Today we were greeted with another round of bad economic news–533,000 jobs lost in November, the largest drop since December 1974. This frightening number does not take into account two important groups: 1) The so-called “discouraged workers” (what a wretched euphemism) who have lost hope and are no longer searching for work–637,000 added in November and 2) Those who could only find part time work–621,ooo in November. That’s nearly 1.8 million people in November alone who are now in the ranks of those who do not have a reliable/sufficient source of income.
An important recent report correlates unemployment rates to poverty. While unemployment does not necessarily lead one into poverty, the two are closely related. If employment peaks next December at 9%, as is predicted, we can explect 10 million more people to fall below the poverty line. If this projection is correct, in December of 2009, nearly 50 million people in the US will be living below the poverty line.
The government will do what it can, but it is clear that government intervention will not be enough. For example, the number of food stamps distributed is far below the number of people living below the poverty line (see page 9, Figure 3 of the report noted above). As the people of God, how will we respond to this need? At a time when we are dealing with our own sense of insecurity, will we find the courage to take risks for the most vulnerable people in our communities? In the coming years we will have the opportunity to live out Matthew 25, will we answer the call?