Chapter 6 of Shane Clairborne’s Irresistible Revolution is titled “Economics of Rebirth.” He gets started quickly by saying in the 2nd paragraph, “Layers of insulation separate the rich and the poor from truly encountering one another. There are obvious layers like picket fences and SUVs, and there are more subtle ones like charity. Tithes, tax-exempt donations, and short-term mission trips, while they accomplish some good, can also function as outlets that allow us to appease our consciences and still remain a safe distance from the poor.”
He gives a quick discussion to the verse that most people use on this subject: “The poor will always be with you.” Those are the words of Jesus. Claiborne believes the common exegesis of this verse is incorrect. It is usually taken to mean that there will always be poor people and that we need to focus on others. Claiborne says that Jesus is saying this in a leper’s home after he has had his feet anointed with expensive perfume by a poor woman. The poor were all around Jesus when he said “the poor will always be with you.” Claiborne believes this is a verse pointing the church to her true identity; that she should always be near those who suffer. Claiborne uses a great quote from Gandhi. Gandhi was often asked if he was a Christian. In response he would say, “Ask the poor. They will tell you who the Christians are.”
Early Christians had a mindset that if a child starved while a Christian had extra food, they were guilty of murder. A lot of people have a problem with a gospel of prosperity and people have problems with a gospel of poverty, so Clairborne proposes a gospel of abundance rooted in a theology of enough. His main verses for this are Proverbs 30:8-9. As Gandhi says, “there is enough for everyone’s need but not enough for everyone’s greed.”
I know in my own life that I have many layers of insulation that allow me to be comfortable. I guess I don’t even know where or how to begin to break those down, which leaves me changing nothing.