It has been said that when we keep something we don’t need or use we are stealing it from the poor.
Over the last few months I have found myself faced with the daunting task of sorting through my late husband’s clothes, as well as some of my own. I soon discovered that I had clothes that I hadn’t worn in months, if not years! I tried to make it a priority to concentrate on winter clothes, since even the poor have little use for cotton T-shirts and shorts in December. After going through a few boxes and checking shelves, I found that I probably have almost as many pairs of gloves and knit caps as I did when my kids were little. Admit it, even here in mid-Wisconsin the only extra knit cap one really needs is an orange one, in case you decide to take your dog for a walk during hunting season!
I recall a cartoon in the New York Times a few years ago. A group of street people were huddled together, warming their hands over a small fire in a garbage can. The caption under the cartoon read: “It’s winter — time for the rich ladies to go through their closets and give us their old summer clothes.”
“If a brother or sister has nothing to wear … but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it?”(Jas. 2:15-16) The message is clear. It is one thing to say I have faith but quite another to act on it. Do I believe that Christ is truly present in each and every human being and that each is my brother or my sister? I say I do — but do my works reflect that? Do I believe that I am created in the image of a loving God? I say I do — but do I love unconditionally as God loves? Do I love those people gathered around that small fire in a slum in New York City? Do I love enough to give back to the poor what is properly theirs? What do my works say about my faith?
Van Benthem is a member of the Secular Franciscan Order and a longtime pastoral minister, retreat leader, spiritual director and published writer and poet.