Rethinking relationships of economic inequality

Two incidents lately have really challenged my thinking on relationships of economic inequality.

1)  My semi-homeless friend C, has noticed that since we got Nathan our garden is not as well kept as it used to be.  Jo loves her garden and usually loves to work in it and keep it looking beautiful.  As a result C. has insisted that he comes and cleans up our garden.  Not for money but simply because he wants to help us and serve us. 

His offer is a response to our attempts to befriend, help and serve him.  We have tried to treat him with dignity and as a human being and now when he is insisting on acting like a man with dignity, I feel uncomfortable.  I mean really, isn’t it some sick kind of exploitation to let a man who sleeps in the bush clean your garden for free. 

C often is hungry and without money, surely I should not let him do this.  But to insist on paying him will cheapen his act, will demean his gift and will dehumanize a man desperately trying to be human.  He has seen us trying to be Christ to him, and he is trying to respond in the best way he knows how.  As someone who is desperately trying to follow Christ in his poverty, how can I not allow him to serve and love his brother? 

2) We recently has the joy of visiting Mandela Park Community Church in the township of Khayelitsha recently.   I preached on Mark 2 – very similar ideas to this post.  We had a great time of fellowship and encouragement from the community there.

But afterwards while I was enjoying talking to people, I had an envelope put into my hands.  I knew it contained money and so I flat out refused to take it.  But if you have ever tried to refuse the hospitality or gift of an African man – you know it was insisted upon that I take it.  When I got home and opened it up I was amazed to discover that the amount was in fact a very generous gift (more than I have received when preaching at some wealthier white churches I should mention).

As we were actually short of money to make it to the end of the month – it was a great blessing!

But it made me realise that if we are to be a church together we have to learn to give and receive both ways.  Not only the wealthy to the poor, the white to the black, the employed to the unemployed….

In South Africa, today we have to allow each other to serve and bless each other.  Particularly at this time when so many black evangelicals feel sidelined in the church.  And are not convinced that their contribution is equally valid.  When many feel like they are welcome on “our” terms only and feel as though they are not free to contribute.  We must allow ourselves to be served by all our brothers and sisters, no matter what their economic or educational situation is.  Anyone can have community with those who are like them (Matt 5:43-48). 

Giving, service and sacrifice that only flows one way is patronizing, paternalistic and at worst racist (“the poor black people need our help”).

The gospel has broken down barriers and as a result we receive from others out of their poverty (Mark 12:44), not only out of our wealth… that is what it means to be brothers, family, one new humanity, giving and serving, loving and sacrificing to and for one another.

“And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints.’ 2 Corinthians 8:1-4

Here are a couple of pics from our time at MPCC:

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Jo, Nathan and pastor Phumezo Masango

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Kevin, Katleho, me and another brother

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I love the pics of Adam and Eve, David and other Bible characters

As a side note, this was the most interesting compliment I have ever had on my preaching, from one of our students:

“Way 2 go man, word around has it tht u killed it yesterday at MPC- Khayelitsa. Good hustlin’ homez, real talk… It means tht da Holy spirit has manifest in u aint it?!”

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~ by John on October 23, 2009.

One Response to “Rethinking relationships of economic inequality”

  1. […] Cape Town.  But while that idea has remained a theory in my head I was over-joyed to hear how Phumezo is busy working it out in Khayalitsha, with seeming great success.  One of their gospel communities have even begun frequenting the […]

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