God of the poor

By URM Chaplain Dave Bootsma

He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honours God. – Proverbs 14:31

A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling – Psalm 68:5

Who is like you, O LORD? You rescue the poor from those too strong for them, the poor and the needy from those who rob them. – Psalm 35:10

What are these Bible verses saying? That God wants to be known for the way he loves the poor.

“God requires us to worship Him as He describes Himself,” writes Amy Sherman, author and 2013 Christianity Today Book Award winner. “We don’t have the right to construct our own picture of Him. We must take him as He is. And He clearly wants us to know that a central, irreducible component of His self-identity is His love for the poor.”

Some of us doubt the very existence or at least the character of God because of the suffering of people. We are astonished that God would allow this to happen. But by what is revealed about God in the Bible verses mentioned above, is that God is the one who is astonished — at us! If God is the defender and provider of the poor, can He then be blamed for the suffering that poverty brings?

Why is God the defender of the widows and the oppressed? Basically, because no one else is! These verses are an indictment against us. It would be one thing if they simply said that God is merciful or takes pity on the poor, but they go further and say He will step up to bat for them. He takes down the number of those who neglect or take advantage of those who are poor or weak or scared or naive.

But does God really mean it, or is he just making wonderful but empty promises in order to get us to obey him? The clearest and most convincing evidence that he is more than just talk is found in the life and mission of Jesus Christ.

Although the eternal Son of God, Jesus literally moved in with the poor. He was born to poor parents. He lived with, ate with, associated with the lowest in society. About himself, he says, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” He was constantly borrowing things: a womb, a manger, a dad, house, donkey, a boat, a room, a tomb.

He died naked; the very little that he had was taken away from him. On the cross, he died as one who was powerless. He was rejected by the world; discarded by God himself.

What was his mission? “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,” he said, “because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.” Jesus didn’t come to merely meet a few physical needs (health, food), but to meet the underlying needs that we all have. He came to deliver us from our spiritual poverty: shame, fear, guilt, loneliness, sadness and emptiness.

The essence of the message of the gospel (ie. good news) is that the Rich King became a poor servant — giving away everything he had (including himself!) — so that you and I could stand “rich” before God: righteous, beautiful, clean, dignified, acceptable children of God.

Is Christianity an oppressive religion? Is the God of the Bible a cruel tyrant?

On the contrary, what other religion describes God in this way? (“Who is like you O LORD?”) This is a God in whom we can hope!

Why? Because He has a soft spot for those who are weak, helpless, powerless; people who know they have nothing to offer.

“Chaplain’s Chat,” with Pastor, Dave Bootsma. Through his blog, Dave will provide his perspective on social issues in our community as well as how his faith guides him through these difficult waters.

Dave Bootsma is the Chaplain at the Upper Room Mission. Dave provides Monday to Friday (11:30 a.m. -12 p.m. Mon, Tue, Thurs, Fri and 10 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. on Wed.)