Standing Up for the Poor
Devotional 9 of 10
by Davina McDonald
Father, from your hands we have received many blessings. For each we are grateful. Forgive us for the times we’ve turned a blind eye to those in need. Help us to love our neighbor as ourselves, seeking their welfare as eagerly as we seek our own.
If you oppress poor people, you insult the God who made them; but kindness shown to the poor is an act of worship.
When you give to the poor, it is like lending to the Lord, and the Lord will pay you back.
At the root of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Poor People’s Campaign was his desire to break chains of economic injustice that bound millions of people to a life of poverty. King appealed to the hearts of his listeners with this claim: “I choose to identify with the underprivileged. I choose to identify with the poor. I choose to give my life for the hungry. I choose to give my life for those who have been left out.” He spearheaded plans for public demonstrations, mass nonviolent civil disobedience, and mass arrests to protest the dilemma of the poverty stricken. Those who joined King believed, as he did, that words were not enough. Although King was killed before the march took place, the Poor People’s March on Washington moved ahead.
Dr. King had the poor at heart, but the poor and needy have always been on God’s heart. Scripture is full of instruction about caring for the oppressed, orphans, widows, social outcasts—those often named among the poor. Talking about their needs is not enough. It requires action, even sacrifice. The age-old advice of King Lemuel’s mother—Speak up for people who cannot speak for themselves. Protect the rights of all who are helpless. Speak for them and be a righteous judge. Protect the rights of the poor and needy (Proverbs 31:8–9)—is still relevant. Dr. King’s life exemplified this understanding. Even today the underprivileged, the poor, the hungry, and those who have been left out still need advocates to plead their case and help meet their needs.
Scripture asks us not to “close our hearts” against those in need. If we do, we cannot claim to love God who demands that we love others in deed and not word only (1 John 3:17–18). Loving others requires that we seek their welfare, even when this is challenging. Love enables us to push past inconvenience and choose a selfless course of action—say, hosting a family at our home for a home-cooked meal they cannot afford, purchasing school supplies for a single parent who is struggling to make ends meet, or sharing finances to help provide shelter for the homeless.
Seeking the well-being of others is not one more thing to be checked off a “to-do” list. We participate in such actions knowing that “kindness shown to the poor is an act of worship” (Proverbs 14:31). Those who benefit from our generosity might not be able to repay us, but in giving to the poor we lend to the Lord, and he will reward us.
Questions for personal thought or group discussion:
1. Aristotle said: “Poverty is the parent of revolution and crime.” How is this proved or disproved in your community?
2. Reflect on a time when you had the opportunity to care for the poor and needy. How did you respond? What motivated your response?
3. Take time to read about Dr. King’s campaign efforts to better the lives of the poor. Over lunch or coffee, discuss ways that you can advocate for the poor in underprivileged communities.
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