When God selected a chosen people, he picked poor slaves in Egypt. When God called the early church, most of the members were poor folk. When God became flesh, he came as a poor Galilean. Are these facts isolated phenomena or part of a significant pattern?The date inscribed inside the front cover of my copy of Ron Sider's classic, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger: A Biblical Study reads "8/9/77" right there beneath my name and hometown at the time I purchased it -- New Orleans, Louisiana.
Thirty-one years ago! Where has the time gone? As I thumbed through my paperback copy of the first edition last week, I came across this passage...
There is a sharp contrast, nonetheless, between God's procedure and ours. When we want to effect change, we almost always contact people with influence, prestige and power. When God wanted to save the world, he selected slaves, prostitutes and sundry other disadvantaged folk...
Again we must oppose the view that God never uses rich, powerful people as his chosen instruments. He has and does. But we always choose such people. God, on the other hand, frequently selects the poor to carry out his most important tasks. He sees potential there that we do not. And when the task is done, the poor and weak are less likely to boast that they deserve the credit. God's selection of the lowly to be his special messengers of salvation to the world is in striking evidence of his special concern for them. (pages 69 - 71)
When I came to Central Dallas Ministries fourteen years ago, I had no idea just how true Sider's insights would turn out to be in our work here in Dallas. Since the moment Josefina Ortiz walked into our world, the poor have found their voice among us all.
What I find strange is how important my new context would be in allowing me to discover, firsthand, the truth of Sider's wisdom. Of course, he drew his insights from the ancient biblical texts.
Somehow though, rich people like me can't see the truth of things without an experience with and among the poor, the true champions and people of God. Praxsis precedes theology.
[In 2005, Sider published a revised version of this book: Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger: Moving from Affluence to Generosity.]