BREAD AND THE POOR
The world will never satisfy the poor or end poverty. It is not because there is not enough bread, but because there are people that prefer to burden others. A vagrant came to the door of a widow begging for a meal. She offered to feed him if he would help her saw off a few pieces of wood at the woodpile. He replied, “You will see me see it, but you won’t see me saw it.” Judas the man that sold out his teacher for thirty pieces of silver to feed the poor was told, “The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. Me, however, you will not always have” (Mk. 14:7). My wife and I have gone through a time in our youth when we lived on nothing and survived while people that lost nothing and had everything and did not survive.
The cruel fact of life is that the poor outlast the rich. It is as if they drain them of all that they are and have. This is what did happen in Russia and other parts in the world and is progressing rapidly today in the socialistic oriented parts in the world. The humanitarian attitude toward the poor has overshadowed the very priority to secure the bread that shall be available to feed them and themselves. A people that concentrate too much on the poor will turn their own habitat into rags. There are too many people that do not want to be anything but poor. Poverty itself has different classes or types of people. Many of the homeless street people are examples that have gone from riches to rags. They were put on the streets by the government or the finance industry, or some other unforeseen circumstances. These people are a shame to a nation but not a threat. The threat comes from a new class of people that were created by politicians to secure votes. Actually, there are two groups that are on public support. One group gets paid for doing nothing and the other group gets paid for paying the do-nothing group. These numbers are on the rise and the tax base is declining.
The poor began to rise in power with President Kennedy’s successor. Kennedy himself put the golden rule in these words, “Ask not what your country can do for; ask what you can do for your country.” Johnson decided to feed the people that could do nothing for the country. In came Urban Renewal, Public Housing and adequate income for the poor. The people on public assistance rose in the ranks of government jobs and their salaries began to rise above the private sector. The poor became the power brokers. If you think I am out of order than tell me how you would feel when you attend a meeting on taxes and you are the only property owner. The people you are facing are all on public assistance and they are voting themselves a raise in income by increasing taxes on your property. They did not only ask for more bread but for doctors, dentists, school lunches and a little extra for mamas where papas have gone elsewhere to make babies. Then, these people want you to pay for condoms so their children can learn how to have save sex in school. To add insult to injury, they play on your coerced generosity to be on a committee to implement the program. That happened to me and it was my first taste of godless secular socialism. These so-called poor people on public or government support were better off than those who worked at food and chain stores.
Racism became prominent among the poor. I belonged to a minority in Poland, Russia and Germany. In the USA, I became a majority because of my skin and blamed for what the plantation owners did to the blacks. It so happened that when my wife married me, she had to move and find another job to be with me and the state at first agreed to pay her unemployment and mailed her one check. When they discovered that she was not black, New York State wanted my wife’s money back, but we were in Oklahoma at the time and we refused to return the small check not worth fighting for. They employed a man in Oklahoma to collect and he apparently convinced the New Yorkers that my wife was still unemployed. It is ironic that the oppressed people from the old world that have came to the Americas and made it great are being blamed for what the British aristocrats did to the slaves that were sold by their own Africans for profit. Who would have ever imagined that a poor black slave would run a country into the ground with the promise that he could feed his supporters on the backs of those that can pay taxes. And that is exactly what Obama has promised that the next president must do. The question is, “Will the next president deliver the Obama promise? If he does not run on that same platform, will he be elected? I doubt that there will be any changes in government. The present system is like an avalanche that cannot be reversed and the availability of bread will become an insurmountable problem and it will not matter whether anyone is rich or poor.
The definition as well as the attitude of poverty has changed. The modern poor no longer get their hands dirty nor do they beg. They expect to be served immediately and without thanks. I have taken groceries to people tat were still in their nighties at noon while my wife was already at work for five hours. I myself had to take a break to feed a person and when she opened the door it appeared that I was not the only deliveryman. They would come to my office in church and if I asked a question or I was not giving them what they wanted, they went instantly to the next church and when they ran out of churches, there was always the next town. The stories that some vagrants told appealed to the pocketbooks of the softhearted. Their skill to make one feel guilty was phenomenal. One drifter came into my office with big backpack. I gave him some money to go next door and get some grocery while he could leave is backpack with me. He ran out of the office before I gave him the money and called me a brother that could not be trusted. We allowed a scoundrel stay in our camper and he left us with some telephone charges. He attended church with us and helped in painting our sanctuary. Meanwhile he was plotting how to use me as a reference to cone another minister to loan him ten thousand Dollars. I was privileged to serve the Church in New York City that was built by the eminent Reverend, Dr. Walter Rauschenbusch, author, pastor, teacher, theologian and father of “The Social Gospel.” One day a well dressed man in his late fifties came to my office telling me that he was new to the area, had found suitable accommodation, would attend my church and sing in our choir and was a great informed admirer of Dr. Rauschenbusch. All he needed was some money to get him over the time it would take his bank account to transfer to his new residence. He had prayed over it and he was led to me and we too prayed and his words outdistanced mine by far. Fortunately this pigeon (I) was not carrying a checkbook or several hundred Dollars in my pocket nor did I have access to the Church treasury. I had lunch money and I let him have it and I never saw this man again.
In New York City, our church was located in “Hell’s Kitchen, on 43rd Street near 9thAvenue. Our ladies would put on great meals and homeless street people would come in, not to eat but pick up the twenty-five cents for subway tokens. One of our deacons began to take these vagrants to the subway station and buy tokens and most of them stopped coming for meals. They were interested in liquor and not in bread. Five minutes before I would enter the pulpit, a hungry stranger would show up and make me reach into my pocket and part with a few dollars. I soon learned to carry no money and invited these strangers to stay for service and the deacons would take care of them. Very few stayed and ate with us. We always had some refreshments after church. Some of our members observed some driving away in expensive cars. A dear pastoral friend of ours had a little widow in their church of meager means. She liked this one radio mister’s emphasis on the needy and she supported the minister for years until one day when she decided to take him some of her own baked goodies. It was strenuous to take a bus and walk some distance to the address. To her dismay, it was a mansion with servants that would not let her inside the door. Human greed and dishonesty add to the reasons why we will always have the poor with us. How much money that is publicly donated for the poor really goes to them? It costs government three Dollars to administer one Dollar, uncontrolled agencies cost three Dollars to send two Dollars and the major religious denominations only spent less than seven cents of the Dollar on administration. The reason denominations can be so generous is that their staffs are paid by separate donations. The cost of administering bread at this pace will become prohibitive.
In the final analysis, the availability of bread shall determine the price and the recipients. During World War II, all of us, rich and poor were equalized by bread and dependent on the farmer, if he had any left. I watched Victor Hugo’s “Les Miserables” before but this time to remind myself how bread affected the legal system of France in 1800 A.D. A man stole one loaf of bread to feed his sister’s children and had to spent ten years in the galley and the rest of his life as a criminal, regardless of the good he tried to do. Revelation 6:5-8 predicts a worse time for all rich and poor alike. Even those that shall have the mark of the beast shall long for death because the pangs of hunger shall be unbearable. Mother earth will no longer be the womb that gives life to the seed that can be turned into bread.