Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 56; 149, Joel 3:9-17, James 2:1-13, Luke 16:10-17 (18)
I don’t believe in charity. I believe in solidarity. Charity is so vertical. It goes from the top to the bottom. Solidarity is horizontal. It respects the other person. I have a lot to learn from other people.
The author of James would probably have appreciated these words from Uruguayan author Eduardo Galeano. James was very aware that people struggle to see everyone as equal without regard to social and economic status. He wrote:
For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Have a seat here, please,” while to the one who is poor you say, “Stand there,” or, “Sit at my feet,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?
Maybe we don’t make such distinctions on Sunday mornings, but the ever-present barriers between classes is very real. One common way to handle poverty is to push it out of sight. Many a generous soul who volunteers at a food bank or homeless center would not be keen to find one on their own block. We all like to hear a struggling neighborhood has been improved, but do we ask whether the improvements are positively impacting the people most in need, or are just forcing them away to create a new playground for the more affluent? In many ways, we are tolerant rather than inclusive. Tolerance starts from an assumption that we own social (and sometimes physical) space and have the authority to grant others permission to enter it; inclusivity assumes we all have equal right to that space and requires mutual respect and actual relationship to thrive.
Our faith communities should be places where we remove barriers and distinctions. By choosing solidarity and inclusivity over charity and tolerance, we remake part of the world in the image of the Kingdom. Whether our personal poverty is one of pocket, spirit, or status … we have a lot to learn from other people.
Comfort: All members of the Body of Christ are equal.
Challenge: Spend time with people who are different from you.
Prayer: Lord of Creation, may my heart be open to all. Amen.
Discussion: Are there any ways you are tolerant where you could become inclusive?
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