"For he delivers the needy when he calls, the poor and him who has no helper. He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy. From oppression and violence he redeems their life, and precious is their blood in his sight." - Psalm 72:12-14I have found myself repeatedly returning to this passage of scripture over the last several weeks. In a divided culture that often portrays social justice movements as a threat, it is encouraging to hear scripture describe the "cause of the poor" as a cause that God will defend. In a world of injustice, God judges the poor specifically with justice (v. 2). And this means that Christians, too, are called to defend this cause. My faith leads me to hope in a future where justice is realized in the kingdom of God, but the example of Christ also leads me to work in the present to achieve this future, even if its only a glimpse. What does it mean to be a Christian if we are not the hands and feet of Christ in a broken world?
“Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called? If you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.”
- James 2: 5-9
Here’s a sample of things people say to me about poor people, especially poor people of color:“It’s the parent’s fault.” "My family was low-income, and they worked their way up." “They know how to work the system.” “What can you do when the only people at home they can look up to are drug addicts and dealers?” “Not much you can do when they just refuse to accept your help.” “Aren’t Black people just as racist against White people?” “We have a Black President now.” When I graduated from college and moved to Tulsa to become a teacher, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. There I was, a person of color who had nevertheless grown up in tremendous privilege her entire life, now teaching in one of the most historically underprivileged communities in the entire country.