Thursday, May 30, 2013
A Field for the Poor
Prov. 13:23 The field of the poor may yield much food,
but it is swept away through injustice.
This proverb of Solomon is his observation. The poor may have access to a field that would produce enough for them to survive. But sadly, the injustice of the world creates a situation in which their crops are swept away and the poor do not reap the benefits.
This one little verse caught my attention today as we have been working on a sustainable agriculture project in Kenya. The poor have banded together and bought a piece of land so that they can grow crops to feed the hungry. Currently we hold our breath because either this will work, or the crops will be lost. Why would we lose the crops? Because there are those who would want to sweep into the fields and steal the food for their own personal benefit and gain rather than allow the food to feed the hungry.
Injustice after injustice exists in this world and it's amazing how often it affects the poor who may be working hard to get by. They want to survive. During the early years of the Soviet Union Stalin insisted on the forced collectivization of the farms. No one was allowed to own their farm and be in control of their own animals or crops. Those who had more than one cow were condemned for being "greedy" and "rich." The government came and took all the "excess" but had no plan to care for them. The animals died and the people began to starve. People tried to grow a few crops in small gardens outside their homes. As soon as the food was ready to harvest the government appeared and took their food from them, telling them they had to "share" -- that it was unfair that they had food. Injustice wiped away all that they had.
Interestingly there is another twist on this scripture. The older translation of this brought about the idea that the crops were swept away by lack of judgement. Even John Wesley commented on the scripture in this way. He said that even poor people can grow rich through hard work and diligence and the blessing of God. However, there are those who will be brought to poverty by their lack of discretion. That's another interesting way to look at this, and places the lack of crops on the lack of personal poor choices, rather than something that may be seen as systemic injustice.
As a follower of Jesus Christ maybe we ought to be concerned about both. We can hold on to the first part of that scripture. It is possible for the plight of the poor to be changed. We can plant a field in Africa and it can help to sustain a community. That is the promise of God and we hold onto that truth knowing that with God's help we can make a difference.
At the same time we must be realistic about the pitfalls which exist. As long as we live in this "already, not yet" of the kingdom of God we will experience and taste the kingdom, while knowing that we live on this earth. The crops can be lost to those who will steal. The crops can be lost to those who are greedy and corrupt. The crops can be lost by those who do not care for them. These are all possible consequences. But I don't have to stand by idly and allow the crops to be destroyed if there is something that I can do about it. Jesus stood up for the poor and needy against the injustices of the world. By his action he invites us to take action as citizens of his heavenly kingdom. No, we cannot fix everything, but we can become engaged in the problems which may be staring us in the face. We do not have to sit back idly and allow injustice to win the day and allow the poor to go hungry.
Lord, please help me to see the fields the way you do and engage in the way you would. Amen.