Watch today’s interview with Dr. JoAnne Lyon and Mark Benjamin as she advises us on the solemn call to the poor and marginalized of society.
Jesus’ teaching was radical enough in his own day, but its edges are likely more obvious today. This is especially true of his teaching on the poor. He was so bold as to claim, in concluding a parable, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40).
This thread of care for the poor and marginalized runs throughout the Bible, and the command for justice is on par with God’s concern for every other act of piety. In Leviticus 23:22 God commands, “‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you. I am the LORD your God.’” Later, in the prophets, part of the charge against God’s people was their opulence and neglect of the poor: “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)
Again, in the New Testament, the Apostles are united on the front in working for justice and mercy. The Apostle James boldly proclaims, “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) And Paul, in describing the gospel ministry that was entrusted to him and confirmed by the other apostles, claims “All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along.” (Galatians 2:10)
For further Scripture regarding the church’s call to the poor, see: Exodus 22:20-24; Psalm 41:1-3; Proverbs 14:31; Proverbs 28:27; Isaiah 1:17; Jeremiah 22:16; Zechariah 7:9-10; Mark 10:21-22; Luke 4:16-19; 11:39-42; 12:16-21; Acts 11:29, 30; 1 Corinthians 16:1; James 2:15-16; 1 John 3:17.