As I walk through Gotham, I wonder many things. I wonder, like many others have before, how God can allow such despair and heartache to continue in His creation. I wonder why he allows such outright brokenness and misery to be wrought upon His children so mercilessly. However, I quickly realize it is not He that perpetuates this injustice, but those in and of the world. Hopes and ideals are perverted to reflect the desires of anything that will hold the attention of those who desperately are in need of such hope. Social values and expectations rule the street; I used to think people who subscribed to the popular cultural identifiers were just victims of their own pride and self-image. Now, however, I wonder how much blame should be cast at the foot of corporate America and their idolatry of the “all mighty dollar.”
TV shows, billboards, commercials, radio, and every other possible form of public media is inundated with propaganda no less hypnotizing than that used by both sides during the last world war. I actually haven’t read a single Adbusters magazine (I like the pictures, though), but I think they have a very reliable argument. In their all-encompassing pursuit of endless profit, how far is too far for these large business entities? I see people in poverty so convinced that they have to wear the right clothes, drive -and modify- the right cars (all suspiciously overpriced), and claim the right sports team, that they deprive themselves of the true necessities for life. Instead of spending their money on healthy food, or daycare for their children, cash is pumped back into the pockets of those who really don’t need any more than they already have.
I write this from the perspective of someone who has been sheltered from this reality for many years. I never fully understood how well I have lived until I decided to look around me. For many people across America, it seems to be the commonly accepted reality that God materially blesses those whom He favors. This somewhat Calvinistic approach to me seems misplaced. In the beatitudes, Jesus tells us something different. The poor are the most blessed; the hurting, the broken, and the stricken are those who He values above all others. I don’t see anything in my NIV translation that suggests that blessings manifest themselves in material wealth. In fact, it could easily be argued that the more wealth I accumulate, the less and less I am in touch with Jesus’ explicit message.
‘The Prosperity Gospel,’ as I have heard it referred to, suggests that God brings affluence to those He loves most dearly. In my experience, it is those who relinquish all such affluence who will greatly enjoy His divine inspiration. The forever unknown missionary who dies witnessing in a third world country in the arms of a beggar, victim to a mugger’s knife, will be exalted in His kingdom. The priest who is happy to preach to a wordly-wealthy congregation, who has never placed himself in uncertain circumstances, not sure what may lie in wait around the next corner, who dies a ripe old age never having truly seen death until his own arrives, will surely find Jesus asking him at judgment; ‘Where did I find you when I was hungry, naked, sick, or in prison?’ The answer ‘Hey Jesus, I was enjoying your blessings, dude’ surely will not warrant a warm response from the sinless son of Man who came for the least of us. If we do not know and love the least of those among us, are we truly able to love Jesus? Christ reminded us that He will not always be with us, but the poor will. By entertaining the lowly citizens of this earth, be they saved or not, are we not by association entertaining our Master as well? Many times in my journey, I have wondered if it is not the street beggars and prostitutes to whom the ‘gospel has been veiled,’ but those so blinded by their material security that they have veiled the message in their hearts (2 Cor. 3:14-16).
I was surprised to find that we are, in fact, asked to test God. One of the last Old Testament scriptures we have reminds us that we are not just robbing from the poor, but we are robbing God. God tells us directly how we are to return to Him from our sad state (Malachi 3:7-10). He commands us to test Him, to put our entire wealth, our whole beings perhaps, into His house. “Test me in this,” he commands, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have enough room for it.” The more we give to God, which he rightly gives to us in the first place, the more He will return to us in heaven. We are asked to be responsible stewards of the wealth He gives us, to return it to Him through those who are in most need. Think not of what you may acquire here on earth where rust and moth destroy, but how much you can invest in the eternal life abiding in Jesus Christ, who told the rich young ruler to be perfect, and sell everything he had and give to the poor.