Who Are The Poor?

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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.

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Ryan May 25, 2011 at 11:51 am

Great post Matt!

While reading it, the words of Mother Teresa came to mind when she said, “The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread.”

Many people are willing to dedicate their lives to solving physical poverty (and we need them!). But we also need people willing to dedicate their lives to solving spiritual poverty. It usually doesn’t pay as well, and the stakes are usually high, but it’s a calling that we need people to follow.

Matthew Warner May 25, 2011 at 6:46 pm

Thanks, Ryan! Love the Mo-T quote, too!

Chris May 25, 2011 at 7:26 pm

“The richest person is the one who needs the least”

Amanda Rose May 25, 2011 at 10:10 pm

I agree we seem to have a disregard for the spiritually impo’verished. Do you think that has to do with the whole “relgion is personal and private, people can believe whatever they want and I shouldn’t interfere” kind of attitude? Kind of that “I’m okay, you’re okay, belive what you like and let’s sing Kumbaya together” syncretism? I am training some small groups on evangelization in our parish and tell them, “people are hungry for the truth!” It takes one to know one and I recall vivdly the hunger I felt for hears. It is charity to share this gift of truth, to at least propose it and offer it as a choice in our pro-choice society.
Amen to all you said.

Bill May 26, 2011 at 8:29 am

Funny, but I think there’s ample evidence in the US over the last 80 years or so of Church efforts to combat spiritual poverty at the expense of the physical. James 2:15-17

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