Christmas and The Trampling of the Poor

For many, the wish “Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year” will become a fulfilled prophesy as the holiday season will be a refreshing season filled with joy and laughter, family and friends, and lots of sweet fattening foods.  But in a culture where the holidays have also been hijack by increasing consumer pressure to spend money (and lots of it), this season will turn out to be a season of regret that brings much stress and heartache…perhaps creating other systemic problems in the future.  The following video will help explain a bit more.

The book of Amos issues a clear call for justice to be done.  “But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” (5.24, NIV).  Eventually God declares that he will no longer spare Israel from his judgment, describing them as people who “trample” the needy and “do away with” the poor (8.1-4).

I am not ignorant of the need for personal responsibility when it comes to the decisions, good or bad, that people make.  However, there is also a clear need to for the stronger to protect the weaker rather than allow the vulnerable to be preyed upon.  Yet we live in a culture that allow these predatory business to to advertise and enter into business with people who lack many of the necessary skills to enter into a fair agreement (why else do these business only seem to pop up in low-income and low-education neighborhoods?).

Briefly, the solution to problem does not just seem to be putting an end to predatory business (although that would make a great start).  It seems that we must address the dark-side of consumerism that turns a well-intentioned activity (buying someone a gift) into a materialistic enterprise that becomes a season cult of personality.  This seems to be where the church and its preachers, shepherds, and other leaders must show that the birth of Jesus is part of a gospel that stands as an alternative reality to the ways of our culture…an alternative that always is the way of God breaking forth and transforming culture.

I pray that as the holiday season passes, that the gospel way of life seen in the birth of the baby named Jesus and beyond will have more influence than the culture of consumerism.

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7 responses to “Christmas and The Trampling of the Poor

  1. It is quite daunting. The whole world lies in darkness, including the market and economies.
    I was at an intersection- a homeles guy panhandling with a sign. The Holy Spirit prompted me ‘give him five dollars.’ I opened the wallet and there was five. I gave it to him. I accepted his prayer of ‘God bless.”
    In this world, often it is the cups of water given in Jesus’ name, that blunt the edges of the crushing machine in which we are trapped. And all I can say is “come, Lord Jesus.”

    • Ben,

      Thanks for sharing that story and thanks for being salt and light on a street corner intersection. I think you are right about the cups of water. While we are all appreciative of the Mother Theresa’s in our world, there is much more darkness driven out by light in the good works of those who have nothing more than a cup of cold water to offer…even though such offering is not “news” worthy in the current culture. The person who taught me to be a disciple did so by modeling for me a life that loves the least among us.

      Grace and Peace,

      Rex

  2. How far will love prompt us to go with this? How do we address this in our churches to see serious change? How do we change our habits in this culture that will help long term? I really appreciate the insight Claudio Oliver offers in this article
    http://theooze.com/church/why-i-stopped-serving-the-poor/
    Rex, you make a great point about the predatory nature of the businesses and advertisers. As much as the savings and business habits of Americans have been criticized, how many new jobs are created at businesses that require the ones that need to save to spend, spend, spend? If they do not have them continue their consumerism, then lost revenue will result in lost jobs. Also, our demands dictate what products and businesses are needed. The only reason restaurants open on Sunday is because we will go.

    If the church changed its consumerism, then it would be a blow to the economy. Of course, if love prompted that many Christians to make such drastic changes, I bet they would also be compelled to do a lot of things differently in regards to the poor.

    • James,

      Thanks for the article link, it was a great read. I believe that one of the problems within North American Christianity is that believers have by and large accepted the forgiveness/salvation aspect of Jesus but have basically incorporated that into the same American lifestyle they had prior to discovering Jesus (with perhaps some changes in some moral/ethical ways). Another ways of putting that is to say that a statement like Jesus makes in John 14.6 has been accepted as a propositional statement to be believe rather than a functional statement that points to a Jesus’ way of life to be lived. Until that changes, the church culture is unlikely to change.

      The worst part is that I am guilty of this too.

      Grace and Peace,

      Rex

  3. I’ve heard payday lenders describe themselves as providing a valuable service to the working poor, people who due to low income and bad credit histories don’t have access to credit. I suppose there’s an argument to be made for low income folks receiving small loans in the event of emergency, but the interest rates are astonishingly high. The counter-argument is that they must be to cover the risk (and sometimes losses) involved in loaning to people with bad credit.

    Still.

    A few years ago my mother told me about a former high school classmate who was now managing a payday loan location. Neither of us said it, but both of us understood he was involved in a dirty business. If we can feel it and see it, what argument can be made against at least attempting to improve the situation?

    • My reply is that if they are in business to serve the working poor rather than themselves, let them start a non-for-profit organization that helps the working poor. In Memphis, I lived next to one of these businesses and visited it once because someone I was trying to help had become entangled in a bad loan. The business had two armed guards (not dressed in security uniforms but dressed like hired muscle) and two pit-bulls. That is funny because in the times that I had visited the office of Hope Works (which is a service to the poor), they had no need for such armed protection.

      I have wondered if it would be feasible for there to be a non-profit organization that specialized in helping the working poor with no-interest loans. The idea is that if you are behind on rent, a utility bill, need some car repairs, etc…. you could receive a one-time loan free of interest to be paid back on a monthly plan that would fit within the monthly budget. The borrower would not be eligible for a loan without some proven source of monthly income and would not be eligible for another loan until the first loan is paid back in full. My idea came from thinking about the way the KIVA service works to those living in 2nd and 3rd world countries. Any ways…it’s just an idea (I’m full of ideas but not the best entrepreneur).

  4. The trick would be finding capital for such a program. Pretty sure there must be something like it out there, though.

    Just a little bit of money in the right hands can make a big difference for the poor. At the beginning of Brazil’s outgoing President Lula’s administration he established “Bolsa Escola,” a government program that gives a small monthly stipend to very low income families, just for making sure their kids go to school. I was extremely critical of the program for a long while, given that it is taxpayer funded and seemed open to corruption. The net result over the past several years, however, has been hundreds of thousands of children regularly in school and family’s using the little extra income together with their wages to improve their educations and homes. The new lower-middle class rising in Brazil has partially been attributed to this program.

    Of course, I’d far prefer private, non-profit approaches, especially in a country as affluent as the United States.

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