God’s heart for the Poor
Have you ever wondered why God seems to have a bias for the poor? God’s concern for the poor is a central, pervasive theme in the Bible. Over 400 verses relate to this topic. Why is that? Consider this example in Psalms 146:7-9:
“He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets prisoners free, the Lord gives sight to the blind, the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down, the Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.”
Tim Keller, in the book Generous Justice*, makes reference to the fact that it is striking to see how often God is introduced as the defender of these vulnerable groups. The God of creation and eternity chooses to be known as the “father to the fatherless, and defender of widows.” (Psalms 68:4-5) We should not miss the significance of this identity. This is one of the main things he does in this world. (Keller, pg. 6)
We must realize that God loves all people, (John 3:16) and he warns in Leviticus 19:15 of giving preferential treatment to the rich or poor. Thus we cannot deny God’s heart for the people of the upper classes as well. Such a belief would be a gross misinterpretation of Scripture. However, overlooking God’s unique identity with the vulnerable and marginalized should not be missed. What can we learn from the overwhelming number of scripture verses that connect God’s heart with those who are recognized as the quartet of the vulnerable (widows, orphans, immigrants and the poor)?
What is Justice?
What we learn when analyzing the character of God throughout the Bible is that God has a heart for justice. (Psalms 11:7) At the core, justice means the exercise of power. To say that God is a God of justice means that He is a God who cares and is concerned about the proper exercise of power and authority. God desires that the relationships between people (elements of power and authority) be based on his high moral standards. When this happens justice occurs.
Why the poor?
God desires justice because he loves the world he created, (John 3:16) which includes those who endure under the evilness of others. This is also why God identifies so closely with the poor. The poor and vulnerable are most often the victims of injustice in our society. With a world system that is slanted towards those with access to resources, power and wealth the downtrodden are easily overlooked. It stands to reason that injustice is easier to perform against people without the money or social status to defend themselves. Thus, they undoubtedly become prey and are found without a defender or voice.
Does God have a bias for the poor? It could be argued that he does. He is not merely “concerned” about them, but rather passionate about seeing them defended against the injustices of an evil world. He speaks on their behalf because of his overwhelming love and compassion for what is right. He is the father of the fatherless because he is a just, holy and righteous God.
“But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” Amos 5:24* Keller, Tim. (2010) Generous Justice. London, England: Penguin Books. Image courtesy of Dennis Dalton / Flickr.com