I can’t escape it. Nearly everywhere I look in the scriptures, in tandem with living a life that’s pleasing to God I find this; a heart for the poor. From the Old Testament law, to the prophets both major & minor, through the gospels and the New Testament epistles, I find a consistent and recurring theme; the poor and their plight matter to God. In fact, at the inauguration and outset of Jesus’ earthly ministry, he turns to the scroll of Isaiah and reads:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released,
that the blind will see,
that the oppressed will be set free,
and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.”
He goes on to declare in the synagogue: “The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!” Plainly inferred is that as much as anything else the good news of the gospel will be good news for the poor. And if Jesus proclaims that his coming was to be good news for the poor then, surely it will be good news for the poor in our day as his followers engage the world. So, it’s worth saying again, if we’re going to take following Jesus seriously we must also seriously consider our relationship to the poor.
Theologian and modern-day prophet Stephen Colbert – insert sarcasm here – rightly points out (referring to the United States, but applicable to most western countries): “If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn’t help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we’ve got to acknowledge that He commands us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don’t want to do it.”
The takeaway in all of this being, if I am going to follow Jesus, his teachings and example, and do so with any level of sincerity, then I must be bothered with the poor and the needy. Perhaps you’re feeling that but are still struggling with practical ways to get started. Here are some avenues that I have found helpful in engaging those in need:
- Get involved with and/or donate to your local food bank/soup kitchen
- Loan money to developing world entrepreneurs through micro-finance initiatives. (http://kiva.org is an excellent one)
- Sponsor a child who is in need (there are many high-quality, high-integrity organizations who facilitate these types of sponsorships).
- Share. Give away good stuff you don’t need (food, clothing, furniture, whatever!)
- Be mindful of needs that present themselves right around you in your church, province, community, even right on your street. These come in all shapes and sizes. Holidays are a time when many of these needs become even more apparent. Social media can help facilitate this in your local area.
- Understand the implications of our consumerism upon the poor. As such, look to purchase fairly traded goods. Purchase used goods from retailers that in turn help the poor.