“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink,* or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” -Matthew 6:25
Last night, at our fabulous cocktail party to raise support for Wingspan (thanks Jefferson and Richard!), we were talking with several different people about our vision for a pay-what-you-can cafe in Tucson. Lately, I have had a deep sense of how needed something like a pay-what-you-can cafe is in this time of unemployment and underemployment. Without the community food bank, friends sharing from their gardens, and some very generous contributions last month we would not have eaten as well. The money we had collectively as a community for food last month was about $500, for seven people and guests. It wasn’t easy. But we got creative and monitored the budget. More and more, I run across people who say the same.
Many members of our community have made a decision to live with less, so that we can devote more time to our individual and collective ministries. But a decision like that is easier said than done. This morning, when we read the scripture from Matthew about the lilies of the field, I had a mixed reaction. I always feel like this scripture is speaking right to me, and frankly it comes up quite a lot. On the one hand, I know the truth of it. I know that God has always provided for us, and that our lives are about so much more than the money we make. But is it truly a blessing to live off $40 a week? I know that is so much more than many people in many countries have. I know that it should be more than enough. I know that there is spiritual learning in never having enough money to get a haircut or new clothes.
But I don’t think poverty is okay. For me or for anyone. I know that “poverty is okay” is not the point of Jesus’ teaching, but something bad happens when we glorify poverty as a great spiritual practice. That’s fine if people choose it as a spiritual practice, but most people living in the world in poverty did not choose that way of life. And frankly (sorry Jesus), there are animals and plants that are better cared for than many of the impoverished of our globe.
And I’m not sure what to do about all that today.