–than John 3:16. Sound like heresy? It’s heresy if their babies are dying from drinking crap water and all we give them is John 3:16. That can get them to heaven, but they will get there sooner than they want. One in five babies in Uganda won’t make it past five years old. If that happened in your family, they would call it infant abuse. They need more than John 3:16; they need 1 John 3:16. Throw in 17 and 18, verses that come against those who only love in word and speech but not in deed and truth.
The gospel to the poor lets “the oppressed go free.” It will “break every yoke” including the shackles of utter poverty (Isaiah 58:6). It calls followers of Jesus to “bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him” (7). It answers Cain’s sarcastic question: “Yes, you are your brother’s keeper.”
The Good Samaritan was called good not because of what he said but what he did: showing mercy to a man in misery. Religious people passed by, maybe on their way to church. That did not impress Jesus. The man religious folks would have called a bad samaritan had compassion on the victim, changed his own schedule to meet the need, and paid for it from his pocket. Jesus closed the gripping story by saying, “Go and do likewise,” with the emphasis on the DO. We not only preach the gospel; we do it!
Jesus echoed His Father’s love when He said, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied” (Luke 6:20,21). He urged his disciples when giving a party to “invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous” (Luke 14:14).
The Bible throughout illustrates God’s special love for the least, the lowest, the last, and is full of commands to care for the poor: “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy” (Proverbs 31:8,9). “Do not exploit the poor because they are poor and do not crush the needy in court, for the Lord will take up their case and will exact life for life” (Proverbs 22:22, 23). “Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God” (Proverbs 14:31). Throughout the Psalms the disadvantaged are given the edge by the Lord: “God will never forget the needy; the hope of the afflicted will never perish” (Psalm 9:17,18).
Paul was exhorted by the apostles in Jerusalem not to forget the needs of the poor, and he wrote, “Which very thing I was eager to do” (Galatians 2:10). He directed Gentile Christians to take up a special offering for the poor in Jerusalem, for people who only a few years before had hated them.
Where we have neglected the needs of the poor, we ask God to have mercy on us. I say to my own shame that I missed it for years. Now that I get it, I want to help others get it!