“This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles” (Psa. 34:6).
A little book of sermons, MR. JONES MEET THE MASTER, by Peter Marshall, was edited by his wife, Catherine. One of the stories in that book, “By Invitation of Jesus,” tells of a magnificent banquet where limousines were sent to fetch the guests while the fine food was served by butlers carrying silver trays covered in white linen. People of the streets, even the gutters and institutions, were invited, and each was perplexed about the purpose. Each received his invitation to the event with the simple little note, “By invitation of Jesus,” and each was curious what that could mean. Written for the world as well as for Christians, this account acts as a mirror for those who would despise the poor. The lesson is based on Jesus’ words in the book of Luke.
“Then said he also to him that bade him, When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just” (Luke 14:12-14).
God’s poor have little or no wealth and few if any possessions; they are lacking in financial or other resources to make their lives bearable. Although the poor will remain a part of every society (Deut. 15:11; Matt. 26:11), the scriptures in both Old and New Testaments instruct the righteous to show concern for them. We are God’s messengers, God’s ambassadors.
Our Heavenly Father is known to have a special care for the poor, which is demonstrated in His deliverance of Israel from Egyptian poverty and bondage (Deut. 24:22). In turn, God required the Israelites to punish the oppressors of the poor and reward those who were kind to them. His inspired word tells us God Himself is their Protector and Saviour (Exod. 22:23). ”If thou afflict them at all, and they cry at all unto me, I will surely hear their cry; and my wrath shall wax hot,” (Deut. 15:9; 24:15; 1 Sam. 2:8; Job 31:16; Psa. 9:18; 12:5; Prov. 19:17; Isa. 25:4). Again He says plainly. “If thou seest the oppression of the poor, and violent perverting of judgment and justice in a province, marvel not at the matter: for he that is higher than the highest regardeth; and there be higher than they” (Eccl. 5:8).).
God takes up the cause of the poor. The Psalms repeatedly emphasize that God helps them; He will “spare the poor and needy” (Psa. 72:13). He promises, “I will satisfy her poor with bread” (Psa. 132:15). The poor of the world can take comfort in the fact that God indeed cares for them.
Compassion for the poor is demonstrated by Jesus (Luke 6:20). Luke relates Christ’s purpose in coming to the world as prophesied in the book of Isaiah, “He has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor” (Isa. 61:1; Luke 4:18). The rich young ruler was instructed by Jesus to sell his possessions and “to distribute to the poor” (Luke 18:22). No true disciple of Jesus can remain unconcerned about the poor of the world.
Instructions about considerate treatment of the poor are found in the Old Testament Law, the Prophets, and the New Testament as well. The Law and the Prophets warned against oppressing the poor and crushing the needy (Deut. 24:14; Prov. 14:31; Amos 2:6; 4:1). Rich people were warned not to take advantage of the poor, especially in court: “You shall not pervert the judgment of your poor in his dispute” (Exod. 23:6; Amos 5:12). Help was to be given to the poor (Deut. 15:7-8; Isa. 58:7). The Israelites (and we) are to see God’s action of providing the underprivileged with food and clothing and follow His example (Deut. 10:18).
The extent to which God identifies with the poor is clear (Prov. 19:17 and Matt. 25:34-40). Jesus’ instructions that the poor should be invited when we prepare a feast (Luke 14:12-14) and Paul’s intent to remember the poor (Gal. 2:10) are very clear. James warned against discriminating against the poor (James 2:2-4; see also Lev. 19:15 . Do we invite our friends and neighbors to a feast and forget the poor? God will hear their cry and answer.