I was on Thought for The Day on BBC Radio Scotland this morning, reflecting on the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. This is what I said:
Today is the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.
The United Nations says that worldwide, one billion people live in extreme poverty. Even here in Scotland the figure is around half a million.
Poverty is not only about material wealth, though. It often has wider implications than the simple inability of people to meet their own basic needs. It causes exclusion from education; marginalization from community; and a sense of shame. These in turn result in feelings of diminishment and humiliation. In the end, poverty is dehumanizing.
The scriptural accounts of the life of Jesus of Nazareth provide a model for tackling this problem.
Jesus rejected material wealth and instead embraced poverty. He chose to live among the poor, to associate with those regarded by society as the least, and to share resources with them. Presented with a crowd of thousands of hungry people and only a few loaves and fish given by his friends, he passed them round – and amazingly there was plenty for all.
As I reflect on the accounts of his life I find myself challenged: what might it look like for me to have less so that others could have more? How might we nurture communities where all are included and all have plenty, even in my little corner of Scotland?
Jesus’ life also reminds me that I am poor, too. In the stories of his encounters with people, it’s often those who are most materially wealthy whose spiritual poverty is greatest.
In the end, us humans are all poor and all in need of help: we each experience suffering, and we face death. These are great levellers. In the end, we’re all Jock Tamson’s bairns.
I wonder how the world might be if we could really see one another in that light? Maybe we could build on our common humanity rather than our desire for self-advancement. Imagine how the world would look then?