By Upper Room Mission Chaplain, Dave Bootsma
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” – Jesus
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (James 1:27)
Two times Jesus was asked the question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?
Once He responds by telling the story of the Good Samaritan, and concludes by saying to the man that asked the question: “Go and do likewise”; that is, be a good neighbour to those in need.
To the other, who happens to be a very wealthy man, he responds by saying, “sell everything you have and give it to the poor and come and follow me, and you will have eternal life.”
In the parable of the Sheep and the Goats, people are judged according to how they treat the poor.
“It appears that Jesus sees care for the poor as part of the essence of being a Christian,” writes theologian Tim Keller.
We can be in church every Sunday, pray and sing like angels, know our doctrine inside and out, and be decent people, but if we fail to meet the needs of the poor we reveal that we don’t really know or love God at all.
Who are the poor? They are the needy. They have little or nothing of what the world values and as a result the world discards them. They are the powerless. They are stuck in a cycle, neighbourhood, job or situation that they cannot get themselves out of. They are the oppressed and exploited; used and abused by those in power.
What does it mean to care for them?
It means to share what you have with them and to serve them; to not only pity them but to value them as people on equal footing; worthy of our time, attention and friendship.
It means to defend them. When you see them being manipulated, put down, discarded, mistreated, exploited or oppressed, you stand with and for them.
And yes, it includes those who are “unworthy.” Some of us have reached out to or shared with the poor only to find that they were rude and ungrateful, or they took advantage of us, or used what we gave for a different purpose than what we intended.
“I want to serve truly poor people. The problem is they are hard to find,” writes Robert Lupton, in his book, Theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.
“Someone … reminded me that maybe to be truly poor means to be prideless, impatient, manipulative, desperate, grasping at every
straw, and clutching the immediate with little energy for future plans. But truly worthy? Are any of us truly worthy?”
Where are we going to get a heart for the poor? Not until we see that WE are the poor.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,” says Jesus, “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Jesus describes humanity as needy, impoverished and powerless, spiritually speaking. We have nothing to offer to God to get him to accept us. Our so-called “good deeds” are described by God as “filthy rags”.
Those who are “blessed” – favoured and accepted by God — are the ones who recognize this. Why? Because only they will look to and put their hope in God’s heaven-sent rescuer, Jesus Christ.
He is the rich King who became poor in order to save us.
He hung on a cross naked, discarded, thrown away, bearing our sin and judgment so that we might stand spiritually rich, accepted and righteous before God.
If this offends us, we are “middle class in spirit” and, according to Jesus, we are outside of his kingdom.
Moreover, we will continue to look down on or ignore the poor. However, believing in and embracing this will free us from our obsession with our reputation and our comfort, and make us humble and grateful; people who love and serve the poor just as Jesus loved and served us.