According to the calendar, I should be wishing you a Happy Spring. So let’s “spring” right to this week’s content as we continue our series on The Imago Dei, this time diving into the subject of poverty. (If you’ve missed previous editions of this series, you can always catch up here.)
Let me say from the outset, poverty is more than just financial. For instance, someone could be monetarily wealthy, yet live in relational poverty, while another person might have inherited millions, yet live in daily emotional poverty.
However, for our purposes (and to keep this article brief), we are going to tackle the subject of financial poverty, and how the Imago Dei changes our approach to the financially poor.
Blessed are the Poor
Our modern day American society isn’t much different from many other cultures, whether modern or ancient, when it comes to opinions about wealthy and non-wealthy individuals. Throughout time, humans have judged their fellow humans who have an abundance of wealth as being better, smarter, and more worthy of attention than their less-wealthy compatriots.
I once heard a story about Tiger Woods, the famous golfer, eating at a restaurant years ago when he was at the height of his success. The manager of the restaurant was so honored to have such a famous and successful golfer in his establishment that he told Mr. Woods his meal was on the house.
But if you think about it, as a multi-millionaire, Tiger probably could have not only bought his own meal, but the meal of everyone in the restaurant, and not felt a financial pinch at all. Yet, the owner gave the meal for free to the richest guy in the room.
Like us Americans, ancient Jews fell into this same thought-trap. They believed if a person had tremendous wealth, it was because God had richly blessed that man, and therefore was more important than the poor person begging on the street (who God clearly didn’t bless). This is why they would give the most prominent seats to rich people at important events or kowtow to their every whim or desire while treating the poor person like scum.
But this common cultural thought stood in stark contrast to the teaching of Jesus. Regularly, Jesus taught that the poor were not only equal with the rich, they were actually blessed! You see, Jesus knew a rich person was encumbered with the things of earth, and therefore couldn’t fully give their heart to God and things above(see Matthew 19:16-30for an example). This meant the poor person, in Jesus’ eyes, had a greater capacity to fully appreciate the true riches of God.
Perhaps that is why God told His people in Proverbs 22:22-23
“Do not rob the poor, because he is poor,
or crush the afflicted at the gate,
for the Lord will plead their cause
and rob of life those who rob them.” (ESV)
The poor are close to the heart of God because they bear His image. He delights in them. And He finds honor in providing for them because they are more dependent upon Him than a rich person. That is why He will often “plead their cause” and come to their defense.
But there’s something else we need to realize. Because of sin, God knows we are ALL spirituallypoor. Earthly treasure will fade away, whether in this life or when we pass to the next, so what we need isn’t a raise at work, but spiritual eyes to see where our true poverty lies. We are in deep, deep debt to God because of our sin, but He not only paid our debts and forgave us our sin, He then blesses us with every spiritual blessing under heaven!
Which is why God commands the “rich” to not focus only on the acquisition of earthly wealth, but rather use earthly wealth to help others. It’s far more important to be rich in good works than rich in dollar bills.
This is one reason we invite you, as part of the Riverwood family, to serve at the monthly Food Bank. All of those who come to receive food each month would be considered in the eyes of our society as poor. What a beautiful opportunity we have on the second Tuesday of each month to interact with those that are benefit from the food bank. We have an opportunity to remind ourselves that we are complete equals with everyone else in the eyes of God because His image is in them, and God wants nothing more than to restore His broken image in each of us to look more like Jesus.
So whether you see yourself as poor, or view others around you as poor, may you see the value every person has as an image bearer, regardless of the size of their house, car, or bank account.