Who pays the cost of empowerment?

Published 11:11am Wednesday, April 17, 2013

By Rev. Jonathan Yarboro
Greetings from the corner of Bridge and Bridge! Since I am writing this column on Monday, please allow me to offer blessings for all who experienced less than holy feelings on April 15. Tax deadline day is not exactly a day known for good feelings!
There is an ongoing debate in our country and the world regarding issues of entitlement. There is good reason for these conversations, even in spite of partisan efforts towards agenda promotion.
As a nation, we should always be examining the varying opinions of what citizens are actually entitled to. This is a worthwhile venture.
While those conversations are indeed valid, we would all do well to remember that entitlement and empowerment are not the same thing.
I argue, for instance, that the fundamental purpose of our government and governments of the world is to empower citizens to lead productive lives. Some people agree with me and others do not. My argument is only an opinion.
When it comes to what faith tells us, my argument moves from opinion to truth. The theme of empowerment is common to almost every form of religious expression.
The basic idea is that practicing and believing makes a person better. Every human has the potential to live a better life.
In the Christian world, the distinction is abundantly clear. Followers of Christ are not entitled to anything, individually or collectively. They are corporately empowered to do everything.
The people of God inherit God’s promises, but that inheritance does not entitle anyone to anything.
God bestows gifts in abundance so that there is enough blessing to go around. This reality sets the ultimate example for empowerment as I see it.
Jesus did not give anyone a handout. Jesus empowered everyone he encountered to be the person God made them to be. Christ is our example. We are to do likewise.
How do we do that? I have a couple of suggestions.
There are several empowerment agencies in our area. People that Care, the Elmore County Food Pantry, the Boys and Girls Club and Adullam House come immediately to mind. There are many others.
These agencies seek to empower people to better themselves. They provide assistance, but the goal is not to merely pacify human need. The larger goal is to empower people to overcome the challenges they are facing.
Support the work of one of these agencies. Better yet, find out how your faith community works to empower others. Give of your time and money in support of those efforts.
As our nation and world continues the long-running debate over entitlement programs and the like, I urge us all to participate in the conversation.
I urge us all to consider focusing more resources, individual and collective, in areas that empower people to be the people God made them to be.
We all bear the burden of empowering one another. It is part of the intentional design of the world God created. It surrounds us, yet we often fail to notice it.
We all benefit when we invest in the empowerment of others. If we do it right, we can even claim our contribution on our taxes! Think about it.
The Rev. Jonathan Yarboro is the pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Wetumpka.

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