The question of whether or not Christians should be engaged in alleviating poverty is mute. Both the New and Old Testaments bear witness to how believers are to act in kindness and generosity towards their peers who are in poverty. Timothy Keller in his book Generous Justice, in which he levels the Bible as a guide on having a more just society writes, “from ancient times, the God of the Bible stood out from the gods of all other religions as a God on the side of the powerless, and of justice for the poor.” The real question is, “how should the church respond to poverty?”
David Platt in his book Radical levels serious criticisms of the American church and its affluence compared to the poverty present in developing nations. In one place he comments on a parable found in Luke 16 concerning the rich man and Lazarus:
I am much like the rich man, and the church I lead looks a lot like him too. Every Sunday we gather in a multimillion-dollar building with millions of dollars in vehicles parked outside. We leave worship to spend thousands of dollars on lunch before we return to hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of homes. We live in luxury.Meanwhile, the poor man is outside our gate. And he is hungry. In the time we gather for worship on a Sunday morning, almost a thousand children elsewhere die because they have no food. If it were our kids starving, they would all be gone by the time we said our closing prayer. We certainly wouldn’t ignore our kids while we sang songs and entertained ourselves, but we are content with ignoring other parents’ kids. Many of them are our spiritual brothers and sisters in developing nations. They are suffering from malnutrition, deformed bodies and brains, and preventable diseases. At most, we are throwing our scraps to them while we indulge in our pleasures here. Kind of like an extra chicken for the slaves at Christmas.
While Dr. Platt’s statements are full of rhetorical flare, he does lay serious criticism at the doorstep of his church. In essence he notes that the extravagant lifestyle that invests millions of dollars in church buildings, homes and cars is responsible for the poverty and death of children on the other side of the planet. This is serious criticism. It is one thing to be unaware of poverty on the other side of the globe and it is another thing to be actively keeping people in poverty. It is one thing to note people are starving in India and another thing to note people are starving on the drive into worship. Platt equates the two when he says, “the poor man is outside our gate… almost a thousand children elsewhere die because they have no food.”
My questions go like this: Am I morally responsible for poverty in India? Should I feel guilty for buying my children nice things while other children on this globe starve? What are your thoughts? Is David Platt right?
I’ll be blogging more on this subject tomorrow.
 Timothy J. Keller. Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just. (New York, N.Y.: Dutton, Penguin Group USA, 2010), 6.
 David Platt. Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream. 1. ed. (Colorado Springs, Colo.: Multnomah Books, 2010), 115.
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