A New Meditation On Psalm 112 – Part 10
“He has dispersed abroad, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever; his horn will be exalted with honor.” Psalm 112:9
Jesus was particularly compassionate and sensitive to the needs of the poor. In fact, His first calling was to the poor.
“The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor…” Luke 4:18
God particularly installed Jesus in the office of ministry to the poor. He was empowered to teach the good news, to exhort the poor and the weak, to reveal the Father to the world.
The Good News was reconciliation with God. What was lost in Adam was restored in Jesus. The Good News was and is that we don’t have to live in the bondage of sin and death any longer. The Good News was and is that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world and salvation is given freely by faith in the Him alone. The Kingdom of Heaven has come on the earth.
The kingdom of the darkness and of sin has been defeated in the light of the glorious Gospel that shines in the face of Jesus Christ.
“The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.” Isaiah 9:2
Fundamentally speaking, everyone born in this world is “the poor” but Jesus was particularly sent to those whose human circumstances are meager and unprivileged. The poor are contrasted with the rich in that they don’t have the freedom of making many, if any, choices about their life condition. Things the rich take for granted the poor can’t even imagine. To the poor the Gospel is a fountain of life.
Yes, everyone without Jesus is “the poor,” but the destitute of shelter, of clothes, of food and of creative choice are the poor to whom the Gospel is sent first because they are the ones in most desperate physical need. Indeed the Gospel is the message of hope to everyone. But the message of compassion and grace is expressed when we show the Gospel through acts of kindness to the poor in particular.
I’m sure the people begging at the Temple gate or the lame waiting for the moving of the waters at the pool of Bethesda, or the homeless begging on the streets were an inconvenience and something of a nuisance to the rich. Not unlike the people we see everyday holding their signs and waiting for handouts as cars pass by, or those confronting “whosoever will” in parking lots and on street corners.
They are sometimes rude, sometimes offensive, sometimes under the influence of alcohol or drugs or both. They don’t fit nicely or conveniently into the pristine world of order and beauty we so diligently seek to establish and preserve.
They are poor and needy, how can they? Regardless of what we may think of them God loves them and Jesus wants them to hear the Good News as much as He wants the rich to hear it as well. He wants to give to them. He wants them to be blessed and to know His delivering and provisional grace and power, so much so that they eventually will become those who also bless others.
Just when we think it’s ok to judge the poor, the beggars, the destitute and the simple minded, as irresponsible, lazy, drunken, drug addicts, pimps pushers, ne’re-do-wells, who just need to get a job and start taking responsibility for themselves, it’s good to remember that compared to Heaven, God’s home, we are all beggars, destitute and full of sin until we are transformed by faith in Jesus Christ.
Having been forgiven so much and then given so much, ought we not also to forgive and give to those who are just as fallen and failing as we once were? He who is forgiven much loves much.
Moreover, Jesus made it an act of worship to Him when we genuinely from our hearts minister to the poor as though we were indeed ministering to Jesus himself.
“As much as you have done it unto the least of these, you’ve done it unto me.” Matthew 25:40
Whatever we do for the poor pales by comparison to what Jesus did for us redeeming us from the depth of our sin against the Holiness of God.
“Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, “Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.
But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt.
So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.” Matthew 18:23 - 35
As much as the material necessities of life are important to everyone, poor or rich, there is a greater need that Jesus emphasized in all His teaching, life beyond this life.
The primary reason for Jesus coming to live as a man was to die as the Son of God for the sins of the world. He came to die in order that we who were dead in our sins could be reborn to new life in Him. And that life is eternal.
Beyond this life is the life that is perfect and never ending. Everyone who has this hope in Jesus is truly rich indeed. But everyone, regardless of their material wealth, is poor without Jesus.
So Jesus’ admonition to preach the gospel to the poor was as much about poverty of the spirit and soul as it was about poverty of the hand. It is, therefore, as displeasing to God to neglect the poor and deprive them of their physical needs as it is to neglect the rich-poor and deprive them of the gospel because they don’t appear to have any needs.
Everyone needs to hear the Good News and our compassion, as with Jesus’, should be for all who are sick and oppressed of the devil and especially the poor.
The power to accomplish this is directly tied to an attitude of forgiveness and compassion.