Where is God? With the poor.

by Melissa Mead

An honest appraisal of scripture shows without a doubt that God does have a special concern for the poor and that we are called to have the same concern. Does this mean that God disapproves of or dislikes the rich? No. Abraham, Moses, Paul, Zacchaeus, Luke, and Lydia are examples of wealthy, educated people through whom God works. To say God is on the side of the poor does not mean God is biased; nor does it mean material poverty is a biblical ideal. Certainly God does not overlook the sins of the poor because they are poor, but God is not neutral toward the poor either. God is on the side of the poor because throughout biblical history more often than not the poor are neglected or oppressed by the rich. The poor have special vulnerability; hence God is at work casting down the rich and exalting the poor.
Ann Hagmann, Climbing the Sycamore Tree: A Study on Choice and Simplicity

1 John 3:17-18 (NRSV)
How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.

James 2:14-17 (NRSV)
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.

The Good News of the resurrection is not that we shall die and go home with him, but that he is risen and comes home with us, bringing all his hungry, naked, thirsty, sick, prisoner brothers with him.
Clarence Jordan as quoted in Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals

Click here for a powerful lament and reflection by Steve Garnaas Holmes
entitled No Justice

“How do you work with the poor?”
“You don’t. you share your life with the poor.”
It’s as basic as crying together. It is about “casting your lot” before it ever becomes about “changing their lot.” Success and failure, ultimately, have little to do with living the gospel. Jesus just stood with the outcasts until they were welcomed or until he was crucified—whichever came first. – Gregory Boyle, Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion

One great reason why the rich in general have so little sympathy for the poor is because they so seldom visit them. Hence it is that, according to the common observation, one part of the world does not know what the other suffers. Many of them do not know, because they do not care to know: they keep out of the way of knowing it– and then plead their voluntary ignorance as an excuse for their hardness of heart. -John Wesley

Portion of a letter John Wesley wrote to a wealthy woman who was a Methodist Society member: Do not confine your conversation to gentle and elegant people.  I should like this as well as you do.  But I cannot discover a precedent for it in the life of our Lord, or any of his Apostles.  My dear friend, let you and I walk as he walked … I want you to converse more, abundantly more, with the poorest of the people, who, if they have not taste, have souls, which you may forward on their way to heaven.  And they have (many of them) faith, and the love of God in a larger measure than any persons I know.  Creep in among these, in spire of dirt, and a hundred disgusting circumstances; and thus put off the gentlewoman.

Give me your eyes for just one second
Give me your eyes so I can see
Everything that I keep missing
Give me your love for humanity
Give me your arms for the broken hearted
The ones that are far beyond my reach
Give me you heart for the ones forgotten
Give me your eyes so I can see
– chorus of Give Me Your Eyes by Brandon Heath

Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief.
Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now.
You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.
-The Talmud

Philippians 2:3-4 (NIV)
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Proverbs 22:8-9; 22-23 (NLT)
Those who plant seeds of injustice will harvest disaster, and their reign of terror will end. Blessed are those who are generous, because they feed the poor. … Do not rob the poor because they are poor or exploit the needy in court. For the LORD is their defender. He will injure anyone who injures them.

I say to my non-Christian friends and neighbors, if you want to see the gospel of Christ, the gospel that has energized this church for two thousand years, turn off the television. The grinning cartoon characters who claim to speak for Christ don’t speak for him. Find the followers who do what Jesus did. Find the people who risk their lives to carry a beaten stranger to safety. Find the houses opened to unwed mothers and their babies in crisis. Find the men who are man enough to be a father to troubled children of multiple ethnicity and backgrounds. And find a Sunday School class filled with children with Down Syndrome and cerebral palsy and fetal alcohol syndrome. Find a place where no one considers them “weird” or “defective,” but where they joyfully sing, “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world.” That might not have the polish of television talk-show theme music, but that’s the sound of bloody cross gospel.
– Russell D. Moore, Pat Robertson vs. the Spirit of Adoption

I’m wary of faith outside of actions.
I’m wary of religiosity that ignores the wider world.
– Bono, Rolling Stone Interview (2005)

Look, whatever thoughts you have about God, who He is or if He exists, most will agree that if there is a God, He has a special place for the poor. In fact, the poor are where God lives. Check Judaism. Check Islam. Check pretty much anyone. I mean, God may well be with us in our mansions on the hill… I hope so. He may well be with us as in all manner of controversial stuff… maybe, maybe not… But the one thing we can all agree, all faiths and ideologies, is that God is with the vulnerable and poor. God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house… God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both their lives… God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war… God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives, and God is with us if we are with them.
– Bono, Remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast (2006)

I`ll follow you into the homes that are broken.
Follow you into the world.
Meet the needs for the poor and the needy God.
Follow you into the world.
– chorus from Follow You by Jack and Leeland Mooring
inspired by the preceding words of Bono

You will find more of Melissa Mead’s artwork in connection with short stories posted on Daily Science Fiction. If she has her own website, please let me know so I can post a link to it.

For more information on use of the scripture, art and this post in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

2 thoughts on “Where is God? With the poor.

    • Melissa, it’s a pleasure to feature your piece. It’s delicate yet layered with imagery. I especially like the interaction between the characters and the branches. – Lisa <

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