We as followers of the Christ, are called to see and treat all people as equal. Sadly and sinfully, many who consider themselves Christian, do oppress the poor. We have an obligation to embrace all people; those of many economic situations, religious traditions, ages, abilities, educational backgrounds, jobs, cultural heritage and any other concerns that might cause one to separate “Us” from “Them.”
Most of us think of the “poor” as those with low incomes and who struggle to meet their day to day needs. Interestingly, many of those who are considered poor financially, are rich in spirit and grace. Rarely do we think of a CEO of a corporation, or a physician, or university professor as “poor.” Because of this, we miss opportunities to extend God’s love and blessings to many of the poor who live and work in our very midst. These “poor” do not look poor; they are fairly well dressed, have good looking cars, health insurance, eat out often, and memberships in clubs and other social groups. These are those who are poor in spirit. Perhaps they do not have a relationship with God. Possibly their marriage that they show their friends and neighbors, is really a living hell where they are not in a social environment. Perhaps they have doubts and fears about their ability to maintain their esteemed status.
Jesus didn’t separate the poor according reasons for their condition. I believe that the tax collector who was invited to share a meal with Jesus, was “poor.” Think of our feelings toward those who work for the IRS! I doubt that many of us call a local IRS office and invite several of the executives to share a meal. That isolation is cause of one to be “poor.”
Much of my ministry is with the poor. That ministry involves hospice care, pastoral ministry with the dying and their families and post death care of the body as well as comfort and support of family and friends. I am a perpetually vowed member of a religious order. My vows bring me not only close to God through the Christ, but also to the people of God and their suffering. I work with low income families in need of funeral service. Over two thousand years ago Jesus taught us to reach out to the poor in compassion and love. Centuries later, financially “poor” families continue to be looked down upon by many in funeral service because they cannot not pay the outrageous cost of even a simple funeral. Jesus has taught us that these families are like all others except in their financial struggles. How dare we marginalize them by providing the least desirable merchandise and services?
As Christians, we are taught to to embrace all persons without regard to state in life, finances, education, neighborhood, and any other of the many variables that often separate us. Jesus lets nothing separate us from his love and we are expected to do likewise.