War on Poverty

Poor people! Every city in our ‘Good Ole USA’ seems to have more than its share of poor people. Their dire situation won’t go away; their station in life seems to be set in stone— hopelessly poor. Any caring person who doesn’t care about their dilemma should and would be deemed as heartless. And rightfully so! It would be totally shameful for a nation with our wealth and opportunity to close our eyes to the impoverished—to overlook them. Thus, throughout our fair land, there always has been a segment of people who really seem to care for the plight of the poor. They have declared war on poverty. They would love to totally wipe out poverty forever. What a noble ambition that is!

My hat would be off to them except, without a miracle from almighty God; it is a war that cannot be won. Any and all efforts toward that lofty goal will be futile. Among our elected officials there is currently a notion that we could wipe out poverty for many by raising the minimum wage. On the surface, that would seem such a simple solution. If the poor had more money, then they would no longer be poor. Duh! That would be such a simple solution except for one little caveat. It won’t work! There is an age-old adage that is so very applicable here: “A rising tide raises all ships!” Thus, if we were to raise the minimum wage, we would necessarily raise all wages. The supervisor will nearly always make more than workers; the manager more than the supervisors; the officer more than the managers, the owner more than the officers. It is a law of economics.

There is also the law of cause and effect. Early in my career, a seasoned manager gave me a bit of advice that has controlled many of my decisions since. He said that before I turn any switch, be sure to ascertain all that will be activated. Good advice! Following that line of thought, when the minimum wage switch is turned on, the domino effect kicks into gear. Wage increases across the board will necessarily cause the cost of goods and services to increase proportionally. Finally, when all the dominos have fallen, the day’s wage of the poor will buy no more than it did before their minimum wage was magically increased. Their station in life will still be on the bottom rung of the ladder.

So what purpose will it serve? All that is achieved in the process is considerable inflation. To prove that statement, let’s take a look at history. In 1978 the minimum wage was raised 15.2%, followed in 1979 by 11.2% inflation; in 1979 the minimum wage was raised 9.4% followed in 1980 by a whopping 13.58% inflation; In 1980 the minimum wage was raised 6.9%, followed in 1981 by 10.35% inflation. Through those periods, the purchasing power of a dollar was radically decreased. During high inflation, many suffer; but the real losers are the retired workers, living on fixed income, who are being proportionally added to the ranks of the impoverished. .

In case you’re wondering, the Bible has some sobering words about the poor in both Matthew 26 and John 12. Right before His crucifixion, Jesus was in Bethany in the home of His dear friends: Mary, Martha and Lazarus. While He was reclining at the table, Mary came to him with the rarest treasure in their home; an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head and feet and wiped them with her hair. The sweet aroma filled the room. When one of the disciples, Judas Iscariot, saw this, he was indignant. “Why this waste?” he asked. “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.” Aware of this, Jesus asked him, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me.” Notice that last sentence. Jesus told them, “The poor you will always have with you…” According to that, poverty was, is, and always will be a fact of life. The bottom rung of the economic ladder will always be fully occupied. The war on poverty is a war that cannot be won.

So if we cannot win that war—if we cannot stamp out poverty, how are we, as Christians, to react to the poor? Do we simply accept the fact of their poverty and go on our merry way? Should we ignore them, turning their plight over to the government? According to the Scriptures, neither option is acceptable in God’s sight. We should actually think of them as our own personal opportunities. They allow us to be both a blessing to them and in return receive a blessing. Let me show you a few really interesting Scriptures on the subject. “He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and He will reward him for what he has done (Proverbs 19:17).” “If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered (Proverbs 21:13 NIV).” “A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor (Proverbs 22:9 NIV).” And this is merely a sampling of the numerous Scriptures regarding our attitude toward the poor. To fail in our generosity toward them, is to forfeit a wonderful personal blessing available to us from our Almighty God.

Try this!! When the poor little lady in front of you in the grocery line is putting things back because of lack of funds, have the checker simply put them on your tab and put the groceries in her sack. Then check your attitude. The blessing is immediate—both for her and for you! I know! I’ve tried it!

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