Earlier this month we passed the four-year mark of our time in South Africa. One of the issues that is ever-before us is poverty and how to respond to it. Neither romanticizing those who are poor, on the one hand, nor condemning them, on the other, will do. Amidst all of the confusion that comes with working to empower the unempowered, inspire the uninspired, give hope to those in despair, I find my way in the proclamation of Jesus' simple words--words of love, words of challenge, words with power.
The so-called "prosperity gospel" is one message which speaks to the poor. Regardless of whether one finds it unsavory at best, blasphemous at worst, one cannot deny its large following. To this we may simply say that the way of Jesus was never meant to be popular--"the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it" (Mt. 7:14); and after all is said and done, it may come down to that. Even so, we can also ask whether we have done all we can do, said all we can say, to proclaim a message that gives hope to the poor.
I have posted a short essay on this theme on the website of the Anabaptist Network in South Africa.