Tag Archives: Jesus and the poor

“Black and Blue” Lives Matter

black-blue-lives-matter-cartoon-598There’s a bunch of stuff that doesn’t matter, like arguing about one another’s mottos about what matters!

Just so you know, I’m pretty sure that it’s my life that actually matters most! Okay, I’m willing to concede that everyone who looks like me and agrees with me matter too––somewhat.

Of course, we also stand for the officers who are serving their communities faithfully and with equanimity. Saying “black lives matter” is not choosing sides against law enforcement. It’s not saying that all cops are bad any more than it’s saying that all blacks are good.

It’s a contextualized statement, like saying “Children’s Lives Matter.” That doesn’t mean adult lives don’t matter! In Hitler’s Germany precious few courageous souls stood and said in effect, “Jewish Lives Matter!” [Before you rush to the reply button, I intend no precise correlation between German Nazism and American racism.] Nevertheless, racism is racism.

Nobody in their right mind believes that it’s “only” black lives––or blue ones, for that matter––that actually matter. In a semi-literate society we really shouldn’t have to explain that the dictum simply means that black lives matter too!

For clarity sake, this “too” isn’t the same as the other two “to’s” in our language. Though this too has two meanings, as in “too much” and “me too,” the former meaning being the one implied by the “Black Lives Matter (too)” movement.

So we should not be confused by the assumption that black folks only matter “to” us, or that there are only “two” of them or us that matter. Those are those other pesky two to’s. The “too” that we’re trying to clarify is the one that means also, the one we shouldn’t need to need in order to make it redundantly obvious that we don’t mean they’re the only ones that matter.

If all that seems too convoluted, I recommend just reverting back to me being the one who matters (most). Continue reading

Some more excuses of not-so-good Samaritans

 

like JesusI offer a few more suggested excuses for being less than ideal Samaritans

  • “I don’t have time to help so-called ‘underserved’ people. I’m too busy just trying to raise my family and pay the mortgage.”

It says that the Samaritan came across the dying man “as he traveled.” He must have been on his way somewhere. The Jericho Road, colloquially called “The Bloody Pass” wasn’t anyone’s destination. You didn’t go there for a picnic and to see the sights. He found the victim while on his way to someplace else.

That’s where we may, if we care to notice, run into a lot of our divine appointments, on our way somewhere else. In order to meet the man’s need the Samaritan had to be willing to stop and be late to his next appointment. Maybe his lateness would cost him a contract or the ire of a customer or friend, but the bleeding man lying in front of him had a greater need than his need to be on time to wherever he was otherwise supposed to be. Continue reading

Some excuses of not-so-good Samaritans

like JesusWe’ve established that, even if Jesus didn’t exactly intend his parable to point directly to the kind of Samaritan he would be, he would make an “Ideal Samaritan.” Looking at the way he treats thrashed people, if we’re honest, we see how far we are from that ideal and might even consider ourselves “Inadequate Samaritans.” In order to lower the volume on our nagging conscience we concoct some pretty creative excuses for our inadequacy. If you happen to be shopping for some fresh new alibis for being more, less like Jesus than more, more like Jesus you might try on one of these for size.

  • “How do I know they’re deserving of my help?”

Can you see Jesus saying this to the Father? “OK, I’ll go and I’ll sacrifice myself, but not for those who don’t deserve it! I only want to die for those who are eligible, who were total victims and didn’t get themselves in the trouble they’re in. I don’t want to waste my blood on the undeserving.” Continue reading

The Ideal Samaritan

They were talking about the greatest command of all when Jesus revealed to the loophole seeking Bible scholar how he rolled as a God-and-people-lover. I think, with the Samaritan story, Jesus was, in essence, saying, “Here’s how I love my Father and my neighbors. I go out of my way to serve them.” like Jesus

Though I can’t claim with certainty that Jesus necessarily intended us to view him as “The Samaritan” in his story, you have to admit the parallels are striking. I don’t know about you, but when Jesus found me, I was robbed and beat down by the Sin, Satan, and the System. Religion did nothing for me but pass me by on the other side of the road. But, of all people, this unexceptional Man of love picked me up, tended my wounds, brought me to a therapeutic community for recovery, and paid the tab.

To elaborate… Continue reading

My favorite book on “justice” so far (other than the Bible, of course)

justice 3I’m ashamed to admit that I came to the table late on the social justice topic. As an aspect of God’s compassionate personality and as a significant portion of our responsibility as his followers, somehow over the years this ubiquitous Bible theme eluded me. I’ve since discovered that with the possible exception of idolatry, the Bible addresses injustice with greater frequency than any other sin.

Though “justice” is mentioned 134 times in the Bible, in my three decades of pastoral ministry I never gave one message on the concept of justice for the poor and powerless. In fact, until just a few years ago, I’d never even heard a message on it. (That’s not coming to the table late – as in during the dessert. That’s arriving after the table has been cleared and the dishes washed and put away!) Nevertheless, to coin a phrase, “Better late than never.” Continue reading

Jesus – A Middle-Class Messiah? (He begins at the bottom) Part 3 of 3

[I recommend that you read Parts 1 and 2 before proceeding…]

“OK, well, this isn’t going like we’d hoped,” the envoys whispered among themselves. “This may not be our guy. His agenda is definitely not the same as ours and he doesn’t seem to care at all about our American Dream. He’s so concerned about the poor that he cares nothing about our plight.” **

**[I’m certainly not insinuating that John the Baptizer had any such self-serving, nationalistic, or economic interests of his own. Jesus said he was the greatest saint and least materialistic person of his day. His struggle was not about personal prosperity, but about what he expected the Messiah to do about Rome’s control over Israel. Nevertheless, I believe that in his answer to John’s envoys Jesus used his compassionate dealing with the poor to make his point about what is actually important to God, and what his kingdom actually looks like.

Roman oppression gave Israel an opportunity to love their disadvantaged neighbors (Jewish and Gentile) and live in compassionate community with them. Those who had even a modicum of wealth had every chance to act generously toward the poorest among them. Instead, many of them protected their wealth and used their influence for their own benefit. Continue reading

Jesus – A Middle-Class Messiah? (He begins at the bottom) Part 2 of 3

[I recommend that you read Part 1 first…]

“That’s just fine with us, go ahead and keep helping poor people if it makes you happy,” they argued, “but don’t you think it’s a little short sighted? Couldn’t you flex a little of your muscle to lift us back up to the top of the global heap where we belong? We heard you could do just about anything, so while you’re doing your philanthropic work, why don’t you reinstate the rest of us to our prosperous and free way of life? We have to go back to our officials with a report. Are you in or not?”

“Well, I’m ‘in,’ but maybe not in the same way you want me ‘in,’” he said. “My orders were to begin at the bottom – to concentrate on the vulnerable and oppressed.”

“You’ve come to the right place then – that’s us! We’re at the bottom. We’re oppressed! Can’t you see that our whole American way of life has been upended. Those evil Canadians have robbed us of control of our own destiny, our economic sovereignty, our political clout, and our ability to amass personal wealth. You’ve got to care about that, right? If you’re supposed to be our Savior, then save us from our plummeting stock values. We’re prepared to offer you total control of our country if you’ll just wave that magic wand of yours over us and …” Continue reading