"Ennobling the Poor" - Tim Bower
What image comes to mind when you hear the word “poor”? I will admit my mind immediately goes to an image of someone sitting at a freeway off-ramp with a cardboard sign asking for money. And I will confess that I have unfortunately become adept at ignoring those signs and, by extension, the people that hold them.
The good news of Jesus stands in contrast to this dismissive indifference.
The four gospels are the first time in human history in which we see an intentional reframing of what it means to be poor. This is especially true of Luke, where the central theme is that the poor, while perhaps on the fringes of society, are actually at the heart of the story of God. Jesus says in Luke 4, through a reading of the prophet Isaiah, that proclamation of good news to the poor is what he was anointed to do. It is his purpose, his calling, his mission. And Luke’s telling of the Jesus story again and again ennobles those on the periphery.
It starts in Luke 1, when Zechariah and Elizabeth, whose advancing age has left them without hope of a child, are invited to join in the proclamation of God’s Kingdom by giving birth to and raising John, the one who would baptize Jesus. (Note here that it is the male priest Zechariah whose voice is silenced for a time so the woman Elizabeth may point to the Lord who “took away the disgrace I have endured among my people”). It carries through in Luke 7 when Jesus allows a “sinful woman” to anoint him in the middle of a dinner party with the Pharisees, calling attention to her great love and devotion as an example his host and fellow guests should aspire to. And again in Luke 8 where Jesus delays the urgent need to heal Jairus’ (a leader in the synagogue) dying daughter so that he may give his full attention to healing and restoring a woman who had been outcast due to ritual uncleanliness.
There are literally dozens of instances in Luke and throughout the gospels where someone who is poor, outcast, culturally and socially rejected, is instead made the center of God’s attention and grace, and for a moment to be the main character of the redemption story. This is never portrayed in the gospels as someone receiving a handout from God, but instead the poor are made to be an agent of grace themselves; someone who becomes a conduit of God’s grace to others around them.
So perhaps the message of the gospel of Luke, the message of Jesus Christ, and the message for us this Lenten season is that we dismiss the poor to our own detriment, for it is upon them that God’s favor rests, and it is through them that the good news is proclaimed. Perhaps the next time I see someone on the freeway off-ramp, someone who I think is on the periphery of society, I should consider that I am face to face with someone who is lovingly brought right to the center of God’s redemptive activity in the world.
HOW TO PRAY:
Pray that God would give you the ability to see the outcasts in our city as an “agent of God’s grace”
Pray for the guys who hold signs off the 91 and 605 Exits in Bellflower
Luke 4: 18-19 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
About the Author: Tim and his wife Mariah are on-site chaplains for Margaret's House and have lived in Bellflower for 8 years.