As part of a course at the college where I taught, groups of students volunteered at a food pantry, serving meals to the homeless. I went with them, and found it inspiring – but also somewhat unsettling.
Much of the assigned course reading asserted that poverty is inevitable, and that certain people are doomed to a life of lack from the moment they are born.
Economic and social theories that look to material causes and conditions to find solutions to poverty haven't really succeeded in alleviating this problem. But there are spiritual answers, and the Bible offers wonderful examples of God's willingness to bless, not deprive, His creation.
The prophet Malachi quoted God as saying to His people, "Prove me now herewith ... if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it" (3:10).
Time after time in Scripture, there are individuals, families, and whole communities who, through obedience to divine guidance, have what they need. In some cases, that means money – as when Jesus told his disciple Peter to retrieve a coin from a fish's mouth. Sometimes the need was for leadership – and Moses emerged at just the right time to liberate the children of Israel from slavery.
These examples and others underscore an important theological concept: Spirit, and not matter, brings security and genuine satisfaction to humanity. Faith in God may not necessarily unlock earthly treasure, but it meets our needs in ways tailored to our circumstances.
Prayer enables us to perceive this tender care by bringing to light the limitless substance of God. While matter is, by its very nature, limited, Spirit is infinite, undepleted, and immediately available to everyone.
I've learned for myself that we can have confidence that God will provide for us.
Just when I was ready for college, our family business ran into serious financial difficulties, and my father didn't draw his salary for a while. He grew more discouraged when there was no money for mortgage payments, heating oil, or groceries.
But through it all, my mother kept turning to God, even when she felt the most afraid. And, day by day, our needs were met. For me, the human means varied: a scholarship and some part-time work. There was always enough, and that assurance, based on experience, was the blessing we all carried with us, even after the "rough patch" was over.
God's love is the solution to poverty, whether individual or collective, because it alone will satisfy the heart.
Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, wrote: "God gives you His spiritual ideas, and in turn, they give you daily supplies. Never ask for to-morrow: it is enough that divine Love is an ever-present help; and if you wait, never doubting, you will have all you need every moment. What a glorious inheritance is given to us through the understanding of omnipresent Love! ("Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896," p. 307).
God's power is big enough, His embrace wide enough, to meet the needs of every man, woman, child, animal, and plant on earth. Poverty is not inevitable. "Haves" and "have-nots" are unknown in the kingdom of God, and that kingdom is, the Bible says, "at hand."
All of God's children have His love and tender care. Christ Jesus commissions his followers, then and now, to minister to our brothers and sisters. We minister to them most effectively not by acts of charity alone, but by the prayer that daily trusts them and ourselves to the care of God.
The practical acknowledgment that God, divine Love, is with each one of us, no matter where we are, truly is the "charity" that "never faileth" (see I Cor. 13:8).
Adapted from www.spirituality.com.