The Common Good

Mark 12:38-44: The Value of Chump Change

Date: November 7, 2012

Those of us who cling to our middle-class status are more likely to go to church than are the truly poor, so we allow ourselves to imagine poor people as being somehow different. As a result, we need help recognizing poverty's presence. Congregations might view the new Sojourners documentary called "The Line" that recounts the stories of poor people in our midst. And a brilliant book by Chris Hedges and Joe Sacco introduces us to ordinary people who inhabit the "sacrifice zones" created by our economy.

Here's the deal: Jesus didn't allow his listeners to forget about the poor. At one level, it was impossible to do so. Nearly everyone in the ancient world lived in poverty, often dire poverty. Jesus' world included a very few wildly wealthy people, a few people finding ways to make money and accumulate wealth, lots of people scratching a living off the land, and lots of people living on the margins of the economy. Jesus, the Gospels tell us, moved among the poor. He told stories (we call them parables) about rich landowners and their poor and enslaved laborers. He warned the rich that they faced God's judgment, while he demonstrated compassion by feeding the masses who followed him out into the wilderness.