Populie: Poor, Poor People … September 3, 2014

Jonathots Daily Blog

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bread line

The most wealthy woman I have ever known once complained to me that she was having difficulty meeting her needs.

I realized at that point that poverty is not merely a state of finance, but more often than not, a state of mind.

So it is popular to believe that there are poor people.

The populie comes when we say poor, poor people. It stimulates the sensation of pity. Unfortunately, pity is a two-edged sword.

There is pity that manifests itself as, “I feel so sorry for those homeless and impoverished souls.”

And then there is pity that proclaims, “Look at those people. I’m sure glad I’m not like them.”

They share one thing in common: they turn fellow-human beings into victims.

And once we victimize people, it is very easy to marginalize them and make them less important, or even worse, non-human.

Even though we profess to be a socially aware populace, we still subject those who are less fortunate to live in communities where there are more drugs, more liquor stores and no groceries available without paying a high price and selecting unhealthy foods.

Religion loves “poor, poor people” because it gives them a constituency. It grants them a congregation which is so dependent on mercy that they have to come to church, pray and believe in God.

Politics loves the issue because it divides people between believing we can solve the poverty issue and insisting that poverty is caused by laziness. Go to the booth and cast your vote.

Entertainment–well, entertainment loves it any time that it can box people up into categories and postulate on the extremes of the situation, to develop a dramatic or comedic outcome.

“The poor you will have with you always.”

  • Poverty is not going away.
  • We’re not going to wipe it out in our lifetime.
  • There’s no vaccine against it, nor medication to cure it.

Every chance we get, we should do what we can for others without becoming obsessed with the need. Here’s what is necessary to relieve yourself of the emotional, spiritual, mental and physical presence of poverty:

1. Change your location.

If you were a farmer planting seed in a field that bore no crops, you would certainly hunt out new ground. I have seen people improve their prosperity simply by moving. We have a tendency to surround ourselves with people in a similar plight to our own. This breeds a lack of motivation. Make a new plan, Stan, and hit the road, Jack.

2. Refuse pity.

Every time someone tries to be kind to me by feeling sorry for me, I reject it. Sometimes they’re offended, but usually they are so relieved that they don’t have to continue to be my support system that we actually become better friends.

Pity is offering to put you into a cave. Refuse it. Have an idea. And keep your faith.

3. Work your best.

Don’t wait for someone to give you something to do. You will always end up with what they don’t want to do.

Find out what you’re good at and start doing it–even if it’s in a small way–so people can find you, encourage you and use you to perform the duty for them.

Stop experimenting on things you hope for and start perfecting what you know.

“Poor, poor people” is the populie. It’s a formula for keeping people poor.

The only truly spiritual way to treat poverty is to do what you can for folks while you encourage them to go out and do what they can for themselves.

 

 

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Texas Two-Step… September 28, 2012

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Everybody in America is religious.

If you don’t understand this, you will find yourself looking from the inside out or from the outside in–completely incapable of relating to your brothers and sisters in the red, white and blue. Even those who insist they are atheists or agnostics carry around the specter of religion from their upbringing, still haunting them with memories of ritual and practice.

Yet to gain true spirituality and the realization that you are fathered by God requires that you abandon most of what you revere and cling to what is real and authenticated. That’s not easy–especially when you’ve been raised in the great state of Texas.

I love Texas, but Texas is the biggest mish-mash of faith, fantasy, foolishness and fables that you will ever see compressed into one single land mass. Catholicism, Tex-Mex, Southern gospel, Bible-belt, cowboy, bigotry, enlightenment, culture–and rodeos all collide within the confines of one state, which though quite large, still seems to bulge with an over-activity in contradictions.

So you can imagine–when I arrived in Texas with my simple, little saying, “NoOne is better than anyone else,” the Lone Star folk were ready to debunk my gunk.

Two-Step One: Brother Jonathan, if no one’s better than anyone else, why does the Bible say there are ‘weaker brothers’ amongst us?”

I never quite know why holy words are misquoted, misunderstood and misrepresented, always for the purpose of establishing that one group is better than another. Honestly, the Bible does not consider the word “weaker” to be a negative. We are the ones with the jungle philosophy, insisting that sprouting any kind of lacking is detrimental.

The people of Texas believe that some individuals are unique by ability–just better because they do things better–they think better, they move better, they raise cattle better, they tap oil wells better and they play football better. Everyone else, who can’t do that or who doesn’t participate in those activities is often deemed “weaker.”

But you see, the beauty of true spirituality is that it creates a sensitivity in us towards people who have weaknesses in a particular arena, so that we have sympathy for ourselves when we also demonstrate a shortcoming.

Here’s the truth: we are all weaker brothers. All we have to do to prove that is be put in a vulnerable position, where our deficiency can be aptly demonstrated.

Let me give you an example. When I arrive at a church for a presentation, after all my years of travel and being sixty years of age, I am not able, physically, to carry in all of my equipment and tote my necessary belongings. I require assistance. Fortunately for me, I meet the most divinely inspired human beings walking the face of the earth, and they give this grace to me. I’m not sure–maybe some of them deem me very weak when they first meet me because I am not “muscling” my way into their lives. But later on, when I am able to do the things God has given me to do, demonstrating my abilities, and my strengths come to the forefront, there is a look of comprehension on their faces. They realize that just because I am weak in one area, it doesn’t mean I should be cast aside. And likewise, just because they may be weak where I am strong, I am not their superior.

Each one of us is given a weakness to make sure that we acquire fellowship. Without acknowledging the weakness, we tend to claim self-sufficiency, which obviously becomes destitute in its conclusion.

The reason the Bible tells us that there are “weaker brothers” is that we all take our turn, and if those stronger in that moment do not have an eye on their own rear-view mirrors of inadequacy, they will have a tendency to reject us instead of assist us.

Two-Step Two: “Brother Jonathan, if we don’t place ourselves in a position of ‘better’ by our deeds and excellence, how can we ever help others?”

In other words, “If I had a million dollars, I’d give half of it to the poor.”

Matter of fact, that exact thing happened to me one night after a performance. An extremely excited audience member came to my table and said, “Mr. Cring, if I had a million dollars, I’d give it to you.”

I said, “Well, I wouldn’t know what to do with a million dollars…but do you have twenty?”

He froze. He nervously giggled and walked away–as quickly as possible.

We have a nasty rendition of capitalism in this country, choosing to believe that some people have a unique prosperity. In other words, they were “born to be rich.” They have a knack for being rich–and they take great pride in giving a certain amount of their income to the less fortunate–of their acquaintance. You must understand, the “less fortunate that you know” as a wealthy person may not be less fortunate at all. Your circle of friends may not be the ones God wants you to help.

Jesus refers to the truly needy as “the least of these.” By his description, they are people who are terminally sick, running around naked because they likely are mentally ill, or in prison. It is rather doubtful that the average prosperous individual who gives a carefully selected percentage of his or her income to charity actually encounters this particular segment of society. So it doesn’t do any good to give more money to rich people when they have already decided that their form of donating is adequate to the need. Here’s the truth–any money above what is absolutely required to live and sustain oneself that ends up in the bank is a wasted opportunity to bless those who just might be a dollar short of their miracle.

This was the principle of Andrew Carnegie. He said that any wealthy man who dies with money in the bank is foolish. To have more than you need and tuck it away for a rainy day, when most rainy days are spent inside anyway, is to audaciously lack faith in your own abilities to make more and God’s promise to bless generosity.

There is no such thing as a unique prosperity.

If you have five dollars left at the end of the week and you don’t give something to someone out of your abundance, you would never give even if you had a million dollars. This is why  “NoOne is better than anyone else.” Because each one of us has to deem whatever we have to be our prosperity–and from that sum, joyfully relinquish a gift to the “least of these, my brethren.”

It doesn’t make us better. It puts us in line to be blessed by those who possess a little more than us–right above our financial heads. You see, the “trickle down” theory propagated by political pundits only works when we have accepted the axiom, “NoOne is better than anyone else.” If you believe your prosperity speaks for itself and grants you license for discretionary generosity, then you will certainly end up being tight-fisted and selfish.

So I’m sorry, Texas–we do not possess a unique ability. All of us, at one time or another, are weaker brothers and require strengthening in an hour of shortage.

And we are not unique in our prosperity because we have stumbled on the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Rather, each one of us is required to give of our substance to the least of those around us, to confirm in our own minds that we are part of the human race and also a part of the human need.

I love Texas. But Texas has a tendency to reflect a silly pride that permeates our nation from time to time with a self-righteous cheer over our own excellence.

The purpose of prosperity is to give me a chance to lay up treasure in heaven, while securing for myself enough treasure on earth to keep the wolf from the door.

So I left Texas and headed off to the place of my birth–the state of Ohio. I was very curious how this native-born son would fair with his little motto in the Buckeye State.

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