Poverty and the Pope’s Golden Throne: To What “Golden” Ornamentation Do We Cling?
Poverty and Starvation are pervasive problems—just not one’s which many witness themselves in the West. Such troubles become palatable to the westerner when “mission trips” are undertaken and charity displayed. Still, a great distinction exists between knowledge of and charity toward the poor and the sort of compassion and charity which sacrifices comfort and desire for the benefit of others.
America is wealthy. Yet that “wealth” is not felt by many. Indeed, wealth is a relative concept. The wealthy in some regions and countries might be defined as having enough food to eat, a few articles of clothing, a home with a reliable roof, and a battery operated radio. For the middle class suburban American, one might have a nice home, car, access to education, computers, iPhones, and other such fancy devices. Yet by no means would I, as one of the latter, ever normally consider myself wealthy. Wealth, for the normal middle-class American, is the massive home, several expensive cars, designer clothes, and always the best devices and products American consumerism can offer.
Yet, as I type this on my Macbook pro looking while sipping my local Starbucks coffee, a reality check is needed. Indeed, the scruffy middle aged man with the sleeveless Sublime shirt and 49ers hat trying to type on a dilapidated 8 year old PC with electricians tape holding parts together and keys whose buttons now long lost serves as a stark contrast between abundance and lack within this Starbucks.
I am wealthy.
One of my students, while discussing poverty in class recently, mocked the Catholic church for its seeming lack of compassion. He cracked, “I am the pope and need to pray for the poor. Let me lean back in my golden throne.” I could not help but burst into laughter. The image was palatable and laughably ironic. For an organization which has so much wealth, or at least so it would seem by its ornamentation, how could they let any poverty exist among them?
Upon reflection (and while typing on my fancy iPad), it struck me. Why do I think the golden ornamentation is a sign of true wealth and apathy, when I am just as guilty? I, and many others, have wealth all about me which, like golden thrones and crosses, are superfluous in the light of starving children.
In reality, the question should be, do I care about the hurting, starving, and struggling more than my comfort and pleasure? If, in reality, I care more about them, would I not rather exchange my pleasure for their suffering?
A simple question, yet profoundly reveals our hearts—do I care more about my pleasure or another’s suffering? The answer reveals whether selfishness permeates our mind or compassion and love.
May love and compassion grow within us rather than apathy and selfishness.
THEOLOGY21 is a co-op of authors dedicated to renovating theology for a new generation, taking the ancient truths of scripture and theology and speaking to the post-Christian culture of the 21st century. To keep up-to-date on all things THEOLOGY21, Give our Facebook page a “like”, follow our twitter page, add yourself to our email list, or subscribe to our feed!