As Seen on Sunday: The Poor Will Always be with You
We provide a recap of the Sunday sermon to encourage you in the faith each week but it's not the same thing as being here.
If all of life were indeed a play, then impoverished people play the role of the collective conscience. They are the reminder of what we run away from and the embodiment of everything we are most often trying to escape.
If we are honest, the thought of being financially poor disgusts us - especially if it is we that are poor. But the presence of poor people can also serve to boost our ego, because, after all, if they had just made good decisions like we had, then they wouldn’t have ended up in such a position.
As usual, pride deludes our thinking. Wealth is not infinite. There is only so much money available to be distributed to every person. Therefore it is illogical to conclude that if every person made the exact same decisions that everyone would have the exact same amount of wealth. When we think like this we ignore so many socio-economic factors that we should be ashamed of coming anywhere near that conclusion.
Repeated many times in the Scripture is a version of this phrase, “The poor will always be with you.” And we are ok with that - just as long as we are not the ones who are poor.
But being poor, just like being rich, is relative. And we often confuse the feeling of a financial pinch with poverty. There are times when we have less money in our accounts - but we are still far from being poor. At least being financially poor.
As hard as we try to look away
As hard as we try to solve the problems of poverty
We fight a losing battle. But that doesn’t mean we don’t fight.
In the Old Testament, when the nation of Israel was being established, one of the first governmental controls that God set up was a systematic redistribution of wealth and debt forgiveness.
A series of seven Sabbatical years (referred to in our text) was followed by a year of Jubilee which drastically altered the financial landscape of the people. Debts were forgiven and land was returned to their original owners.
Slaves were released and debts were forgiven after seven years of service. It was an established reset button.
It was an indisputable law established by God.
There are laws and systematic mechanisms in place in the United States that also offer aid to those who are in need. Our taxes, which are required by law, are used, among other things, as a redistribution of wealth to help the poor and needy.
It is not quite a sabbatical year or the year of Jubilee, but basic needs such as food, clothing, shelter, and basic healthcare are paid for by those who can afford it and provided to those who are struggling to afford it.
I think what we can learn from this is that God acknowledges the presence of the poor and the economically challenged, he recognizes the slavery of debt, and he found it important enough to address in a governmental mandate that balanced the scales - even if that balance were temporary.
Comfortable in Chains
One of the biggest gripes that today’s taxpayers have are those that mooch off the system.
Taking advantage of the system means that people can be lazy and do not have to work. This can be a legitimate gripe for those who are working and paying their fair portion of taxes.
We feel there is an injustice being served to us - the ones with the jobs and retirement accounts and high-speed internet.
Perhaps, the reason why we are so irate is because there seems to be an incentive to stay lazy - to stay in the chains of the system.
Make no mistake about it, when you are in the system you are a slave of the system. You are told when, where, and how much you will get and you have no freedom to demand more from the system.
But just as the Israelites yearned for the comforts of slavery in Egypt, those on welfare and other government aids can grow comfortable. The incentive for breaking free dwindles when compared to the comfort of staying chained.
I think all financial situations are like this - not just depending on government aid. We would stay in a terrible job because it pays the bills because we have grown used to the stress or are too scared to make a change.
Some even ignore God’s direction because it’s easier to say no to Him than to our boss.
As pointed out before, the Bible says that poor will always be with us. Maybe that is because our sins tunes our heart to the slavery of chains and freedom doesn’t seem worth fighting for.
To Struggle Against Grace
But the prominent message of our passage today is not targeted to those who find themselves in debt to others. It is to those who find themselves in the position of advantage. God gives a clear warning to his people - don’t withhold a helping hand just because there is a mechanism in place to receive financial burdens.
If we look at people with an eye of contempt because of their situation we are nothing more than disgusting sinners.
Could I suggest that when we fight against government programs - when we demand that certain strings are attached - could we be fighting against a God-ordained avenue of grace? Because the hardness of our own hearts, the government had to step up and put programs in place - because we have failed to take care of each other?
Then we fight against it?
Certainly this is a more complicated matter than what can be addressed here, right?
Or is it?
Why exactly do we fight against the helping of others?
- Because it is not fair? (Neither is God’s grace)
- Because people take advantage of it? (As we do with God’s grace)
- Because it incentives people to quit trying (Isn’t that also true of God’s grace)
It seems our related anger to government aid and social programs is what it takes away from us and what it gives to those we have personally deemed inadequate for our help.
That does not sound like something that is rooted in God’s grace.