We can no longer look at people and communities and think that they should simply get an education, work harder, and join our political party of choice. Why? Because according Proverbs 3:27-28, we are not supposed to withold good from someone, as it is their right . If it is in your power to act, act. Thread out your resources because it is their right...
It is their ‘right’? Because we modern Americans are extremely and foolishly individualistic–we believe that who we are is a product of our choices (what we’ve done, where we’ve studied, how hard we’ve worked, etc.)–we don’t understand that the reality is that the vast majority of who Tom Cottar will be is already decided by the environment of my community, my parents, and host of other things. My sons, by virtue of being born to me, statistically have about a 300% greater chance of economic and social ‘success’ than those living 20 miles away in East Austin…much less those halfway around the world in a country with less resources than mine. "Well, they can pull themselves up by their bootstraps…" I didn’t pull myself up by my bootstraps. And probably neither did you. "Yeah, but I’ve worked hard for what I have..", we say. Really? Do you really think so? I think we’ve worked hard with what we’ve been given. That’s all.
If you and I have been given money, power, education, skills…it is simply our duty to shalom to thread it out. To reweave the fabric so that we can all flourish. Don’t you think that a failure to be radically invovled with the poor is not just a lack of compassion…but a lack of justice? Proverbs says it is their right. In fact, perhaps that’s why Proverbs 11:10 says that when the righteous prosper, the city rejoices. According to the book of Proverbs, the ‘righteous’ (Heb., tsaddiq or sadik) are those who put themselves at a disadvantage for the prosperity of the community, while the ‘wicked’ are those who put their own social/economic needs ahead of the community. Wow. Which one are we? Can we be ‘righteous’ and ‘individualistic’? Can the gospel be about me and be ‘righteous’? Be careful…
Don’t be depressed. As I’ve thought about it over the past few weeks, it’s hard to figure out how to do justice in our community and our world without being overwhelmed. What do I do? Do I buy only Fair Trade coffee? Do I give to Operation Christmas Child or organize something of my own? Do I support Dan Haseltine (Jars of Clay) in the Blood: Water Mission project in Africa (it’s only $1)? What about the cutters at To Write Love On Her Arms and the addicted at XXX Church ? Not to mention the countless pregnancy centers, homeless shelters, and at-risk teen programs across the country? What about the single mom across the street who needs her yard mowed? What about the elderly that needs their house cleaned…and just needs a listening ear? Do I visit them?
Do something. What has God given you? What resources do you possess that, if you were to thread them out, would reweave and rebuild your community the way it ought to be. The way it was intended to be. How can you and I create a city-within-a-city in which all people can flourish? Where Genesis 1 and 2, as well as Revelation 21 and 22, are being rebuilt. That, dear friends, is really what Jesus’ miracles were all about—the restoration of shalom and the proclamation of the good news.