I administer a small neighborhood page on Facebook and keep up with another neighborhood email list. I’ve found that in the pseudo-privacy of the internet, many people openly express their deep prejudices against others, especially against those who have few material possessions.
One discussion sprang up after someone posted a photo of a man and his dog. The man stood at the bottom of an exit ramp holding a will-work-for-food sign printed on a cardboard box top. His dog lay at his feet. People admired the dog, wondered if the man had stolen it, speculated about its health, and proposed to rescue it. Not one person suggested that they might help the man in his need.
In another discussion, people posted comments about a church parking lot that had become a gathering place for people experiencing homelessness. The talk was that the people were vagrants and drug users, and some called for the church to contact police. No one talked about going to the group, inquiring about their needs, and maybe even inviting them to church services.
On my Facebook page, a group began to fight the location of a dollar store on the edge of my neighborhood, where the store could serve a nearby community that lacked access to a food store. The arguments ranged from the quality of the groceries to the need for a quaint coffee shop. Finally, one commenter got to the real fear: A store for a poorer clientele would drive down property values.
The scriptures have a plain answer for this: “Those who are generous are blessed, for they share their bread with the poor. Do not rob the poor because they are poor, . . . for the LORD pleads their cause.”
O Source of all worth, lead us to act with the same compassion we receive from you. 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.
This season, Whitney R. Simpson has given us the gift we must open: a clear, accessible invitation to connect with the divine spark that is within us. This is the best present: being present for Jesus’ birth, God made human.”
Learn more about our newest Advent resource, Fully Human, Fully Divine here.