Sermon Illustrations

WORLD VS. U.S. POVERTY

A few centuries ago, four-fifths of the French spent 90 percent of their income for food. With only what you and I consider a marginal tip to a waitress, they had to provide for all of their other needs. Europe had been in that condition for thousands of years. Until recent times, Europe was little different from modern Africa with the vast majority of people living on subsistence wages, eking out an existence from hand to mouth. Even as recently as 1780 in Germany, fewer than 1,000 people earned $1,000 a year or more." (D. James Kennedy, What If Jesus Had Never Been Born, Nashville, Thomas Nelson, 1994, p. 117)

Today, according to the 2000 census, 46 percent of all poor households in our country own their own homes. 76 percent of poor households have air conditioning, while 30 years ago, only 36 percent of the entire U.S. population enjoyed air conditioning.

In 1973, the average new house had 1660 square feet. Today the average new home being built is 2,434 square feet. The average poor American has more living space than the average individual living in Paris, London, Vienna, Athens and other cities throughout Europe. (Note: These comparisons are to the average citizens in foreign countries, not to those classified as poor.) I remember hearing at the Jerusalem Model at the Holy Land that in Israel’s early days, the average home in Jerusalem had only 300-600 square feet.

Nearly three-quarters of poor households own a car; 30 percent own two or more cars. Ninety-seven percent of poor households have a color television. Over half own two or more color televisions. Seventy-eight percent have a VCR or DVD player. Sixty-two percent have cable or satellite TV reception. Seventy-three percent own microwave ovens; more than half have a stereo, and a third have an automatic dishwasher.

As a group the poor are far from being chronically undernourished. Most poor children today are in fact super-nourished, on average growing up to be one inch taller and ten pounds heavier than the GIs who stormed the beaches of Normandy in World War II.

(Source: Poverty, American Style, by FairOpinion, Oct. 13, 2003. From a sermon by Gene Gregory, "God’s View of Economics" 2/26/2009)

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