Jesus the greatest advocate of poor | Daily News

Jesus the greatest advocate of poor

And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Mark 10:21

But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. Matthew 6:3-4

Poverty and oppression are almost as old as mankind. The situation was no different when Jesus was on earth. The religious leaders at that time showed a complete lack of concern for the aged and the needy and were more concerned about keeping their traditions. It is of interest that in Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan, a priest and a Levite on seeing an injured man walked past him on the opposite side of the road rather than turn aside to help him. (Luke 10:30-37).

The Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life show that he fully comprehended the difficulties of the poor and was extremely sensitive to their needs. On seeing the crowds, Jesus “felt pity for them, because they were skinned and thrown about like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36). The account of the needy widow shows that Jesus was impressed, not by the large gifts of the rich, who gave out of their surplus, but by the poor widow’s tiny contribution. (Luke 21:4)

Not only did Jesus feel compassion for the poor but he also took a personal interest in their needs. Jesus encouraged those who wanted to be his followers to recognize their obligation to assist needy ones. He told a rich young ruler: “Sell all the things you have and distribute to poor people, and you will have treasure in the heavens; and come be my follower.” The fact that the man was unwilling to part with his possessions showed that his love for riches was greater than his love for God and fellowman. Thus, he did not have the qualities required to be a disciple of Jesus. (Luke 18:22, 23).

Love your neighbour

The biographies of Jesus depict him repeatedly reaching out to those at the bottom of the social pyramid--poor people, women, Samaritans, lepers, children, prostitutes and tax collectors. Jesus was also eager to accept people who were well-placed, but he made clear that all, regardless of social position, needed to repent.

Jesus commanded, “Love your neighbour.” When asked to define “neighbour,” he expanded the traditional meaning of the word--defining our neighbour as anyone who is in need, including social outcasts: “But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed,” he said. (Luke 14:13)

Most of Jesus’ followers were drawn from amongst those who struggled to eke out a subsistence diet; hence he instructed them to pray each day to receive a ‘daily ration of bread’ sufficient for survival. He was remembered for his willingness to dine with prostitutes, those brutalised women of the Jewish underclass who had only their bodies to sell to gain bread. Prostitution was the common fate of the women of the ancient world’s underclass.

Jesus’ teaching was framed in language which reflected the essential social struggle between unjust rich and struggling poor in ancient agrarian society. Yet, he did not press his concern for the poor to the point of political rebellion. Neither though an immensely popular figure, he refused to stir the masses to violent revolt; nor would he speak against the payment of Roman taxes. The poor must in humility accept their lot, embracing the present suffering and sharing amongst themselves. Their heavenly Father is able to provide for all their needs, perhaps through the generosity of pious patrons.

Property demonised

In Jesus’ teaching, property is virtually demonised because of its potential to draw the soul away from the exclusive worship of which, he said, only God is worthy: ‘You cannot serve God and mammon’ (Luke 16:13). Those he chose for the spiritual calling of teaching, healing and wielding authority over the demonic world were to renounce property. Such disciples were to give up all that they had, selling their possessions and giving away the proceeds to the poor. Like Jesus on his preaching tours, their connections with the ordinary world were in effect to be severed.

Jesus allowed those not called to wield spiritual authority to retain private property. Such supporters were to be generous in their almsgiving and to lend willingly to those who asked. Implicit in the Gospel narratives are local supporters who offered hospitality to Jesus and his travelling party, and whose houses often became the venue for teaching. Such local figures of good standing also hosted those disciples sent out by Jesus to preach, heal and exorcise demons.

Jesus demanded that those with wealth generously assist the destitute and undernourished. In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, an owner of great estates has indulged himself in the fine garments and rich feasting of the elite. However, despite the strictures of the Law, he has ignored the needs and appeals of a poor sick man who has languished at his gate. He is condemned to unmitigated torment, in a fiery corner of the place of the dead.

Jesus accepted invitations to dine with the wealthy, urging them to provide for the poor who could not reciprocate their generosity. He could also seek out contact with the wealthy, as in the case of the immoral senior tax-collector Zacchaeus. When Zacchaeus repents of his wickedness, determining to distribute half his wealth to the poor and make restitution fourfold to those whom he has defrauded, Jesus declares that salvation has come to his house.

Needs of the poor

A Christmas Carol, is a novella by Charles Dickens, first published on 19 December 1843. A Christmas Carol tells the story of a bitter old miser named Ebenezer Scrooge and his transformation into a gentler, kindlier man after visitations by the ghost of his former business partner Jacob Marley and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come.

Dickens was keenly touched by the lot of poor children in the middle decades of the 19th century. In early 1843, he toured the Cornish tin mines, where he saw children working in appalling conditions. The suffering he witnessed there was reinforced by a visit to the Field Lane Ragged school, one of several London schools set up for the education of the capital’s half-starved, illiterate street children.

A Christmas Carol remains popular—having never been out of print and has been adapted many times to film, stage, opera, and other media. Its a beautiful story to be read during the Christmas season.

The needs of the poor in Dickens’ London of 1843 are equally matched in our own community in 2016. In this holiday season, all Christians must realize that their Creator has indeed blessed them by giving them one another.

Many Christians today feel that they have a “responsibility” to attend some form of worship service but do not realize their own restless longing for something more meaningful and significant in their lives. It is in church that they realize they are no more important than their poorest brothers and sisters in the eyes of their Creator. For the Priest reminds them that they will be judged eventually not by their status in society or the assets they own, but upon the goodness of their spirits.

Christians must strive to be their brothers’ keepers and remind everyone that the greatest power they have is to touch and care for the human spirit. Most of the Christians forget this power and fail to share what they have with one another through word, prayer and deed. Sometimes this giving can take the form of a simple, kind word on the street to brighten a stranger’s day or by serving Christmas Eve dinner at the local orphanage, or better, in their own homes. 

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