Brothers and sisters, as we celebrate this Christmas season, I’d like to engage in a brief reflection on the subject of poverty, and issue a challenge to the Body of Christ.
There are nearly 50 million impoverished people in the United States, according to the federal definition of poverty. Fifteen percent of the people in our country don’t have enough money for basic things like food, clothing and shelter. And this overwhelming number speaks only to physical poverty; it doesn’t address other — arguably more important — forms of poverty, such as spiritual, educational or emotional.
Armed with this information, what is our responsibility? Even more so, what is the express purpose for which God created us?
The first step toward channeling the power of Christ to transform our environment is to see ourselves and the people around us the way God sees us: creatures made in his image with the capacity for wholeness and abundance. This capacity is much more overwhelming and overflowing than poverty — in fact, it is the destiny God intended for us. The second step is to set aside the number “50 million,” which can leave us stuck in the abstract, feeling helpless and disempowered.
Let’s consider another set of statistics. These numbers are harder to keep track of, but reputable sources agree that there are around 350,000 Christian churches in the United States, over 200 formalized denominations, and 55 to 65 million people who attend church regularly. The Christian Church in America can sometimes suffer from a lack of cohesion and unity. But, when it comes to addressing all forms of poverty, the fact that we are so dispersed gives me tremendous hope in our power to make a difference. We are disciples of Christ, the messengers who carry good news, and we are everywhere. We are a massive group with richly diverse skills, talents and resources, and we are bigger than poverty, because Christ is in us.
Our path forward can be simple and practical. Look around you. Where has God placed you? What community and relationships has he surrounded you with? What forms of poverty exist in the people you touch? What unique resources has God entrusted to you? We have been positioned by God to overcome the challenges of the world when we hold ourselves accountable to good stewardship of the mission to care for one another. There are enough of us to get the job done.
This Christmas, as we celebrate and give in traditional ways, let’s get back in touch with our basic identity in Christ and stewardship of our purpose. By doing so, we’ll give our Savior the space to bring the divine into the harshest circumstances our world faces, and we’ll create the kind of celebration our Lord would truly revel in.
This article originally appeared in the NAE Insight.