The Bible says Jesus entered the synagogue, picked up the book of the prophet, and declared, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor…” (Luke 4:18).
We could read further–there was much more He was anointed to do–but I want to focus on what was meant by ministry to the poor.
We often hear that word and think of someone who is broke, without money, begging for food in a foreign country (or in the slums of our own city). And that isn’t incorrect. The word poor is definitely applied to the beggarly. But the biblical definition literally means “crouched in spirit” which could describe a beggar on the streets… or a person with or without means who has a broken spirit within them.
Why am I thinking along these lines?
I pray for people often. And many I have never met. Maybe their name was given to me through a message or a link to follow online updates–however I get it, I pray regularly for their healing and salvation. Jesus said He came to preach Good News to the poor. In other words, He came to preach the too-good-to-be-true-good-news to the crouched and bent in spirit. This could literally be anyone.
But the thought recently came to my mind, what if the “poor” person was living in sin? If we’re called to help the poor, what is our responsibility if there is obvious sin in their life? (For example, living together unmarried or actions that indicate carelessness or rejection of Christ).
As always, the Bible has the answer for us:
- “If there is among you a poor man of your brethren, within any of the gates in your land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart nor shut your hand from your poor brother” (Deuteronomy 15:7).
- “He who despises [and judges] his neighbor sins; But he who has mercy on the poor, happy is he” (Proverbs 14:21).
- “He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord, and He will pay back what he has given” (Proverbs 19:17).
Not one scripture says to judge the life of the poor before deciding to help. In fact, what is indicated the most is, have mercy and compassion on the poor.
When Jesus stood and looked out over the multitude of people, His heart was moved with compassion for them (Matthew 9:36). He saw thousands of people crouched in spirit. They were all poor and they were all lost in sin.
So when we give financially or otherwise to the poor, regardless of the state of their personal life, I believe we are used as instruments of God’s grace and love to the ones who are desperate for hope. And through our acts of kindness (whether it is prayer, financial gifts, etc.), the love of God pulls them to Himself, His Word, and ultimately, a place of surrender, repentance and provision.
And the result?
“Distress that drives us to God turns us around. It gets us back in the way of salvation…” (2 Corinthians 7:10, Message).
Salvation is defined as deliverance, safety, preservation, healing, and soundness. THIS IS THE COMPLETE OPPOSITE OF BEING POOR (and crouched in spirit).
Mercy. We’ll never fail when we let it guide us. Because honestly, we’ve all needed it.
This is the life of the righteous.