Care of the Poor
Sep 30, 2019
Prov. 19:17. He who is gracious to a poor man lends to the LORD, and He will repay him for his good deed.
There is a strong implication within our culture of misinterpreting the biblical message through the lens of the “gospel of prosperity”. We are tempted to make God a “Santa Claus” who rewards good behaviors and punishes wrong doers. Thus as we are experiencing good things we tend to think God is blessing us and when things are going wrong we have a tendency to wonder why God is punishing us. Jesus is very clear in describing God as one who shines the sun on the good and the bad and allows the rain to fall on the just and the unjust. (Matt 5:45) When we make a Santa Claus out of God we can become very suspicious or uncomfortable with those who are suffering, especially the poor since we want to make sure that we do not “catch” their disease.
Proverbs sees the poor man as a wonderful opportunity. To be gracious to the poor man is to lend to God. Sirach writes: “Water extinguishes a blazing fire: so almsgiving atones for sin.” (Sirach 3:30) The poor person exists as an opportunity for any one of us to show in a real way our care not only for the person, but also for God.
In today’s Gospel Lazarus existed as an opportunity for the rich man day after day. When finally both men died, Lazarus receives comfort for all the suffering he endured while on earth. The rich man (who is not given a name) now lives in torment.
St. John Chrysostom in his homilies tells us: “If you cannot find Christ in the beggar at the church door you will not find him in the chalice” He also says: “Not to share our own wealth with the poor is theft from the poor and deprivation of their means of life; we do not possess our own wealth but theirs.”
This is not the way many of the Protestant preachers (and perhaps even a few Catholic priests) will teach, yet if you begin to examine the scriptures at all you will find that the care of the poor is central to the behavior God wants from us.