The Virtuous Poor?

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Reading Amos yesterday, I was struck by the realization that not only are the poor always with us, but so also the rich--and wherever either group exists its nature is always the same. 

There are always fat cows in Bashan. There are always the oppressed of Zion.

Wherever the rich exist, they oppress. Yet they never view themselves as oppressors. They think the reverse: that they are virtuous and that the poor are dangerously corrupt.

Meanwhile, the poor are are often culpably poor. They aren't impoverished by nobleness of character. They're poor because they bear children outside marriage, spend unwisely, fail to pursue education, succumb to alcohol and drugs, fail to satisfy employers, marry hastily and neglect to plan ahead.

Because there is always a seamy side to poverty, we're often far more sympathetic towards the distant poor than the poor who live nearby. We attribute innocence and virtue to distant poverty but view nearby poverty as squalid and dissolute. The poor in Africa? Virtuous. The poor in Section 8 housing? There because of drugs, early pregnancies and educational deficiencies. 

So too in Israel at the time of Amos. The fat cows of Bashan had hearts filled with tenderness for the poor of other lands. But the poor of their own towns they despised. 

Of course, if poverty is often caused by sin, so also wealth. Neither has a corner on vice. 

But God simply commands those who have to care for those who do not. He doesn't command us to judge, but to be generous. And He blesses those who give to the poor, telling them that in so doing they give to Him.

Rather than condemn the sinful poor this Christmas season, why not give generously, remembering that God has done the same for us in our spiritual poverty? 

There is no such thing as virtuous poverty in a world of sin. So be generous. Give without finding fault.