Jesus, Friend of the Poor

I have been thinking a lot about it lately.  Poverty.  I guess it's normal that it's on mind given my present circumstances and environment.  The poor are everywhere.  And I don't mean poor because they can't afford to go on another vacation this year.  I mean poor because they don't know if they will eat today.  Or tomorrow.  Some of my friends here are poor like that. I've realized that "poverty" is something that in the Canadian context you really don't have to think much about.  You can so order your life to never be in its direct line of sight or need to make eye contact.  There, we can even think we're all somewhat poor because we can't do everything our hearts would desire. But not so here. Poor looks different in this place.  Poor has eyes that gaze right back at you and even seem to see right through you, straight to your heart.

God has a lot to say about poverty.  For one thing, it is not a recent phenomenon.  Nor is it one that will soon be completely eradicated. Billions poured into Africa has not effectively alleviated the plight of the poorest of the poor.   Jesus said it would always constitute part of our world situation.  Some days I wonder why.

God demands that we consider what our attitude is toward the poor.   Sure, when we look at them, their poverty describes something about them.  But it also says something about us and forces our own heart to be exposed.  How do I feel about them, about their situation, about mine?  What do I really think when a poor person stands, sits or begs in front of me?

I can tell you that sometimes, it has shown me how very poor my heart is at loving those in need.  How impoverished my compassion.  God has said repeatedly that the widows, the orphans, the poor, the vulnerable are part of our world and as such,  our responsibility.  Conditions were included in God's law to ensure their care and to guard their dignity.  Seeing them, as God does, means not simply addressing them as problem to be resolved or brushed aside, but as opportunity and motivation toward a continuous generosity of spirit.  Giving.  Sharing.  Empowering.  You know, like God expresses toward us all.

Jesus spoke of a poverty that is to characterize all of us who dare to say we follow in His steps.  "Happy you are, blessed by God, when in your poverty (of spirit) you realize your need for him."  (Matt 5:3 my paraphrase).  A person who is poor in this way always recognizes his need of help.  He doesn't need to be reminded of his poverty.  It's an indelible  fact.  Jesus is inviting us into the kind of relationship with Him that always reflects our utter and entire need of Him.  In everything.  Always.  No exceptions.  Just as, often, the poor are dependent on our generosity to make it, so we, poor in spirit, are ever dependent on our benevolent Blesser.  With Him there is never donor fatigue.  He doesn't send us away empty handed, condemned because we expressed our need,  but, each time, gives our empty hearts what it is that we really need.  Jesus, who was rich, became poor for us so that we who are poor, could be made rich in Him.  Surely His incredible example is motviation enough to love, give and share with those who are poor, whether materially or in spirit..


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