We met the young man when he was caught rifling through men’s lockers at the local gym. My wife, Emalie, was visiting the Y when employees brought him to the front desk. A retired inner-city teacher who never met a troubled youth she didn’t embrace, Emalie rescued him and drove him to the shelter where he and his mother and younger brother were staying.
We didn’t know much about him—we couldn’t even drive him to the door of the shelter because the family’s whereabouts were secret. We learned that he and his mother had substance abuse issues.
In the next few weeks, the young man became a regular at our house. He was short on education but, with guidance from Emalie, soon showed us real-world fix-it skills and an enthusiasm for hard work. We paid him for his work, and he helped us with tasks needing to be done.
Unexpectedly, he showed us one way his life differed from ours when Emalie stopped to fill the car with gas. After she had swiped her credit card and put the pump on automatic, she got back in the van. The young man watched the pump and began to stir when the dial neared $5.
“You want me to stop it?” he asked, preparing to get out of the vehicle.
“No, it’s okay.”
“Now?” At $10 he opened his door.
“No, I’m going to fill up.”
He sat in silence until the tank was full and the pump clicked off. Only then did Emalie realize that he was not used to riding with someone who could afford a full tank of gas.
“The rich and the poor have this in common: The LORD is the maker of them all.” Sometimes what we take for granted hides others from us.
O Creator, peel back our prejudices so that we see the divine in everyone. Amen.
It is sometimes an uncomfortable subject for many, but God does have ethical standards. The author of Proverbs declares that those who act unjustly, particularly if they oppress the poor, will provoke God’s judgment. The psalmist repeats the refrain that God blesses the righteous but is not pleased with those who choose a consistent lifestyle of rebellion against God. James challenges us practically on this point. Do we judge people by their wealth or status? This is not from God. True faith shows no partiality and prompts action. Jesus models this in Mark when he heals two Gentiles. Jews and Gentiles generally remained separate (an ancient form of racism), but Jesus did not discriminate based on their ethnicity. He cared only about their hearts.
Read Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23. How has God shown you that there is no difference between persons who are rich and persons who are poor? How does this affect your actions?
Read Psalm 125. When have you seen righteousness in someone the community (or the church) has labeled “wicked”?
Read James 2:1-17. How do your works support your faith? How does your faith in God move you to action on behalf of others?
Read Mark 7:24-37. God calls us to love all our neighbors. How can you be a good neighbor to those your community has excluded?
Respond by posting a prayer.