Christians who feel overwhelmed by the scope of global poverty sometimes seek consolation in Jesus’ words in Matthew 26:11, “The poor you will always have with you,” while neglecting a commandment that goes hand-in-hand.
“The poor will never cease out of the land,” God says in Deuteronomy 15:11. “Therefore I command you: You shall open your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor in the land.”
Those two verses frame the title for “Always … Therefore: The Church’s Challenge of Global Poverty,” a DVD and online study guide from the Baptist Center for Ethics designed to educate and empower Baptists to respond to global poverty.
“We Christians too often read the Bible selectively about the poor, about the hungry,” Robert Parham, executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics, says in the DVD. “That’s bad news for the least of those among us.”
Alistair Brown, general director of Baptist Missionary Society World Mission in Oxfordshire, United Kingdom, said about half of the people in the world go to bed hungry at night, and about a fifth are so hungry they are dying from it.
“I think statistics will show there are about 2 billion people around the world that are hungry today,” said Paul Montcute, director of Baptist World Aid. “But what does a billion mean to people? What does it mean to me?”
Joe Haag of the Baptist General Convention of Texas Christian Life Commission said the main cause of hunger today is poverty. “Today’s global economy is not such that most of the people in the world can earn enough or have enough to provide for themselves,” he said.
Brown decried poverty as “a stench in the nostrils of God,” particularly when could be avoided.
“That little children die every three seconds–for reasons that we could stop–that is, I want to say, sin by omission,” Brown said. “Actually I think it is much worse than that. This is sin by commission–unacceptable selfishness, as if we in the West are God’s favorites and the rest have at best a second-class carriage to travel in.”
“There is no basis for that in the Bible,” Brown said. “We are not God’s favorites over the rest of the world. God is impartial, the Bible teaches. All people are equal in love by God. But we hold on to the world’s wealth and just accept the rest of the world has to get by some way, somehow. I know there will always be poor in the world, but that does not legitimize a choice that we can have luxurious and affluent lifestyles and let them suffer.”
“Always … Therefore: The Church’s Challenge of Global Poverty” is directed and produced by Cliff Vaughn, culture editor for EthicsDaily.com and a documentary filmmaker.
The 28-minute film includes footage and photographs of hunger relief and development efforts, as well as interviews with Baptists addressing global poverty.
Accompanying the DVD is an online, four-session Bible study with separate student’s and leader’s guides. The DVD can be viewed independently or in tandem with the Bible study sessions.
The DVD and online study guide were underwritten in part by Baptist General Association of Virginia; Baptist General Convention of Missouri; Baptist General Convention of Texas; Baptist World Aid; Cooperative Baptist Fellowship; Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Arkansas; Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Georgia; Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Oklahoma; First Baptist Church Endowment Fund, Richmond, Va.; Faith Baptist Church, Georgetown, Ky.; First Baptist Church, Griffin, Ga.; First Baptist Church, San Angelo, Texas.; First Baptist Church, Wilmington, N.C.; and St. Matthews Baptist Church, Louisville, Ky.
“There is enough food in the world for all people,” Brown said. “And if we will not be selfish, and if we will work on policies and try to urge governments and large corporations to new ways of working, then everyone in this world can have what they need to have.”
“We should feed the hungry because it’s part of loving people,” he continued. “The loving-your-neighbor principle–if Jesus loved the poor, suffering, hungry and oppressed people of his day and age, and still does–then surely anyone with the spirit of Jesus in them would.”
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.