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By Simon Khayala, BD student St. Paul’s University, Kenya and youth pastor in the African Church of the Holy Spirit

Introduction

I would not have written about this topic, if I did not believe that the Bible has important things to tell us, not only about spiritual matters but also about material concerns. Anyone who begins to study those parts of the Bible which deal with poverty and riches will come up against what at the first sight seems to be a confusing amount of contradictory material. At first riches are a blessing, but latter they become a curse; at times poverty seems to be praised, but elsewhere it is regarded as a disgrace.

Remember some of these examples from the Bible: “Blessed are you poor” (Luke 6:20); “In the world you have tribulation, but be of good cheer” (John 16:33); “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world?” (Mark 8:36);  while other text put all emphasis on poverty as a spiritual problem.

Poverty and riches are not independent phenomena. One person is poor because another is rich. Poverty is not a state of deprivation which has come about by chance; it is determined by the structures of society. In trying to understand these issues of poverty and richness we need to understand the social developments of the poor and rich in the Bible.

Vocabulary for poor and rich in the Bible

The Bible has a large vocabulary for describing the poor man and his situation. In the Old Testament, the commonest word for the poor is ani: It is used 77 times, above all in the Psalms (29 times). Literally, ani is used to denote a person who is bowed down, and who occupies a lowly position. The ani has to look up to others who are higher than he. He is humiliated; he can not stand up right because of economic and social pressure. The ani however is not contrasted with the rich, but with the man of violence, the oppressor, who put the ani in his lowly position and keeps him there.

The word anaw is very closely associated with ani. Although the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, anaw tend to be less materialistic. The anaw is someone who is aware of being of little account before God; the anaw is humble and/or gentle. Here the emphasis can be more on poverty as a spiritual attitude.

The word dal is used above all for physical weakness and material poverty with no other connotations.

For the prophet Amos (2:6ff), being poor is comparable with being righteous (tsaddiq).

The New Testament also has different words for describing the poor man and his condition. Prochos is the commonest of them. The prochos is someone who has to try to live completely without means and is dependent on the help of others.

The Old Testament has a variety of expression about riches; riches influences power, possessions, abundance, nobility among other. The same is true of the New Testament. To be rich is to have an existence of good thing, where there are no shortages. In biblical thought riches are initially success guaranteed by God to those who observes the laws of the covenant. Abraham is the living example of this un-problematic view of riches. His possessions are sheer blessing. These kind of blessings and possessions are however not a privilege obtained at the expense of others. If one man is rich, all members of the tribe are rich. The words used to describe the poor in nomadic times seem to be of non Israelite origin.

Poor and rich: Social developments in the Bible

There came an end to this nomadic life and Israelite became farmers and began to settle. But before settlement in Canaan there seem to have been no clear distinctions between the poor and the rich. At this time there were no extreme social problems, economic conflicts and social class, the family was a financial unit (Leviticus 27). When the tribes of Israel settled in the land of Canaan around 1200 BC, they turned from being semi-nomads to small independent farmers; this made them to become rivals.

Anyone who was given an unfertile piece of land soon become poor and was compelled to sell himself and his family to slavery. The system of values changed even more quickly through intermarriage with Canaanite families which were more skilled at agriculture. The possession of property became the centre of interest. People began to increase their possessions and become rich.

At the time a distinction arose between the poor and those who owned land. The development of an economy involving dealing in trade and land disrupted equality of the families. Some families became rich and others slowly became poor.

Conclusion

We can conclude that, even in the bible poverty is directly connected with the structures within which people live. Poverty does not develop of its own accord; people do not become poor because they are idol – they become idol because they are poor. This means that solving the problem is never a matter of the poor – it’s the task of the rich. The rich is reminded into his responsibility and to an increasing degree of his guilt. He must transform his social success into a blessing for his fellow country men; he must be the one to encourage opposition to the widening gap between the rich and the poor. However, he fails to do this.

In reality, for all the public criticism made by the prophets and in spite of legislation, the social development continued and the gulf widened further. This is similar to our present world: the rich continue to become richer at the expense of the poor. In most parts of the world a few rich individuals continue to accumulate more wealth at the expense of many poor people.

Recommended reading with helpful ideas for the discussion: Conrad Boerma, “The rich man, poor man and the bible”  (1976).

by Onleilove Alston

This Bible Study Resource is one part of a series of Bible Studies that examine The Last Week of Christ Life and The Last Year of Rev. King’s Life, created by The Poverty Initiative, an organization “dedicated to Building a Movement to End Poverty Led by the Poor”. This is an interactive, multimedia Bible Study that can be used in various settings. We offer a variety of resource choices so that you can tailor the study to the needs of your group.  This type of Bible Study was created by The Poverty Initiative by working with grassroots community groups and is called textual reflection, where we engage the Biblical text with contemporary writings. In no way is this Bible Study comparing the life of Dr. King to the life of Christ but by looking at the life of our fellow man we can see that it is possible to live out the teachings of Jesus in the public square to the end of social change.

 

Mary of Bethany Contributing to the Movement....

Mary of Bethany Contributing to the Movement....

This Bible Study examines the role women played in the ministry of Jesus and in Dr. King’s Poor People’s Campaign, showing that the leadership of women is needed in ministry and  social movements; Christ set this example.

For the entire Bible Study (including resources and links) visit:

The Last Week of Jesus and the Last Year of Martin Luther King: Women in the Movement

By Simon Khayala, BD student St. Paul’s University, Kenya and a youth pastor in the African Church of the Holy Spirit

Despite the Beijing Declaration that “Women empowerment and their full participation on the basis of equality in all spheres of society including participation in the decision making process and access to power are fundamental for achievement of equality development and peace”, women still feel discriminated. Based on a one-sided interpretation of culture and scripture, discrimination of women is often reinforced by the churches. 

Traditionally the story of the fall of man in Genesis 3 was used to blame women. Eve, the first women, seduced Adam into eating the fruit from the forbitten tree. Hence all women today have inherited that blame. Women were seen as inferior, weak, disobedience and easily tempted. But if we read through Genesis 3 carefully, we will realize many positive things about Eve. Aspects, which the churches neglected far too long. 

Genesis 2:18 (RSV), says “…it’s not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him”. The Hebrew word azer (helper) does not mean any form of subordination as it was always preached. In fact, azer has divine attributes (Heb 13:6, Psalms 10:14). The Bible discribes God as a helper to us. In John 15:26, Jesus tells his disciples he will send them a helper, the Holy Spirit. This implies that Eve was in the correct image and likeness of God.

In Genesis 3:6 we see Eve as a rational being. She is able to reason out to see that the tree was good for food and to be desired to make one wise. The Hebrew word raah (to see), also means “understanding or awareness”.

Jan Gossaert, gen. Mabuse, Adam and Eve (1520)

Jan Gossaert, gen. Mabuse, Adam and Eve (1520)

Who does not want to be wise? All of us desire wisdom. To me the mother of all human wisdom is Eve, because it was until she ate the fruit that we acquired a higher status to become like God (Genesis 3:22). 

Eve was also the provider. Where was Adam when Eve was looking for food? In fact, Adam is portrayed as irrational being, because he never questions where Eve had found the fruit, but just ate it. This may imply that it was a tendency of Eve to provide food for Adam. Being the provider Eve again is in the image and likeness of God, because our God is also the provider (Psalm111:5).

 

Therefore our perceptions towards women on the basis of the story of the fall of man should change. Women may indeed have a unique gift which men don’t have.

In the US, slavery was officially abolished 140 years ago. “In reality, modern day slavery is not only alive and well, but growing in unprecedented dimensions”, Sheila Novak SDS says. in Human Trafficing: Modern Day Slavery, a resource packet for congregations, she informs that app. 27,000,000 men and women, girls and boys are enslaved in today’s world. Human Trafficing was created by the Sisters of the Divine Savior, in order to raise awareness and to equipp congregations to act against this modern scandal.

Grounded in the Christian faith, Human Trafficing includes practical background information, gives suggestions for bible readings, prayers, and sermons, helps with event planning from letterwriting campagns to FairTrade, and shows how a congregation can reach out to different age groups.

Download your own copy of Human Trafficing: Modern Day Slavery.

by Rev. Kathleen Stone

H.E. Miguel d’Escoto, the United Nations General Assembly President, recently said,  “The World cannot be much worse than it is right now”.   And of the economic meltdown:   “It is a political and moral failure”.

Is this expression merely an enunciation into the world of our failure, meant to make us feel guilt?  Or is the truth hidden in those words – a truth that will set us free into a renewed sense of hope?   It is my theoretical and theological understanding that until we speak the truth, no matter how hard that truth might be, we will not and cannot be fully free. 

It is a midwife truth. 

Unless a midwife acknowledges the reality of the pain of what is going on in the body, unless she understands that pain and from what process it emits, unless she allows the body to face that pain and go through it, the birth genuinely could be a disaster.   Can you imagine?    But, aware of the process of birth, though painful, there is an ushering forth of one of the most joyous and hopeful moments we ever will experience.

Over and over and over we are reminded of this powerful process.   The seed must be  broken open to grow,   the rainstorm must let loose before the rainbow,  the muscle must be stretched painfully to grow stronger,  the heart must burst open before it will find its compassion, the tears must flow before one will move towards a new life. 

I don’t understand it and don’t really like it but I know it’s the truth.  Wooed by the possibility of easily gained triumphs and a world that seems to capitalize on that possibility, I often fail to discipline myself to the long haul, through the grief and pain, to the experience of the real and substantive birth that will really be the joy I seek.  I’d rather deny, substitute, be wooed, or escape such pain. 

Having just arrived back from a powerful immersion journey into the most violent city in El Salvador, I don’t like the grief I feel upon reentry to the U.S.   I don’t like the fact that everywhere and anywhere there are places where I grieve – from international, national, community policy to the way I personally live my life and relationships.  Theoretically and theologically I know that that grief is the beginning of change, the beginning of revelation, the beginning of learning to Love more profoundly, the beginning of learning to manifest that Love through actions which insist that international, national and community policy is fair.  . . . . Theoretically and theologically I know that grief, resistance and determination accompany seeds and hearts cracking open.    I don’t understand it.   But I know it’s the truth.  It’s a midwife truth.

by Kathleen Stone, CCUN Chaplain

Morning worship is extremely important for the Ecumenical Women delegation. Being able to effectively ground the day in a firm Biblical faith along side a commitment to address injustices facing women around the world is an incredibly important skill. Both practically and theologically, claiming biblical stories together every morning is powerfully energizing, and has become a focusing tool for those who then spend the day at the United Nations. Doing so every morning during the Commission ushers amazing power to change the ideologies that limit women’s choices and power.

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This year, Ecumenical Women’s Opening Worship at their orientation told the story of Ruth and Naomi. Through dancing, singing, original music, drumming and storytelling, the original, creative telling powerfully moved those gathered. Ruth, as Naomi’s caregiver in a world made for and by men in ancient Israel, was revealed as a powerful, fierce caretaker of Naomi in an unjust world. The storytelling emphasized the fact that Ruth and Naomi’s ONLY chance at survival was for a young, beautiful, loving, fierce, generous woman to sexually and illicitly sleep with a man who was old enough to have been her father. This year, the worship space displays an original participatory artwork commissioned by Ecumenical Women. The artist, Ms. Mary Button (www.marybutton.com) chose to imagine the moment when Ruth clung to Naomi, thereby saving her life. Ecumenical Women place extraordinary import on the representational nature of those who are delegates so each morning prayers for women around the world from the delegates are written on strips of paper which are made into beads and are then sewn onto Ruth’s dress. Because the situation facing Ruth and Naomi is still prevalent in our world and because women’s overwhelming burden of caregiving is so often overlooked in social, economic and political policy making, this story was extraordinarily relevant to the theme of the Commission.

Many thanks to the performing artists who contributed to the service: Dajhia Ingram, dancer; Cassondra Kellum, voice; DeWanda Wise,  actress; and Grace Pugh Hubbard, keyboard.

Knotted GunEcumenical Women began early this morning another year of historic advocacy at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.  The morning began with a rousing Opening Worship. 

Women from all over the world listened, watched, and responded to an artistic retelling of the story of Ruth and Naomi.  We performed together a ritual of rememberance, saying together:

God of our ancestors, God of us all
This morning, and throughout this week,
We remember women.
We remember those who have woven
and now weave the threads of history
We remember those who gave and give to the world.

We remember…
Those who make music,
who do labor, who mother children, who struggle, who laugh, who have wisdom, who make art, who have visions

We remember…
Those who have survived horrors, who told the stories, who made a way out of no way, who fought for freedom, who knew the truth and lived it, who died because they dared.

We remember…
Those who bear the cup of life;
Who pour it out to heal the ground on which we stand
Those who bake the bread of life
Who bid that we taste and see who good it is.

Remember with Ecumenical Women today, the next two weeks, and for ever the women who struggle for the hope of a better world.

In preparation for the March meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW-53) at the United Nations, Ecumenical Women has launched an advocacy guide: Faith at the UN, Gender in the Church: Ecumenical Women’s Guide to Advocacy.

The resource prepares delegates from faith-based non-governmental organizations for effective action at the annual United Nations meeting.

Including a brief history of advocacy by women of faith at the United Nations, the guide provides an overview on how to advocate for women’s rights at the UN, gender-equality action strategies for congregations, and theological reflections on gender equality written by women and men from around the world.

DOWNLOAD Faith at the UN, Gender in the Church: Ecumenical Women’s Guide to Advocacy
DOWNLOAD Ecumenical Women’s Addendum, CSW-53
DOWNLOAD Press Release

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Today I’m blogging live from the Transformative Lutheran Theologies conference in Chicago.   We’ve got 156 women and men thinking deep thoughts and asking tough questions, both about church structure and society, as well as identity, love and suffering.

This morning Caryn Riswold, a professor from Illinois College and future Ecumenical Women delegate (we’re excited!) talked about her life as a religious academic who is trying to bridge the gap with feminists.  Third wave feminism recognizes that women have an intersection of identities simultaneously at work: race, class, gender and nationality.  She has found that for the most part, third wave feminists have glossed over religion, finding it irrelevant or just another impediment.  So Riswold is carving out a space where they connect, and asking: what do Christians want to do with feminists?  And– what do feminists want to do with Christians?

Quoting sociologists, Riswold argues that as society we create products and ideas, which then take on a life of their own.   This means that we are producers of our reality, and that God too is a cultural product.  Therefore to assume the image of god is fixed is to miss an opportunity– because really, our image of a patriarchal God has not kept pace with the times. From Luther she takes the understanding of a God that humbles, and the belief that human enterprise must be humbled.  After all we humans are failures, we can’t even create a peaceful world.  She argues that we must reset the balance: where there is privilege, sew humility and where there is poverty, sew empowerment.   After all, she says, the God of creation is a redeeming God, and he trusts our power as creators.

“Prayer” by Julia Esquivel

You illuminate our darkness
And fill our sadness
With hope.

Because you are stronger than I,
I have let myself be a captive,
And your love burns in my heart.

The thirst for your truth
Has made me a pilgrim
From city to city
Until the day your Word
Is fulfilled,
And we are reborn
In your image and likeness

Captivate me, Lord
Till the last of my days,
Wring out my heart
With your hands,
Of a wise old Indian,
So that I will not forget
Your Justice
Nor cease proclaiming
The urgent need
For humankind
To live in harmony.

Read more of our Ecumenical Women Worship resources.

by Sarah Strickland

As a first-time delegate to the CSW annual meetings, I can only describe my experience as “jumping into the deep-end of the pool.” I was blessed to be asked to be a delegate for the Women’s Intercultural Network by Jean Shinoda Bolen and Marilyn Fowler and I thank divine guidance for my leap of faith to say “yes!” My trade is strategic planning and co-creating “road-maps” that help people in organizations “see” where they want to go. I often find myself in a “midwife” role by helping bring an emerging idea or strategy into being. Recently, I have found myself drawing what I am seeing, hearing and understanding to be present about conversations I am in. The images flow through me and simply show up. It is my way of synthesizing and connecting many different elements into a picture-story. I was asked to share this with others. Please feel free to use it however you wish.

This picture emerged in the chapel at the Church building after I attended two days of meetings. Read the rest of this entry »

“Theology must have an expression of desire, attraction, eros.  This dimension will be combined with poetry and contemplation and also be prophetic and sapiental–a theology of play and free creation, capable of evoking God’s mystery and human justice.”

Maria Theresa Porcile

Ecumenical Women, offering delegates a space for reflection and theological dialogue on the topics gender equality and justice for women, organized three “Red Tents” throughout this year’s CSW.   EW women applied energy to Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza‘s “In Memory of Her,” spoke about the theological ramifications of women’s art from the global South, and practiced yoga that was centered around women’s prayers.


Jocelyn Tengatenga

Photograph by Kimberly Llerena.

by Jocelyn Tengatenga

The imperative to act on gender equality and development is an integral part of the mission of God. God’s mission and vision for humanity is one of peace, prosperity and justice. We believe that because women and men are made equally in the image of God they are equal players and equal beneficiaries in God’s bounty. This is the new life as God intended it to be, a life of equality which is spelt out in Galatians 3:28, “in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female for all are one in Christ Jesus”. It is therefore a calling on each one of us as women to be involved in the fight for liberation from all forms of oppression and marginalization. We can only do that if we are united and collectively speak out. As women of faith we have been silent for a long time and now is the time to raise our voices together and join hands in working towards a better tomorrow. As Mercy Amba Oduyoye said, 

“As a woman who feels the weight of sexism I cannot go again and again to the stories of the exodus, exile and to other biblical motifs in which the “least” are recognized and affirmed, are saved or held up as beloved by God or at least are empowered to gnaw at the fundaments of the structures of injustice until these fundaments cave in on themselves.”

Read the rest of Josie’s speech here.

A Study of The Kingdom of God within the “Monterrey Consensus” framework
….for the sake of all persons male, female, black, white, young, old, rich, poor,

There is a heart within those of us who yet believe in the coming of the Kingdom of God which will not rest. ”

(adapted from Augustine, 300 AD)

This study is born from that unrest. It analyzes the six themes of the Monterrey consensus. It can be used as a discussion guide for groups to analyze the concept of the Kingdom of God or the Monterrey consensus.

An excerpt:
One look at the world as we see it today with its vast inequities of privilege, power, ease of life, and economics, and we know something is vastly wrong. When we understand that women bear the disproportional burden of our erroring ways, the problem is thicker. And when we realize that women of color and indigenous women are excessively loaded with troubling powerful inequity, we must cry out. “This is just wrong.”

As the bearers of children, women have always needed the protection of community. Except for perhaps small pockets of the world, we can not escape this fact. And yet, more and more, around the world, with the direction our economy is taking us, women’s only hope of survival is to be used as a cog in a “liberalized, non-regulated economy”. And the problem? The value system of that economy has little consideration for the unique needs and the multiple responsibilities placed upon women. To see so many suffering at such extraordinary levels is unacceptable in God’s Kingdom and should be unacceptable in any ethical system of governance.

Download to read more….
A Study of The Kingdom of God within the “Monterrey Consensus” framework

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