My second introductory thought centers on the words of Jesus: “The poor you will always have with you…” (Matthew 26:11).
Reciting this verse is becoming a common response when people learn that I’m interested in working for a better world. Even some of my friends dismiss the idea of this blog because these problems will never be entirely solved until Jesus returns. When a pastor friend heard I was applying to work at a Christian NGO, he asked why I would want to spend my life fighting poverty and injustice since I would never be successful. Predictably, he then shared the verse above.
Where else do we use that kind of logic?
- Why become a doctor? People will still get sick, and you won’t be able to cure every disease in the world.
- Why become a teacher? Not everyone will get an A in your classes, and you’ll never end illiteracy.
- Why become a pastor? Millions of people will never believe in Jesus, and some will even lose their faith.
Rather than following this logic, let us recommit to following the example of Jesus and tend to people’s needs while sharing with them eternal truths of the kingdom.
Maybe before reading one more book on eschatology or theoretical theology, we read one of these:
- Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, 5th Ed. (Sider, 2005)
- Faith Works (Wallis, 2005)
- Churches That Make a Difference (Sider, Olson & Unruh, 2002)
- The Externally Focused Church (Rusaw & Swanson, 2004)
- The Good News about Injustice (Haugen, 1999)
Also, meditating on these would be good for each one of us:
- “He defended the cause of the poor and needy…. Is that not what it means to know me?” declares the LORD. (Jer. 22:16)
- “I hate… your religious feasts [and] assemblies…. But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” (Amos 5:21-24)
- And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)
- Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. (Prov. 31:8)
- “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'” (Matt 25:40)
- Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Gal. 6:2)
- 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)
- If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. (1 John 3: 17-18)
- Psalm 72 & Isaiah 58
Let us be clear, Jesus’ point in Matthew was that we would always have the opportunity to help those in greater financial need. And here he references Deuteronomy 15:11 , “There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward… the poor and needy in your land.”
Rather than excusing us from helping people in need, Jesus’ words compel us to engage those at the margins. May we be faithful.