Politics, Poverty, and Psalm 12

I hate politics. I get so frustrated with everything: the hype, the fundraising, the apparent inefficiencies of the process.  Do you know that in the midst of the economic difficulties that are the talk of the presidential campaign this year, over 300 million dollars have been spent by the candidates?

Ugh. I hate that our system is like that.

I’ve joked, half seriously, that my political stance is socialist libertarian. I want everyone to have all the resources and services they need, but somehow, not have government do it.

I just have so little trust that it will be done well.

I think this frustration began when I spent the summer in Los Angeles, serving the urban poor. We spent several weeks working with the homeless population in Skid Row.

Skid Row is an area of Los Angeles zoned for homeless shelters. If homeless are found in other parts of the city, they are taken to Skid Row. Since politicians want to get re-elected, if they can’t solve the poverty, they can at least make it less visible. The reality of seeing the homeless presses too hard against our comfortable lives.

This area has plenty of homeless shelters and single room occupancy hotels, but no restaurants or shops. There are buildings full of services, but empty of jobs. Skid Row is place where stomachs are fed, but hope is left empty.

It get agitated just thinking about it. I don’t know if it is still this way today, but I know it is the way it was in 1999.

I want to help the poor. I really do. But I wonder how can we trust that politicians will actually help with problems of poverty when they have such a terrible track record? At the same time I wonder what other answer there is? Again, I think, socialist libertarian. I want freedom for the oppressed now and freedom from the potential oppressors of the future.

This is my struggle. And it is not unique to me. Nor is it new.

Throughout history, there have been leaders who have gotten to their positions of power through dishonest means. And once they got to that position, made decisions that hurt people.  

This is what David was concerned about in Psalm 12.

Help, Lord, for no one is faithful anymore; those who are loyal have vanished from the human race.  Everyone lies to their neighbor; they flatter with their lips but harbor deception in their hearts.

May the Lord silence all flattering lips and every boastful tongue— those who say, “By our tongues we will prevail; our own lips will defend us—who is lord over us?” – Psalm 12:1-4 (NIV)

And people say the Bible is out-of-touch with modern times. I think these verses could easily have been written about many leaders in power today. Mouths that speak lies in order to get ahead. Tongues that persuade and prevail over opposition. Spirits filled with pride that question any who would try to tell them what to do.

And then, David goes on to say what God has revealed to him. That the Lord is going to do something about this.

“Because of the violence done to the oppressed, because of the painful cries of the needy, I will spring into action,” says the Lord. “I will provide the safety they so desperately desire.” – Psalm 12:5 (NET)

Oh, this is my heart’s cry: that the Lord would rise up and protect the poor from those who have harmed them.

But God does not always answer this way, does He? Life is not that simple. In this circumstance, He rose up to protect. In others, He does not.

I wish I knew why.

Yet, I still believe God is good. I believe that one day, things will be made right.

And in the meantime? God has called us to be the ones to rise up.

Whatever we believe politically, Jesus says if we believe in Him, we are to help the poor.

It is us who need to spring into action on behalf of the needy. And in that way, through us, this promise of God in Psalm 12:5, can come true more often.

Politicians may lie. But God’s promises are true.

Walk through the Psalms is a series reflecting on the beautiful and timeless poetry found in the middle of the Bible. It is an intentional study of God’s Word, grounded in the belief that God gave us the Bible so we could read it and think about it, even when that is difficult.