"Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime."
Today again I had this old argument of fishing thrust upon me. It is a good argument as it is a convenient argument for which I could take if I want my conscience to feel better. Honestly on the surface as an adage it makes sense, until you apply it to real life.
What good is it to teach a man to fish if he doesn't have a fishing pole, line, hooks or bait? What good is it to teach a man to fish if the lake is empty? What good is it to teach a man to fish if he has no arms or hands to hold the pole or land the fish?
There are times like now where people want to work, are trained to work, and are willing to work, but for whom there are no jobs or no connections. There are people who are working hard every day but are poor and need help because their jobs don't pay a living wage. And there are legitimately some who simply aren't able to work.
Even Jesus, after an afternoon of teaching parables would "be moved with compassion, for they were hungry" and would sit the crowds down and feed them bread and fish. He would feed them without question just because they were hungry. And then the people would feed each other and there would even be leftovers.
Sometimes a person just needs a fish.
Compassion. God calls us to compassionately give to those who need help. God calls us to help, not judge, nor patronize, nor to take the easy way, condescendingly offer adages. God calls us to act with compassion and mercy.
Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, cut over 400,000 jobs in his tenure. He once said the perfect factory would be built on a barge which he could tow from impoverished community to community, working them to exhaustion, for pennies on the dollar, then weigh anchor and move onto the next.
Given his way he would mine the community, and strip away its human resources, leaving nothing but ruin behind. Strip mining human resources.
Humans aren't resources. They are treasures, to be valued and preserved above all else.
Jack Welch has admitted to what scripture been saying all along. Poverty is a construct of human greed and hoarding. It's not nature. It's not an accident. Poverty is the willful intentional construct of suffering and injury of one people upon another. Poverty is violence and a crime against human rights and the human spirit. Poverty is a transgression committed by one people upon another as it disregards God's call to live God's loving will.
We Christians are called over and over again; through the Prophets, through Jesus Christ and through the history of apostles and holy people everywhere; to care for the poor, the sick and the suffering. This is what we do, and if we're not, then we should wake up and do so. And as the Prophets demanded their royal governments to care for the suffering, and to end the injustice of poverty, we should do likewise.
By denying the suffering of others we may deny the suffering we know in ourselves. Or we can acknowledge our shared sufferings made as a sacramental offering of our lives to each other, as God did through Jesus, through the compassion "which covers all his works".
Through our suffering, transformed by God's love in us into compassion, we can end the suffering and violence of poverty. We can have the courage to treat poverty for what it has always been and always will be, a crime of injustice. God's promise is that we can be healed our helping in the healing of others, as we are healed in Jesus. This is how compassion works.