“My dear brothers and sisters, listen! Hasn’t God chosen those who are poor by worldly standards to be rich in terms of faith? Hasn’t God chosen the poor as heirs of the kingdom he has promised to those who love him.” (James 2:5 CEB)
Hasn’t God …
- selected with wisdom those he will have as his heirs?
- extended to the poor the most precious of his promises?
- demonstrated just how much he detests discrimination?
- vaulted over this world’s sense of values and established his own?
- carved out a place in his kingdom for those who have no place in this world?
- inserted hope beyond imagination into the hearts of the hopeless?
- forged a magnificent future for all who are full of faith?
- leaned down and shouted in our ear, “Listen up?”
- been a keeper of his word?
“Listen up, brothers and sisters! Hasn’t God determined to give the riches of faith to those who are poor by the world’s way of measure? Hasn’t God promised to make the poor who love him heirs of his kingdom?” (James 2:5 DSV)
Heavenly Father, in the name of the Lord Jesus, may I never cease to marvel at the way you turn this world upside down. Amen.
“Brothers and sisters who are poor should find satisfaction in their high status.” (James 1:9 CEB)
Wondering if what’s in the pantry will last your family the rest of the month because that’s all you’ve got. Standing in line to receive a handout of food from strangers. Wide awake with your head in your hands at 2:00 a.m. because you’re so hungry you can’t sleep. Hearing your mate’s stomach growl and knowing there’s nothing you can do about it.
Considering how rich you would be if you could choose clothes based on their color, fashion, or the seas. Calling up churches and charities to ask if they have a coat drive this year. Brought to tears over the way you see people look at how your children are dressed and you’re working two and a half jobs. Watching how people won’t sit by you because of the way you look, the way you smell, or both.
Hoping with all of your heart that this landlord is really understanding and lenient. Dodging the phone because you know who is calling and why. Choosing which bills to pay and which not to pay so you can pay the rent and not be on the street this month. Feeling the tension in the air at the other end of the line as you ask another relative for a little help.
None of that; no more. One day; some day. By his power; in his presence.
“Let all the brothers and sisters who find themselves brought low in the here and now, both economically and socially, have complete confidence they will be lifted up in the then and there.” (James 1:9 DSV)
Father God in heaven, I praise you for the genuine, living hope you hold out to us all. Especially I thank you for giving care to those for whom life seems to have passed them by. That their state will not continue forever expresses your great mercy and love. Use me in your work of reversing the fortunes of the unfortunate. Open my eyes to the possibilities of my part in this purpose of yours. For I pray in the name of him through whom you work all good change, Christ Jesus the Lord. Amen.
“Those who exploit the powerless anger their maker, while those who are kind to the poor honor God.” (Proverbs 14.31 CEB)
(Reflecting on John 12:1-8 and Philippians 3:4b-14)
… we cannot help but think, thief though he was, Judas was right – the costly perfume should have been sold and the money given to the poor. If we are honest we cannot resist the conclusion: Judas is appealing. …
This means we are profoundly troubled if not offended by Jesus’s response to Judas: “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me.” We wish Jesus had not said that. …
Yet note: the one who said “You always have the poor with you” was poor himself. That Mary saw fit to bestow a lavish gift on a poor person, a poor person who was soon to die, is sure to be celebrated – particularly by the poor. One of their own receives a lavish gift. One of their own is celebrated. So, if you are poor, what Mary does is good.
It is of course true that Christians have used this text to teach the poor to accept their status by suggesting if they do so they will ultimately receive a greater reward than those well off. The church has also glossed over Jesus’s response to Judas by not asking, “What if we did more than care for the poor?” or, “What if we celebrated the poor?”
That such questions are not asked reflects a church that has forgotten that Christianity is determinatively the faith of the poor. That is why we, the moderately well off, are puzzled by the undeniable reality that the church across time and space has been constituted by the poor. We, the moderately well off, are tempted to think, in response to Mary’s gift, “What a waste.” Surely a more utilitarian gift would have been more appropriate. But the poor know this is Jesus, the one who shares their lot, so what could be more appropriate than this lavish gift, bestowed on this man to prepare his body for death? (Stanley Hauerwas, A Cross-Shattered Church: Reclaiming the Theological Heart of Preaching, p.95)