Kaitlyn Wright – CLI Resident
When you read the word “poverty” what comes to mind? Do you picture a family in Latin America, selling fruit on the streets to survive? Maybe you see a group of orphaned children in Africa, bellies bloated from starvation. Does your mind wander to an apartment in the U.S. where a little girl is returning home from school? My guess is that your mind does not imagine the third description.
Poverty in the U.S. does not look like poverty in developing countries. There is a difference between absolute poverty, “a condition characterized by severe deprivation of basic human needs,” and relative poverty, “the condition in which people lack the minimum amount of income needed in order to maintain the average standard of living in the society in which they live.” The urban poor in America mostly refers to those who live in relative poverty in the cities. Please do not get hung up on the legalism of these definitions—the reality is poverty is very much an issue in America. Last year 13.5% of the population was in poverty. Stop for a second…that’s 43.1 million Americans struggling to support themselves. That is more than the entire population of California.
So why should we care? Well, quite simply, because Jesus did. James 2:15-17 says,
“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”
Jesus tells us that if we are truly living in faith, our actions will reveal it. Our actions are stronger than our words, and Jesus directly commands us to act and help those in need. But we can’t base our actions to help on those we perceive as needy, because the reality is we do not know the struggles of a person. We often see what people want to portray. As humans I think we have this innate need to label people in order to understand them. If we see someone on the streets begging, we think homeless. If we see someone in a nice suit, we think successful business person. The problem comes when we don’t attempt to go further than our initial assumptions.
Rather than focusing completely on poverty, let me ask a different question: What constitutes as a family in need? This question doesn’t quite have the same mental picture, does it? There are so many circumstances that can create a need: loss of a job, death in the family, the imprisonment of a family member, illness; the list goes on. I would venture to say almost everyone has hit a crisis at some point. Usually we have the support or finances to make it through that time. However, there are many families that don’t have any support or resources, and what’s even more sad is when the children are affected by their parents’ choices or circumstances. A need isn’t as easily seen or defined as poverty, but the struggle is just as genuine.
Central cares about those struggling in our communities. Christmas is a great time to turn our faith into action and meet the needs around us. Instead of getting caught up in the parties, baking, and gifts, what could God do through you if you said yes? Yes, you will be a part of caring for families in need this season. Yes, you will be more than words and show people with your actions what love looks like.
This is exactly what we do in our Christmas Adopt-a-Family program. We work with local schools to partner with families in the community who need a little help during the holidays, reminding them they are cared about and not forgotten.
Spend some time asking God how He wants to use you, and then be still and be open to His calling. Living out “There’s More to Life Than Me” can be challenging as it is easy to get caught up in a self-centered mindset during the holidays with Black Friday, Christmas wish lists, and holiday expectations. Allow this season to be different. Maybe God is calling you to make a meal for family next door to you, maybe He’s telling you to register to be a part of the Adopt-a-Family program, or maybe He’s encouraging you to leave an extra tip for the waiter next time you go out to eat. No matter what need God is leading you to meet, remember to simply say yes and then let go of your expectations and be open to showing people Jesus this Christmas.
http://www.feedingamerica.org/hunger-in-america/impact-of-hunger/hunger-and-poverty/hunger-and-poverty-fact-sheet.html?referrer=http://www.poverties.org/blog/poverty-in-america?referrer=http://www.feedingamerica.org/hunger-in-america/impact-of-hunger/hunger-and-poverty/hunger-and-poverty-fact-sheet.htmlClick here for the photo credit on this post