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Jesus’ Relationship with the Poor

Reid is husband to Taylor and has been foster dad to many children. He is a young adult pastor in Edmond, Ok.


Blessed Are The Poor

A brief survey of the Gospel of Luke reveals a detailed agenda of Jesus’ love for the poor and his promotional ministry of their status that ensues. In contrast to the western mindset on living and finances – Jesus’ message, according to Luke, has much hostility toward those who are affluent. Time and again Luke records Jesus explaining to his audience of the reward he has set aside to those who are poor coupled with the punishment he has for the unrighteous rich after this life is completed. This essay aims to bring these passages to surface and in doing so help us as modern, western Christians construct our personal finances in a way that brings most glory to our great God.

No other Gospel depicts Jesus’ ministry in terms of caring for the poor, in light of the kingdom of God, quite like Luke does [1]. He is clear on how his readers are to organize their (our) lives in such a way that causes them (us) to see and meet the needs of those who are poor and needy. Luke also challenges us to respond properly to Jesus’ proclamation of the Gospel message – something he documents the poor and marginalized doing exceptionally well [2]. For example, in a rather difficult passage to unpack and study Jesus shares a story about a wealthy man and a poor man named Lazarus and their choices in life that led to their eternal destiny. Both of these men pass away but were taken to very different places of eternity. The poor man was taken by angels to the feet of Abraham in heaven but the rich man was taken to Hades for torment. The rich man cried out for just a drop of water to cool his mouth but he is met with a resounding no and reminded of the material worth he found comfort in while living [3]. There is zero questioning of Jesus’ opinion when it comes to how he values and speaks up for those marginalized and outcasts of society. May we be better people who stand up and extend a hand to those the who need it most.

Surveying these teachings on the poor should cause us to question: what kind of person followed Jesus? In his sermon to the crowds of disciples (after healing and casting out demons from among them) Jesus begins by telling them: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God”[4]. In terms of the kingdom of heaven – we must be clear that Luke is not asserting that all who are poor automatically are adopted children of God and given eternal life with him [5]. However, Jesus does cast a message specifically to those who are poor in Luke 4:18. In this passage he states from the prophet Isaiah saying, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.” There is something special in this documentation of Luke that points our hearts to what it truly means to be a follower of Jesus – that when all the material possessions are taken away, all prosperity stripped from us – do we really love him? Jesus takes this questioning a step further by saying: “Nobody is able to be my disciple who does not renounce all of his possessions” [6]. He confirms this attitude of renunciation by telling the rich ruler to, “sell all you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” [7].

In light of these teachings – what are we to do? Jesus tells us to boldly live radical lives that make him the central part of our worship. Serving him alone with our financial status – being ever so careful to store treasures for ourselves. May we help change our cultural mindset that elevates prosperity and shuns the poor. Amen.

[1] Hayes, C.M., “Rich and Poor” in Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (The IVP Dictionary Series)(p. 807).

[2] Ibid., (p. 807)

[3] Luke 16:19-31

[4] Luke 6:20

[5] Hayes, C.M., (p. 807)

[6] Luke 14:33

[7] Luke 18:22

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