Poverty is a relative term. Get a mental image of what you think constitutes poverty in America today. Compare it to this.

Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation reports “the average American family ... identified as poor by the Census Bureau, lives in an air conditioned, entirely heated house or apartment ... they have a car or truck (43% of poor families own two or more cars).” The household “has at lease one wide-screen TV connected to cable, satellite, or streaming service, a computer or tablet with internet connection, and a smart phone. Some 82% of poor families have one or more smart phones.”

The international poverty line, currently set at $1.90 a day, is the universal standard for measuring global poverty. This line helps measure the number of people living in extreme poverty and helps compare poverty levels between countries. Three billion people live in real poverty world wide. To walk in their shoes has been described as:

“Poverty is an unmet need and an unfulfilled longing. Poverty is lack of food, shelter, and everything good. Poverty is being sick and unable to see a doctor. Poverty is never having an opportunity to go to school. Poverty means not knowing how to read and write. Poverty is clothes that don't fit. Poverty is standing on the outside looking in. Poverty is dirty water you must drink. Poverty is a man without a job and a family without a home. Poverty is a long walk without shoes. Poverty is illness without treatment. Poverty is pain in the stomach. Poverty is vulnerability to every scheme, lie, and cheat. Poverty is an empty refrigerator. Poverty is no refrigerator, no stove, no electricity. Poverty is one toilet for one hundred neighbors. Poverty is a thief in the night. Poverty is a drunk father. Poverty is a child lost to preventable disease. Poverty is a mother weeping. Poverty is injustice without appeal. Poverty is cruel. Poverty is stress. Poverty is shame. Poverty is famine. Poverty is war. Poverty is pain. Poverty is life without life. Poverty marginalizes, poverty suffocates, and poverty kills.” Now that is poverty.

It is important to acknowledge there are people who would work if they could. These persons in a time of need deserve help. However, much of the physical poverty we have is basically caused by another kind of poverty, spiritual poverty. A biblical work ethic would alleviate much of our poverty. A lot is caused by policies that reward sloth, the absence of basic virtues, and irresponsibilities. A culture that accommodates 70% of black births being out of wedlock is off track. White births out of wedlock total anequally heartbreaking30%. In a more moral and religious era in America, the 1930s, black births out of wedlock were 11% and whites 3%. Can you connect the dots between those statistics and our spiritual poverty.

Many of us still pray and sing, “God bless America.” He has, and for doing so we have deprecated Him in our political, social, educational, and business lives.

The prophet Isaiah defined a culture like ours: “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20)

The key word is “woe,” an expression of grief or indignation. Every individual and organization needs to correctively address those issues. Do and you will be called names. Do and you may help turn the tide.

The Rev. Dr. Nelson L. Price is pastor emeritus of Roswell Street Baptist Church in Marietta.


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