As I’ve been doing research on the Middle Tennessee Initiative, I’ve come across an interesting definition of poverty.
“Poverty is the absence of choice.” I know—there’s more to poverty than this. I understand the issue of poverty is a very complicated one that has frustrated our world’s greatest minds for generations.
But this definition works for me for this reason. The experience of poverty is summed up in one simple sentence: the poor don’t have much choice.
A person of means can choose what college to attend. The poor can’t. If you have money, you can choose your doctor. The poor can’t. The poor can’t choose where they live, or what they wear, or what they drive—not like a wealthy person can.
Poverty is the absence of choice.
As a pastor, I find this definition helpful in other ways as well. A lot of us deal with addictions. We may have different drugs of choice—alcohol, sex, prescription meds, work—but they’re all abused to hide some hole in our lives. We deal with it the best way we know how, and most of the time, we deal with it badly.
Jesus came to give us a choice—an opportunity for a better way. We don’t have to respond out of anger or self-preservation. We don’t have to be driven by our greed or ambition or our need to be loved. Jesus gives us a better way.
Paul uses the image of the “old man of the flesh” and the “new man in Christ.” As Christ-followers, we’re encouraged to put off the old man of our natural desires and be transformed by putting on the person of Christ.
What happens then if there’s no desire to put on the new person of Christ? Too many of us know this answer too well. We become trapped in the needy reactions of our natural selves.
But the gospel says we don’t have to live that way. Jesus gives us a choice. Grace does indeed make us rich.
We can choose a better way.