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  • Tom Hackett

Why Should I Care about the Poor?

We care about the poor because Jesus cares about the poor and because we were commissioned by him to preach, heal and deliver those in distress. When Jesus was anointed at Bethany with "expensive perfume made of pure nard," didn't he chide those concerned about using that money for the poor with the words, "The poor you will always have with you" (Mark 14:7)? Why, then, should we as Christians care about the poor?"

Jesus identified himself most closely with the poor.

Jesus was united with the poor in an extraordinary way. He walked and taught among them as one of them. When he sent his disciples out he stripped them of their material possessions and made them poor (Mark 6:8-13).

Even more disturbing than Jesus' personal association with the social underbelly of Palestine, was his clear statement that our treatment of the poor was identical to our treatment of him. To those who disregard people without enough food, unsafe drinking water, those who don't care for the sick and ignore foreigners (or perhaps any discriminated underclass), those who don't help the poorly clothed, the homeless and criminals serving hard time, he said something quite startling. He said, "whatever you did not do for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did not do for me" (Matthew 25:31-46).

Compassion for the needy is part of Christ's character and therefore a quality of the Church.

While near a town of the Samaritans, a despised ethnic minority group, Jesus looked out upon the crowds with compassion because they suffered two things—harassment and helplessness (Matthew 9:36). These are things the poor throughout the ages have had in abundance.

Another time Jesus was teaching the crowds and had compassion on them because they had not eaten for some days, saying to his disciples, "I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat" (Mark 8:2). Jesus commanded his disciples to give them something to eat.

This wellspring of concern for those in need is like a genetic trait passed down to the followers of Jesus. While the book of James is perhaps the most forthright in expressing the church's need to honor the poor and warn the rich, concern for those in need pervades the New Testament.

The ministry of Christ and his followers is a ministry rescuing people from oppression.

People who are poor, particularly the urban poor, face numerous places of oppression and subsequent need for assistance. Beyond the oppressive nature of drugs, alcohol and prostitution, the urban poor often face systemic oppression and are often both victims and victimizers of all kinds of crime.

If the church is to follow in her Master's footsteps, she will be given over to the task of seeing Jesus rescue people from oppression, thereby ushering in the "kingdom of heaven" about which they preach.

So why should Christians care about the poor? Because, as Mother Teresa put it, "in the poor, we find Jesus in distressing disguise." We care about the poor because God commands it and has promised judgment for those who disregard the cry of the poor. We care about the poor because Jesus cares about the poor and because we were commissioned by him to preach, heal and deliver those in distress.

Those who would seek to draw near to Christ, will find themselves near to the poor.

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