The End of Poverty - Worth Reading
"The poor you always have with you" were the words that Jesus said. His words have subsequently been used to justify everything from economic oppression to benign neglect of our responsibilities to care for the poor. But it is just such misuse of scripture that has often created an unhealthy division between spirit and body, and between poverty of spirit and poverty of pocketbook. "Blessed are the poor in spirit" Jesus said in his sermon from the mountain in Matthew. But in Luke he said, "blessed are the poor." Not surprisingly the default choice for studying the sermon on the mount material is the Matthew passage in west, while in many parts of developing world the focus is on Luke's version.
But when one steps back from particular verses and looks at the themes that run through the Bible, one of clearest themes becomes the calling for people with means to care for the poor and marginalized of the world. This is where we have the opportunity to become co-laborers with people from many faiths, as we work together to serve the common good of humanity. Of course, we do so in Jesus name and carry our own story of faith into every relationship, but equally important as the 'in Jesus name' part of the equation is the 'doing of it'.
Towards that end, I recommend Jeffrey Sacks work on ending poverty in our lifetime. And please don't quote Jesus words about the perpetuity of the poor in order to justify our continuing on the same path. He was simply reminding us to continue worshipping Him, not endorsing neglect of global poverty.