Compassion for the poor

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because God has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
God has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

— Luke 4. 18-19

The radical message in scripture is not only that God has an intense care for the poor and powerless, but that the reason for this is that God is among them. God does not use power by domination, coercion and control; God is the quiet power within and beneath that raises up, gives life and resurrects. The God revealed in the crucified and risen Christ is a God who is poor and vulnerable, whose power is the power of no power. God is not Pilate and Herod; God is Christ. God is at the bottom of the heap, not the top. God is among the poor and lonely, the rejected, the powerless.

Our care for the poor does not come from guilt, or a sense of requirement, but mindfulness that God comes to us in poverty. We encounter God by serving and honoring those who are poor, and especially in experiencing our own poverty. “Compassion” literally means to “feel with.” Our care for the poor is not pity for people less fortunate than us, but sharing life with people who are just like us. For we have nothing with which to pay for our lives; we are utterly dependent on God’s grace, not our own abilities; we are captive to our own fears and desires, bound up in oppressive and exploitative social and political systems, and blind to the truth; we lack courage, trust and generosity; we are powerless to control the world. If we imagine ourselves standing in Judgment, we know we are poor. And God is compassionate and merciful, for God is among the poor.

So in our poverty we extend Gods’s compassion for all who suffer. You don’t have to accomplish great things. Just hold the poor in your heart, and act in compassion. Let this question guide you: Is my life good news to the poor? Does my living proclaim freedom to people who are bound up? Do I help people see, do I shed light in someone’s darkness? Do my thoughts and actions honor and serve those who are poor and powerless, abused or exploited, rejected or forgotten? Pray that by God’s grace in you, the way that you think, pray and act may give others hope and freedom.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Copyright © 2010
Steve Garnaas-Holmes

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