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Thanksgiving for many has sadly degenerated into an orgy of eating, drinking, entertainment and frivolity. Often there is little reference to being thankful for anything. Even the poor in our community are treated to Thanksgiving baskets with turkeys, and makings for a feast, instead of essentials for daily nourishment which many need more than the feast makings.
Thanksgiving is now followed by Black Friday, and Cyber-Monday which promote orgies of unchecked buying and consumption. In fact, for weeks now we've been deluged with radio, print, TV, and internet campaigns to BUY, BUY, BUY. This is the time of year people go deeply into debt to sustain these orgies of buying in our conspicuous consumption society.
Yesterday, in a Christian Post article entitled New Poverty Figures Raise Questions on Role of Church, Christians, Pastor Phillip Meek of Savannah, TN is cited by article author Paul Stanley as saying the church has failed it's Biblical-injuncted role in caring for widows and the poor.
Meek says the issue of poverty in America is not so much an issue of starvation, but rather a motivation to improve a family's ability to provide for themselves.
The article quotes some interesting statistics.
For example, nearly two-thirds of "poor" households have cable or satellite TV and at least one DVD player. More than half of poor families with children have a video game system, and over one-third have a wide-screen plasma or LCD TV.
More interesting is that 96 percent of poor parents stated that their children were never hungry at any time during the year and 83 percent of those poor families had enough to eat during the year. Others are asking if what the government is doing in terms of entitlement programs is in reality giving people little to no motivation to improve their lifestyle.
"The mindset of a poor person today is different than it was a few decades ago. Some people are not motivated to improve their situation and are only looking for a handout. Many are trying to find a job but struggle in an area like ours that has little to no new employment opportunities. Still the church and those who subscribe to Jesus Christ are tasked with the responsibility to help others." Meek says.
He also sees "giving" as a major problem within the church.
"If Christians gave anywhere close to the 10 percent asked of them by God, not only would the church have ample resources, but in my opinion we would have enough to go around to help those who are really needy."
"Because the church has not done what it is supposed to do, the government has taken over and as we all know, government has to have total control of anything they have their hands in," explained Meek. "The government never looks for way to cut back and ask individual to shoulder more of that responsibility.
In addition, Meek says his church is trying to become more of a community-based church and with God's help they will break the status quo.
"We have spent so much time fighting against one another that we have not done all we are asked to do by God to help our fellow man. There has been too much division between churches and that's what we are trying to change in our community," Meeks said.
"I believe in James 1:27 when he tells us 'to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.'"
Churches could do more to fight the materialism that seems to be the sin of the age. The stark reality is that many church members also own the businesses that are promoting such behavior. As we prepare to enter this Advent season, my wish for the Anchorage church community is for it to courageously fight materialism, and help the poor among us to break away from the dependency fostered by government and non-profit programs so rampant today.