As Christians look ahead to Easter, and the celebration of Jesus' resurrection, theologian Ron Sider asks some pointed questions: "What will Christians do in this time of swelling affluence and persistent poverty? Will we dare to remember that the God we worship tells us that 'whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD' (Prov. 19:17 NRSV)? Will Christians have the courage to seek justice for the poor, even if that means disapproval by affluent neighbors? Where will you and I stand?"
Sider is the author of "Rich Christians In An Age of Hunger: Moving From Affluence to Generosity" ($15.99 in paperback from Thomas Nelson Publishers; Amazon Kindle e-book $6.94; Barnes & Noble Nook e-book $9.99), now in its 5th edition (2005). First published in the late 1970s, the new edition notes that fewer in growing Asian economies are living in poverty. Still, worldwide, "more than a billion desperate neighbors live in wrenching poverty." Sider issues a clarion call for Christians to respond, not only in adopting a simpler lifestyle (and laughing at TV commercials) but in doing something that might change unjust social or political structures that prevent the poor from acquiring property.
Sider will speak at the annual Jesus Center benefit dinner on Friday, April 29, at Chico State University's BMU. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. Tickets (through April 15) are $35; a table for eight is $250. To purchase tickets, call (530) 345-2640 or visit www.jesuscenter.org.
Sider, founder of Evangelicals for Social Action, is Professor of Theology, Holistic Ministry and Public Policy at Palmer Seminary of Eastern University in Pennsylvania. His book is divided into four parts. The first looks at the economic realities of world poverty; the second presents "a Biblical perspective on the poor and possessions"; the third explores poverty's causes; the fourth offers practical advice (from implementing a "graduated tithe" and building Christian community to "correcting weaknesses in market economies" and "reducing unmanageable debt").
By turns controversial and convicting, Sider is optimistic about how God might work through his people today. "In obedience to our Lord, we could empower the poor through small loans, community development, and better societal systems. And in the process, we would learn again His paradoxical truth that true happiness flows from generosity."