The ugly face of poverty

"He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble." Luke 1.52


Poverty comes in many shapes and sizes and can be invisible or painfully apparent. Many are unaware and disinterested in their spiritual poverty, while material poverty grabs the headlines. What form it takes and however it manifests itself, poverty is structural and comprehensive. That is to say, it arises from the way society operates and it can grip its victims from cradle to grave. Which is why we should be concerned about it and determined to understand and address it.


Spiritual poverty arises when people and society occupy two dimensional lives - physical and mental/ intellectual - shunning the spiritual dimension for all sorts of reasons ranging from bad experience to ignorance. It is the task of religious faith to address this. Claims to being a "spiritual person" because one dabbles in eastern mysticism or reads the occasional book on self-improvement are a distraction rather than an antidote. True faith cannot be a side-interest; it must capture the whole person to be genuine.


Material poverty arises when resources are not fairly or adequately shared. This doesn't happen overnight but over time. Power accumulates in the hands of the rich and, instinctively, they entrench their position by passing laws and designing systems of trade and infrastructure which secure their privilege. That is why a whole-of-society response is needed to reset the balance. The trouble is that the current party political system is not up to the job. It is designed for stability and can only introduce incremental change, when what is required is a complete overhaul.


Jesus' mother Mary saw the potential in the birth of her son. Through him God would bring about the necessary transformation, to address the twin demons of spiritual and material poverty. It is coming. But which side of history will we be on, when the Lord returns to complete the process?

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