor.
It’s not just the pop-prosperity gospel that mixes up spiritual priorities for people. Ironically, too much emphasis on temporal impoverishment in the world while disregarding spiritual impoverishment can be just as damaging. It sends a mixed signal to the world that our temporal needs are more important than our spiritual ones. Don’t get me wrong, they are as intimately connected as body and soul. We must serve both, but do so with the right priority.
We do have to care for the poor. But not primarily for the sake of making them as prosperous as us (which is a fine goal), but because we truly love them. Paradoxically, anyone who “serves the poor” receives a richness from them that quickly reveals which person is the truly poor one.
We live in the richest country in the world. But I look around, including often in my own mirror, and I see a lot of poor, poor people with lots of money and stuff. These are the poor that usually need the Church most. Let’s not forget about the poor.