our world we have a complicated relationship marginalized folk. This is nothing
new as we can see from today’s reading from the fourth gospel. Jesus and his
disciples encountered a man who had been blind from birth. The disciples ask
what seems to be a very bizarre question. They ask, “Rabbi, who sinned, this
man or his parents that he was born blind?” They were blaming his disability on
some form of personal sin; either his own sin or his parent’s sin.
of the Jewish people at this time held that people with disabilities were
afflicted because of someone’s personal sin. They blamed the disability on the
person or their parents. This is unconscionable. At least today we don’t do
that. We don’t blame people with disabilities.
Except we kind
of do. We don’t actually blame people for their disability but people with
disabilities have 37% higher poverty rate than the average population. So while
we are not actually blaming people for their disability they still bear the
brunt of the disability themselves. If ones disability means that one will
inevitably live in poverty it doesn’t really matter whether we say that their
disability is not their fault. The effect is the same. They are still often
poor. Living with disabilities leads to poverty and I think there is a problem
Part of the
problem is that we have lost the sense of responsibility for our neighbour. Our
society is organised around the individual and possibly their family. We say
things like, “God helps those who help themselves”, which is not biblical but
is in fact a saying from that champion of the individual Ben Franklin. We have
distanced ourselves from the call we heard from the Hebrew Bible “to not be
hard-hearted or tight-fisted towards your needy neighbour. We should rather
open our hand, willingly lending enough to meet the need, whatever it may be.” We
have lost the idea that poverty is everybody’s responsibility.
And poverty causes so much harm in the world. Poverty is hard on your health. Poor people have higher rates of diabetes, heart disease and lung diseases. Living in substandard households that have mold leads to a much higher incidence of asthma and bronchitis. Poverty leads to higher suicide rates.
Part of that comes from the social isolation
associated with poverty. Living in poorer neighbourhoods with higher crime
rates leads folks to remain in their homes and avoid socializing. Also, many activities
cost money leading to further social isolation. Being poor is really hard.
But it is not
just poor people. Not only is poverty is extremely hard on the poor but it
actually harms everybody. It even damages our economy. The people at Poverty
Costs Saskatchewan say that the cost of poverty to the people of Saskatchewan is
as much as 3.8 Billion dollars a year. They didn’t just pull this number out of
the air. There is a lot of research supporting this. There are three areas that
directly cost the province. They are social assistance, health and crime.
A single person
on social assistance receives in Regina receives 455 dollars per month while a
single person with one or two children would receive 865 dollars per month.
While this can take off some of the hard edges of poverty it is not enough to
help people extricate themselves from the cycle of poverty. In 2010, the
Saskatchewan government spent 720 million dollars on Social Assistance. If we
were able to lift people out of poverty we could save that money.
leads to increased health costs. Each year, Saskatchewan spends 6.25 billion
dollars on healthcare. However, the poorest 20% of the population accounts for
30% of the healthcare costs. The increased use of healthcare services by poor
folk means that we spend an extra $420 million on health care. Similar calculations
are used to estimate that poverty adds 50 to 120 million a year to our criminal
All this adds
up to 1.3 billion dollars of direct costs. The other costs are called
opportunity costs. If people were not living in poverty it is only common sense
that they would spend more money. This means that they would pay more taxes
like GST and PST. Also they would simply buy more stuff, spending more at local
business. The folks at Poverty Costs say that these opportunity costs come to
2.5 billion dollars. Adding the direct costs with the opportunity costs takes
us to the 3.8 billion dollars. I don’t want to bore you with numbers but I
wanted to tell you that there is actual research out there showing how damaging
poverty is to our economy.
My point is
that poverty costs everybody. There are economic costs to poverty that affects
everybody in the province. But we can do something about it. Of course the
solutions are complicated, but by taking action we can help our economy. It
is not as simple as increasing social assistance rates although that is part of
the solution. I know it’s complicated, but it can be done. Poverty Costs and
Poverty Free Saskatchewan have information on detailed strategies to eliminate
poverty, so that we can end the drain on our economy. We have
economic reasons to take action to reduce poverty. Ending poverty will help the
But that’s not the best reason for
eliminating poverty. The best reason is love. The best reason to eliminate
poverty is that we are called to love. We are called to love God, with all our
hearts, all our mind, all our body, all our souls and to love our neighbour as
ourselves. And if we do that we will not be far from the kin-dom God. We need
to eliminate poverty because it is the loving thing to do. We need to respond
What I’m advocating is an economy of love.
That each and every decision made is based in love. That every time we make a
decision we try to make the most loving decision. And again, I know it is not
that simple. Sometimes we will try to make the most loving decision and we will
make a mistake. Other times we will discern the most loving decision and it
will be out of our reach and we will have to compromise. We still live in an
imperfect world. But if we respond in each and every moment to the loving way
possible we can eliminate poverty, we can create a better world. That’s what
Jesus was talking about when he proclaimed the kin-dom of God. He was speaking
of a different way of organizing our world, a different kind of economy, an
economy of love.
And should we really be surprised that
responding with love in each and every moment leads to our corporate well-being?
Should we be surprised that if we always love our neighbour and always act on
that love that we can eliminate poverty? It may sound like I am speaking of a
kind of prosperity gospel where if we act lovingly then God will reward us with
prosperity. But that’s not what I’m saying. I’m not saying that God will
intervene if we are obedient. I am saying that if we respond to God’s lure to
love in each and every moment then we can create a better world. I’m saying
that if love is at the centre of all our decisions then we can help create a
poverty free Saskatchewan. I am saying that if love is our compass we can be
co-creators of the kind-dom of God. I’m saying that if we respond in love it
will take us into places where we’ve never been before and opens doors to
worlds outside the lines. That if we love openly, love recklessly, love extravagantly
then our love will colour outside the lines. That our love can lead to
exploring paths few could ever find. Paths lead to an economy of love. Paths
that lead to a poverty free Saskatchewan. And that’s good news. Amen.
Charles Plante, https://www.dropbox.com/sh/zrfqysga1ynrks4/Z-vP6bQBT4/Poverty%20Costs%20Methodology.pdf