One doesn’t have to read very far in the gospels to realize that the poor had a special place in the heart of Jesus.
In his very first public sermon, Jesus stated that the poor would be a priority in his ministry: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor” (Luke 4:18). In Luke’s version of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus’ very first words were, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God” (Luke 6:20).
When Jesus’ spiritual mentor, John the Baptist, was thrown in prison and questioned whether Jesus was actually who he said he was, Jesus sent his friends to John with this message, “…the good news is proclaimed to the poor” (Matthew 11:5). Jesus loved the poor because, having been poor himself, he understood their sense of frustration and anxiety as they tried to provide for their daily needs.
My wife and I readily identify with this group because for the first two years of our marriage we were broke. We were both finishing school full-time and the small amount of income I did generate came from building computers during the week and preaching at a small rural church on the weekends.
I’ll never forget the time we went to a neighborhood pizza shop for a special occasion. We were starving and barely had enough money to buy a small pizza and water. Next to us sat a table full of police officers eating a culinary feast—pizza, salads, and dessert. When they got up they left four pieces of a pizza sitting there and I looked at Lisa and said, “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” She answered, “Absolutely not!” To try to soothe her conscience I gave her a passionate speech about wasting God’s resources and how God would actually be happy if we ate that pizza. She didn’t buy it, but I made her my accomplice anyway.
When the coast was clear I gingerly slid the pizza onto our table and we shoved the pieces in our mouths. Seconds later Lisa looked up and yelled, “Sheezz!” I turned around and to my shock two police officers were coming back to the table with a “to go” box in their hands! With an entire piece of pizza in my mouth I stared at her and muffled, “Game faces woman. Hold it together. Breathe. Don’t crack! I’m not going to the big house over this.”
Jesus Cares for the Poor
Have you ever been poor? Are you struggling financially now?
It’s no wonder why Jesus responded the way he did in the eighth chapter of the Book of Mark. Thousands had gathered to listen to Jesus’ teachings and remained there for three days. We can assume that since the story says that the people stayed with Jesus for so long, that most of that group consisted of the poorest of the poor — without jobs, without obligations to tie them down, and without anywhere else to turn for help. As he stared out at this endless sea of brokenness, his lips began to quiver, his jaw began to tighten, his chest became heavy, and his breathing became labored. Then, choking back tears he turned to his closest followers and said:
“I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way…” (vv. 2-3)
Do you want to know what’s interesting?
I’m pretty sure Jesus still feels that way about the poor. His heart still goes out to them, but since he isn’t physically here on earth anymore he must work through us to help them.
Of the early church it was said, “There were no needy persons among them.” (Acts 4:34)
Can that be said about ours?
What would it look like if we cared for one another so “there were no needy persons among them?”
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