Poverty, Blessings, Afterlife

Jeremiah 17:5-10

Psalm 1

I Corinthians 15:12-20

Luke 6:17-16

Notes, Outline, Sketch

1 Cor makes obvious that Christians believe in life after death, and the center of our faith depends on Christ being raised from the dead, raised to life eternal, which we all will follow.

So life after death is there, as an undeniable part of this Sunday’s preaching, if not in the use, then in the avoidance of it.

These lessons raise the age-old conundrum:

What do God’s blessings look like, and whether we need to care whether we have luxury while billions suffer in poverty each day.

This is even more pronounced when one compares

Jesus’ Beatitudes in Luke

“Blessed are the poor!”

with Matthew’s “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”

What is this Blessed?

What is this Woe?

A pronounced reversal of what one expects.

The prosperity Gospel, in it’s many variations, would hold that those who are able to enjoy the best the world has to provide are blessed by God. Their wealth is a clear sign that God blesses them.

Then those that have now, are not blessed, but rather warned of having nothing in the afterlife; and those who have nothing now, will have everything, for the Kingdom of God is theirs. [That is not completely accurate to the text, but rather a common misunderstanding of it.]

False Understandings/ Interpretations/ Applications

Justice is not needed now. Since everything really important is put off until after death then there is no need for justice now, since it all washes out in eternity: the people most disadvantaged will reap rewards in heaven and those who live well now will suffer in the afterlife.

Thus these aphorisms could be true :

(they are decidedly not true, not without a great deal of modifying
context at least)

and they would, if true, provide us justification for NOT making any fundamental changes that will put our lifestyles at risk:

The poor will always be with us.

The homeless will always be a problem to solve.

Poverty cannot be ended.

Being rich does not cut us off from God.

What is now in this world does matter.

Being poor is good. Being homeless is OK (except in the harsh winter.)

There will always be people who starve to death, even millions each year. It need not bother us.

To God it does not matter whether we or you or they are poor/rich, hungry/well-fed, homeless/ land&home renters or owners. What matters between us, you, or them and God is a spiritual matter which has nothing to do with wealth, luxury, or ownership.

Correct Understandings/ Interpretations/ Applications

Being poor still is unjust.

No one need go hungry. It’s not a matter of sufficient food, but of the will to distribute it equitably.

Homelessness can be ended, with dedicated, coordinated effort, at less cost than providing the very basics to homeless people.

And the real blessings are not what we typically chase, the chase often being what separates us from God.

Add the Jeremiah and Psalm about Wisdom

and now there is the possibility of a lively discussion.

Wisdom, real wisdom, is like a tree planted along side a river, that even in drought still draws water from the under-earth stream that still flows.

Well and good until today’s world. Today we’ve pumped qualifiers dry!

Huge rivers flow with greatly reduced flow, and still we squander water.

Hard to appreciate here in Canada where we have the most fresh water of anywhere in the world. We can squander it and not even notice. We do squander it regularly without noticiing.

Berlin: rinse dish, just so the suds flow (not off)because water is so precious … and expensive. They’ve learned to live using so little water that the sewer has problems flowing.

Other places in the world have not yet seen water systems, yet alone sufficient water for all the people.

In Canada, even, many first nation communities do not have water systems, or systems that provide clean water; and it has been known, denied, avoided, promised, and ignored for decades.

Consider the theme in Jeremiah and Psalm 1, that wisdom can guide us to understand that God and/or God’s law provide us blessing.

We need not trust in mere mortals, or flesh, or in our hearts turned our own way.

How does true wisdom help us understand God’s Blessings, Wealth and Poverty, and the churches’ commitment (or lack there of) to do justice!

There is no simple path through all this.

The questions raised are significant for any healthy faith community, to consider, to ponder, to use to adjust their perspective of God’s creation and as a guide for their own actions in this world.