The Worthy Poor?

Jesus said, “…for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:45)

As the thunder thunders and the rain falls outside, I find myself thinking about this verse from Matthew. If you have water in the basement or a lake where you backyard used to be, you may not think of rain as a blessing right now. Sunshine? Absolutely. Precipitation? Not so much. The point of the verse is that good things (sunshine) and bad things (more rain) come to people regardless of their worth or standing; no matter whether they earned them; and in spite of whether they are good or bad people – however we determine that. Maybe the reason that the verse sprang to my head as the drops fell against the window was because I also have had on my mind the response to poverty in our culture. All too often I hear things like, “We should support the poor, as long as they deserve the help;” or “We don’t want to create dependency in these people and help them too much, after all, they made their bed…” It is a fallacy that there are worthy and unworthy poor people, just as it is a fallacy that there are worthy and unworthy rich people. The sun and the rain fall on everyone.

I encountered a good article on the subject by Scott Dannemiller – check it out: There’s No Such Thing As The Worthy Poor | The Accidental Missionary.

poor jesus statue

Jesus is the one who reminds us how wrong we are when we start judging the worth of other people. The statue of “The Homeless Jesus” (you can only identify the body on the bench by the wounds in the hands and feet) is pulled from Matthew’s gospel too. When we see people who are worthless, Jesus is incarnate in and through them. That’s what he said. “As you do to the least of these you do to me.” “I was hungry and you… I was in prison and you…” The artist has a series of such works:

thumbs_jail-ms-new-thumbnailthumbs_thumbs_whatsoever_you_do

http://www.sculpturebytps.com/large-bronze-statues-and-sculptures/religious-statues/statues-of-jesus/

You see, you can’t dismiss anyone because Jesus died for them and is united in death and resurrection with them. We are all unworthy. It is Christ who grants us worth by sharing himself with us.

Ever since I first saw the Homeless Jesus, I have thought that the forsaken figure should be on the bench in the north side of our church. It would remind us that we don’t only meet Jesus inside the church, but we often walk right past him on the street in the guise f a person we deem unworthy. Today, we would look out and see Jesus on the bench in the pouring rain. I think of that and my heart breaks. Jesus on that bench beckons us to come out in the rain and walk in his reign with him.

We are a congregation that proclaims our “open arms.” Today, that has to lead to a wet embrace. – Peace to you.

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