Jesus had a heart for the poor. The crowds that came to hear him were predominantly poor and, in many cases, destitute. There really was no middle class in Jesus’ time, not in the sense we think of it today. There was a small group of landowners and a wealthy, aristocratic class. The vast majority were peasants, scraping together a living off of the land. As is true today, those who have little are usually treated as outsiders. When Jesus preached in the beatitudes, “Blessed are the poor” it was a shock, both in the sense that it’s hard to find a blessing in poverty and it was a rare moment for the poor to have anyone bless them. Yet Jesus spoke openly of God’s love for those who have the least and our responsibility towards them.
The Bible consistently lifts up those who struggle economically. Numerous laws in the Hebrew Bible talk of caring for the poor. A consistent message across the prophets in the Old Testament is compassion for the material needs of the poor. In Proverbs we read, “He who oppresses the poor taunts his Maker, But he who is gracious to the needy honors Him” (14:31). Someone once commented that the material needs of my neighbor are actually my spiritual needs, which underscores our relationship to one another. How we help each other is a reflection and vital component of our spiritual life.
Jesus teaches how the poor are loved by God and never forgotten. We reach out in many ways here at PVUMC to help those who struggle. Our relationship with agencies like UMOM, the Wesley and Justa Centers provide opportunities for us to live out these biblical commands. Our Open Table ministry has a unique way of working with those in poverty by building relationships. In fact, one of the best ways to turn an outsider into an insider is through relationship. Sunday we worship God who welcomes all into the Kingdom, where we are loved and learn to care for God’s children in ways that reflect compassion and faith.