For Honest Poverty

(14-19 September 1993) after Robert Burns

Being poor doesn’t make a person noble or sacred. You can see that these days on any city street. They’re just as greedy, with more reason to steal. Jesus said it’s as easy for a rich man to go to heaven as for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, and no religion condemns anyone for being poor, so the evil of poverty must be a secular phenomenon. The devil must hold an office in the government, where he decides the rich can have tax breaks and we can’t help victims of crime and labor unless they can pass under the eye of a bureaucrat. This is the devil’s way of hating human beings. He started the war against welfare families. He claims that relieving human suffering would provide a disincentive to honest labor, as though poverty were a form of dishonesty. I’d rather be rich than poor, but wouldn’t I feel guilty? Somewhere inside, we’re all brothers and sisters. Being poor is its own punishment, but being rich— we’ll have to think of more creative torments.