Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Nowhere To Flee

By Living Lee

In the aftermath of the devastating hurricane Katrina that wrecked havoc in New Orleans all sorts of blame and accusations have been leveled at the Bush administration for their too slow response to the natural disaster. Even the president had to finally admit that they have not got their act together to respond quickly and efficiently to a disaster of this magnitude. Hurricane warnings were given and people were told to evacuate. What they did not realize was many of
those warned had no means to do so as they don't have cars or were too poor to take public transport or even know where to go. It brought to the fore the problem of being poor even in the midst of the richest and most powerful nation on earth at present.

The leaders of the world are forced to confer and come out with plans to eradicate or reduce worldwide poverty (by 50% at least by 2015 if I'm not wrong). That is a noble task indeed for the world to work together but while everyone could agree with such a noble aim, making it work is going to be a monumental undertaking. Just how do you go about trying to wipe poverty off the face of the earth?

What are the causes of poverty in the first place? We all know that there are enough resources to feed, clothe and house every inhabitant comfortably on this planet. The problem is with the uneven distribution of these not even scarce resources. Why is there rich and poor, the haves and the have-nots? The economists and the sociologists will have lots of sophisticated answers to that question from natural differences due to climate and other factors to history and present management of these resources. Many have attempted to bring about a more equitable distribution either through force or persuasion but very few have achieved the success they envisaged.

What is the root cause of poverty and what can be done about it?

While accepting that differences do exist because of the myriad of reasons provided, we need to ask what can be done to tackle the problem of gross unequal distribution of resources. The communists tried taking from the rich and giving to the poor by force and it didn't work. The capitalist tried producing more so that there is
more to go around – slightly better track record but created problems of its own as not everyone buys the concept that what they earned must be shared. This tendency to keep and hoard what we believe is rightfully ours because we earned it, has kept the world in poverty.

I believe world poverty can never be eradicated as long as selfishness and greed resides in our hearts. As long as we believe that all that there is in life is what we can earn and have in this world, we cannot be set free from this propensity to hoard because that is where our security lies. We Christians may say with our
mouths that we trust in God and that this world is not our home but the way we live our lives proclaims otherwise. We are just as clinging to this world as the others if not worse.

True freedom comes when we dare to let go and let God. What it means in real life is giving – lots of giving with a cheerful heart. Not irresponsible giving like the mad person who throws fistfuls of dollars in the streets but carefully planned giving that targets and helps the most needy of the poor. Thank God for Christian agencies like World Vision, Malaysian CARE and many others. We need to give more and more of not just our money but also our time and thoughts and prayers. Then we will be doing our heavenly Father's will and be perfect even as He is perfect (Matthew 5:48).

Jesus tells that we shall always have the poor with us on this side of heaven (John 12:8). Our duty is not to wipe poverty off the face of the earth. It is to love and give to the poor what our loving heavenly Father has given to us. He will not ask us what have we done to solve the poverty problem of the whole world. He will ask us what have we done with the Lazarus who sits at our doorstep. While we actively seek to participate in and support organized efforts by world bodies and governments to try and tackle poverty on a global scale, we must not forget to act local and do what we can to help the poor within our reach until Jesus comes again.

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