Becoming a friend to the poor requires a recognition of the ways that Jesus invited us to sit with Him and be elevated with Him, even though we could never deserve it.
Throughout the story of the Bible, it is apparent that God has a heart for the poor. In many of the laws given to Israel, the words of the prophets, and throughout Jesus’s ministry, we see that God loves the poor. Because of God’s love for the poor, the Church is called to love the poor. As the Church goes on mission and we make disciples, we are called to love the poor. However, we struggle to befriend the poor. How are we called to love the poor?
How God Revealed More of His Heart for Me
At the beginning of our relationship, my husband, Schuyler, told me stories about a friend he had made at our church. Schuyler told me great stories about his friend, but he would conclude his affirmations by saying, “No one sees him. He sits in the back by himself. And no one really talks to him.” The ways his friend was not included by others crushed my husband. Schuyler was deeply discouraged by the ways that his friend was on the outside. After a few weeks, I finally got the chance to meet our friend and I too quickly noticed the ways that our friend was in deep need. He has a variety of health problems, causing him to be in a wheelchair for life, and he is materially poor. I recognized how easy it is for Schuyler and I to only see the ways our friend was needy. However, as we continued in our relationship, we spent a lot of time with our friend. We invited him into everyday things and prayed for his salvation. This friend walked with us in our dating season, laughing with us about everyday romance and encouraged us on the days when dating was difficult. Being with him caused us to long for our friend to know Jesus and become our brother in Christ. The longer we were with him, the more we see the ways he displayed God’s unique image. We see him as a person whom God created and loves.
After we got engaged, Schuyler and I prayed about who we wanted to sit at the head table with us at our wedding reception. And we knew our friend had to sit with us. He had walked with us throughout the past year, learning and growing alongside us. So, we invited him to sit with us. He sat among the closest people to us. After we returned from our honeymoon, we had many people affirm us, for the decision to have our friend sit with us at the head table. Some people were even shocked by our choice. As the affirmations came to us, I thought, “Why should the Church be shocked about this? Wasn’t Jesus a friend to the poor? Didn’t He eat with the poor?”
Cannot Repay Us
In Luke 14:7-14, Jesus tells some parables about a party. He first talks about the importance of being humble, sitting at the lowest place so that the host may exalt us at the proper time. Then, Jesus continues saying that we are to invite and honor the poor, crippled, lame, and blind, knowing that they cannot repay us.
Think about these parables. Is it not easy to distill this passage into a list of how the poor should be treated? But Jesus is saying something deeper here. Before His practical applications, He gives a principle in verses 7-11. I believe Jesus teaches that it is only when we recognize the ways that we do not deserve to be honored that we will recognize our deep need; and it is in our deep need that we will be a people who are truly friends to the poor. To Jesus, humility looks like honoring the poor in recognition of the ways that we ourselves do not deserve the honor we were given.
He Became Poor
In our society, we are quick to assume that honor and elevation has to do with our own power, money, and status. James talks about this in his letter. He claims that we often elevate and bring honor to the people who are either in power or who are like us (James 2). However, the Gospel says that only One deserves honor and elevation. Only One deserves the best, and that One gave Himself up for us. Jesus came and emptied Himself out. He became poor, lowering Himself to become a human like us (Philippians 2). Why? Jesus saw the ways that all humans are poor. We all are impoverished because of the brokenness we cause and experience. Our relationship with God is broken and we are in deep need of it being restored. Our relationship with others is broken, we hurt one another, and we need relationships with others to be right again. We ALL are in deep need. We ALL are impoverished. We ALL deserve the lowest position. This is what Jesus is getting at in Luke, why He tells us to take up the lowest seat. Biblically, elevation comes from the One who was humble enough to take what we deserved, so that we could be given all that He deserved. When we were His enemies, when we rejected Him, He humbled Himself so that we might one day know the love of the Father (Ephesians 2). The only true honor, elevation, and status that we have comes from the One who deserved it the most. It is only because of the work of Jesus that we would ever have anything higher than the lowest position. It is only through His work that we can be lifted up.
In the past few months, our Missional Community prayerfully decided to work together to be family to our friend. Since then, our friend has had a group of people to celebrate holidays with, go to movies with, and play video games with. We have recently begun going through the Story of God with our friend. As we have continued in relationship with him, we have come to recognize our deep own need and poverty. We need Jesus desperately. We are impoverished. We deserve the lowest position. We never deserved the affections of the Father. It is on the days we remember our deep need, we can love our friend. It is through recognizing our deep need that we can pray and hope that the Gospel will be enough to make our friend whole. It is in the recognition that we need Jesus to help us and that we could never deserve to be elevated, that we hope that our friend will be elevated through knowing the grace, mercy, and love of the Father.
Becoming a friend to the poor requires a recognition of the ways that Jesus invited us to sit with Him and be elevated with Him, even though we could never deserve it. It is through this prayer that God makes us humble, whole, and right with Him again that we can love as He loves.
How does your deep need for Jesus motivate you to love those in need?
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