Jesus tells us the poor will always be with us. The current idea of eradicating poverty altogether seems futile in light of this statement, especially if we believe Jesus’ words to be true. However, the Bible’s emphasis on believers caring for the poor stands opposed to the notion that poverty cannot be eliminated.
The laws for the Jews in Deuteronomy and Leviticus implore the people to provide for the impoverished, and the prophets rail against those who mistreat the poor. Jesus spent a great deal of time with them, and they occupy a central and often exalted role in his teachings. Why then the apparent discrepancy?
For all of our attempts to create utopia, a world free of pain and suffering and disease and loss and need, we must recognize the futility of such efforts. Bono cannot rid the world of poverty; the U.N. cannot secure world peace; Habitat for Humanity cannot house all the homeless; researchers in universities will never inoculate us against all disease; and death will not stop taking place every day. John Lennon may imagine, and we may improve the lot of some in some ways, but the nature of our reality must be reckoned with: the world is broken and we cannot fix it.
But our hearts can begin to mend. I believe this is one reason the Lord gives the injunction to care, to give, to feed, to clothe, and to visit those on the margins of society. How so? When we visit the imprisoned, or feed the hungry or clothe the naked or give to the poor, the transaction changes us. The givers, against all logic, become the recipients.
This is not cliché. Look the beggars in the eye as you pass them on the street and then look at your heart. Saying, “Get a job, you bum,” becomes a little more complicated. Visiting a prisoner and listening to him as a person and a man affects our outlook. Perhaps he is human, and flesh and blood, and broken. But maybe not as different from me as I like to think. Something happens to us and in us during these personal exchanges. And we, the rich and well-fed and housed and clothed, somehow grow a little richer in a little better way.
God cares deeply for the poor and broken. Shepherds and a teenage girl, social nobodies in Jesus’ day, take center stage in the Christmas story. Such nobodies occupy center stage for the majority of the gospels.
God cares for these people, and wants them cared for by you and me. He also cares for you and me too much to let us remain as we are. Therefore, He says to us, “Go, love this one, and be changed in the process.” For in that life-on-life contact, our hearts grow a little softer, our eyes a little kinder, and our skin a little less thick. He’s caring for all His children.
What opportunities do we have to care for the poor?
How do we view the poor?
How do we view ourselves next to the poor? When we actually meet them?
Ⓒ Revolworks 2019