Monday, April 7, 2014

Help the poor... No matter what?

Billy Graham answers a reader's question about poverty. And to no surprise, Billy Graham pays no attention to the elephant in the room.
QUESTION: Do you think we’ll ever do away with poverty? I heard someone say we could do it if we just tried hard enough, but didn’t Jesus say somewhere that there’d always be poor people? I can’t imagine living the way millions do in some parts of the world. — Mrs. V. McK.
Jesus also claimed that he'd return for the second coming while some of his original twelve disciples where still alive. Unless you can show me some 2000 year old guys walking around today, it looks like Jesus failed pretty big on that prediction. That said, it doesn't look like poverty is going anywhere anytime soon. That's too bad, because I do think there is much more that can be done to help those in need. I certainly hope that poverty will one day be eradicated, but knowing how some people are, I'm not about to hold my breath...
ANSWER: You’re probably thinking of Jesus’ comment to some of His disciples, after they criticized a woman for pouring a jar of costly perfume over His head as an act of respect and love.

They contended she should have spent her money helping the poor instead of wasting it on Jesus. But Jesus pointed out that He would not be with them much longer, while the poor would always need her help. Soon He would be taken from them, He said, and the opportunity to express their love in person would be over. (You can read this incident in Mark 14:3-9.)

Jesus’ words have sometimes been misunderstood; some have even suggested He was being insensitive to those living in poverty. But nothing could be further from the truth. Repeatedly the Bible commands us to be concerned for those in need, and it points out that God has a special concern for the poor. Remember: Jesus knew what it was to be poor; Mary and Joseph had very little in the way of material goods. The Bible says, “Whoever is kind to the needy honors God” (Proverbs 14:31).

Will we ever eliminate poverty? We should do all we can, but the real barrier is our human nature. Unless Christ changes our hearts, the human race will always be riddled with greed and corruption and selfishness. Put your life into Christ’s hands, then ask Him to use you to help others overcome both their material and spiritual poverty.
 I'm glad that Graham thinks we should do all we can to eliminate poverty. I'm sure he's on the phone right now to suggest that Ken Ham halt his building of a Noah's Ark theme park, and instead spend that $73 million helping people in need. No? Oh...Wait, I know!

Billy obviously must be leading the charge to eliminate the tax exempt status of churches so that money can go towards the government helping the needy. Or maybe he's arguing that churches should quit preaching and instead convert themselves into legitimate charities. Wrong again? Huh... I thought Billy said that we should do everything we can to help the less fortunate. After all, that's what Jesus would want, right?

An interesting thing to note is that if churches paid taxes just like everyone else, that would mean $83.5 billion of new tax revenue based on 2013's numbers. What the government actually collected from churches was $0. Quite a marked difference there. But what could be done with $83.5 billion? Oh, that would be enough to pay for the 'food stamps' of everyone on welfare, as well as house the entire US homeless population. Those sound quite like things that would certainly help the poor.

So why don't you see these churches doing everything they can to help the needy? To be honest, if many smaller churches had to pay taxes, they'd simply go bankrupt. But the large congregations would have no problem. All the televangelists you see with their arena sized church services? They are doing almost diddly to help out while they simply line their pockets with more cash. So don't try and act as if belief makes people more charitable. Hell, Bill Gates is the worlds biggest philanthropist, yet he's a non-believer.
Help the poor? This giant arena, jumbotron and light show
won't pay for itself. Priorities! Am I right, or am I right?

Helping out has nothing to do with what you believe, and more to do with what kind of person you are. Sure, we can all do more, but churches are in no way excused from that criticism. In many ways they sometimes exasperate the poverty issue. They may demand a tithe from their congregation, whether that can afford it or not. The TV preacher asking for money will often actually prey on those that have the least, and say they should donate the most to turn their fortunes around. It perpetuates a vicious cycle where people are left clinging to faith, because they now have nothing else.

So yes, lets all do what we can to battle poverty, but lets also hold preaches and churches under the magnifying glass. Because I feel you will be surprised by the number you will find that preach giving, but really just take, take, take...

-Brain Hulk

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