Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Ironic Sabbath Keeping

Is is just me, or does anyone else find it ironic that the only businesses that seem to be closed on the Sabbath are  liquor stores and porn shops?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Best Poet

I have often maintained that the best poet is he who prepares our daily bread…. He does his majestic and unpretentious work of kneading the dough, consigning it to the oven, baking it in golden colors, and handing us our daily bread as a duty of fellowship. And if the poet succeeds in achieving this simple consciousness, this too will be transformed into an immense activity, in a simple or complicate structure which constitutes the building of a community, the changing of the conditions which surround mankind, the handing over of mankind’s products: bread, truth, wine, dreams.  Pablo Neruda, from his 1971 Noble Lecture

Friday, October 30, 2009

I'm Bored With Christianity

My mood has been as tenebrous at the Memphis skies of late.  I can’t quite put my finger on why.  I enjoy my volunteer work as chaplain at a local hospital.  I enjoy the opportunities to preach at two local churches, albeit less so than when I first began.  I feel more genuinely in love with my wife than any time in our thirty-six years of marriage.  I am proud of my sons and love them and their families dearly.  Yet something is missing.  Something that should be…?  Something that used to be…?   I’m not sure.  But I think I’m just really bored with Christianity.

When I was a twenty-something Marxist working in the civil rights and anti-war movements of the 1960’s I felt more vital and alive than I have at any time since.  I was surrounded by people who were so committed to their work they were willing to be jailed (and often were) for doing it.  The “movement” was governed by participatory democracy, which essentially meant that those involved made the decisions.  No one had the “right” to vote on a decision if they were not going to be involved with the outcome of the decision.  There were no absentee ballots.  You had to be there.  Consequently, meetings were always very well attended.  No matter what the weather.  No matter what personal conflicts may have arisen. 

About a score of years after leaving the movement I was pastor of a suburban congregation in an affluent upper middle class community.  Like the average church in America, on any given Sunday forty to sixty percent of our congregation chose to sleep in, go to soccer or hockey practice, or engage in some other non-worship activity.  Leadership meetings were often cancelled due to lack of a quorum.  Yet all the real decisions were made by those who held the power positions, whether they attended church regularly or not.  Decisions were only made after weeks of arguing, debating, and posturing. Yet the final outcome rarely had anything to do with advancing the cause of Christ or serving the “least of these my brothers” (Matthew 25:40).

I guess I should have foreseen what was to come when I found myself without a job in 1970.  The small church I had been attending often enough that people knew me by name offered to pray for me.  Local Communist Party members offered to pay my rent and help me find a job.  I was not a member of that church.  Maybe they would have offered more if I had been.  But I never joined the Party either.  Yet they provided help when I so desperately needed it. 

When I was active in the civil rights and anti-war movements every meeting I attended was invigorating.  Yes we often argued until the wee hours of the morning about strategies and means, but we felt alive because we truly believed what we were doing and planning would ultimately have a positive impact on the community.

Today when I preach I feel like I am little more than a talking head who provides a degree of entertainment to those who had the energy to come to church that morning.  Oh, people are very gracious with their praise about my sermons, but I don’t see my efforts causing a change in people’s lives that leads them to an increased level of service to the least of Christ's brothers and sisters.

The infant mortality rate in many neighborhoods here in Memphis is higher than that in a number of third-world countries.   When I mention this to good Christian people, they come back with something like, “Well it’s the fault of the mothers.  If they weren’t so drugged out on crack they would take better care of their babies.”  Or, “There is no reason for that.  Why aren’t the mothers taking advantage of TennCare (Medicaid)?”  Even if that were all true, we’re talking about babies…babies dying of malnutrition, abuse and neglect…babies the Bible says are made in the image of God!

Last week the local newspaper carried a story about horrible abuse occurring at the local animal shelter.  A day or two later another story in that same paper mentioned that hundreds of people had called offering to adopt the abused and neglected dogs and cats as a result of reading the first story.

Last week the local newspaper carried yet another story about the high infant mortality rate in our community.  A day or two later I was in a meeting with about fifteen or twenty area pastors.  Not one of them mentioned getting calls from their parishioners asking what they as a church could do to help “the least of these” children. 

Starving, abused and neglected dogs and cats?  People will sacrifice time and money to make a difference in their lives.  Starving, abused and neglected children?  Even the Christians in our community don’t seem to give a shit. 

Now before you get all hot and bothered about my use of a four letter word let me ask you a question.  How hot and bothered did you get about the deaths of all those babies?  Yeah, I thought so. 

Like I said, I’m bored with Christianity.  I’m tired of playing church.  I don’t give a rat’s ass about church traditions that ignore Christ’s call to a discipleship of healing, reconciliation, justice, peace and mercy.  
Christ I pray, show me how you would use me.

Lord have mercy.

Christ have mercy.


Friday, October 23, 2009

The Christmas Carol You Will Never Hear At The Mall

His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.
    From Mary's Song, Luke 1:50-53 NIV

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Health Care Reform

For an excellent article on health care reform check out this article: http://blog.sojo.net/2009/10/16/who-sinned-that-this-child-was-born-uninsurable/

The National Association of Evangelicals' Statement on Immigration

Continuing the discussion of the last post; the biblical treatment of aliens in our land:

After nearly two years of scripture study and dialogue, on October 8th the National Association of Evangelicals publicly supported immigration reform for the first time. The resolution passed with no dissent from the 40 denominations that comprise the NAE.

Writing in his blog, God’s Politics, Jim Wallis observes:
You know the wind has shifted in Congress when moderate and conservative evangelical leaders testify before the U.S. Senate in support of an earned pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Such a hearing would not have taken place in the climate of the last legislative debate. I believe the NAE statement reflects a different tone in Washington and in the U.S. with respect to immigration reform. Church leaders who have been personally and privately supportive of immigrants and their struggles have now publicly declared that it is morally wrong to keep families apart, and that it is morally right to fix the broken system so that immigrants are treated with respect and mercy.

The NAE statement is below.
Immigration 2009

The significant increase in immigration and the growing stridency of the national debate on immigration compel the National Association of Evangelicals to speak boldly and biblically to this challenging topic. The complexity of immigration issues provides an opportunity to mine Scripture for guidance. A biblically informed position provides a strong platform for the NAE to make a contribution in the public square that will be explicitly Christian. Out of commitment to Scripture and knowledge of national immigration realities comes a distinct call to action. 
Biblical Foundations
Discussion of immigration and government immigration policy must begin with the truth that every human being is made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-28). Immigrants are made in the image of God and have supreme value with the potential to contribute greatly to society. Jesus exemplifies respect toward others who are different in his treatment of the Samaritans (Luke 10:30-37; John 4:1-42).

The Bible contains many accounts of God’s people who were forced to migrate due to hunger, war, or personal circumstances. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the families of his sons turned to Egypt in search of food. Joseph, Naomi, Ruth, Daniel and his friends, Ezekiel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther all lived in foreign lands. In the New Testament, Joseph and Mary fled with Jesus to escape Herod’s anger and became refugees in Egypt. Peter referred to the recipients of his first letter as “aliens” and “strangers,” perhaps suggesting that they were exiles within the Roman Empire. These examples from the Old and New Testaments reveal God’s hand in the movement of people and are illustrations of faith in God in difficult circumstances.

Migration was common in the ancient world. Outsiders were particularly vulnerable. They stood outside the kinship system that regulated the inheritance of property. They did not have extended family to care for them in case of need. The Law recognized their helplessness and stipulated measures that served as a safety net. The motivations behind this generous spirit were that the people of God were not to forget that they had been strangers in Egypt (Exodus 22:21; Leviticus 19:33-34) and that God loved the foreigner (Deuteronomy 10:18-19). The New Testament adds that all believers are spiritual sojourners on earth (Phil. 3:20; 1 Peter 2:11). Christians should show compassion and hospitality to outsiders (Rom. 12:13; Heb. 13:2).

The Bible does not offer a blueprint for modern legislation, but it can serve as a moral compass and shape the attitudes of those who believe in God. An appreciation of the pervasiveness of migration in the Bible must temper the tendency to limit discussions on immigration to Romans 13 and a simplistic defense of “the rule of law.” God has established the nations (Deut. 32:8; Acts 17:26), and their laws should be respected. Nevertheless, policies must be evaluated to reflect that immigrants are made in the image of God and demonstrate biblical grace to the foreigner.

National Realities
Immigration is a worldwide phenomenon. People migrate due to economic globalization, armed conflicts, and a desire to provide for their families. The United States of America is a country founded by immigrants, and its history has been characterized by waves of immigrants from different parts of the world. Immigrants will continue to be an essential part of who we are as a country.  Our response to immigration must include an understanding of this immigrant history and an awareness of the positive impact of multiple cultures on national life over the last 250 years. The challenge today is to determine how to maintain the integrity of national borders, address the situation with millions of undocumented immigrants, devise a realistic program to respond to labor needs, and manifest the humanitarian spirit that has characterized this country since its founding.

The problems related to immigration are many and complicated. In many instances the arrival of a large number of immigrants has compromised the border. Some communities now struggle with significant stress on infrastructures in education, health care, social services, and the legal system. At the same time, many jobs and industries rely on immigrant workers. Current quotas do not grant enough visas to meet these needs, nor does federal immigration law provide sufficient opportunities to others who also come seeking gainful employment. Many immigrants who obtain legal entry yearn to be reunited with families, but backlogs under family-based immigration law result in excessive periods of family separation.

Due to the limited number of visas, millions have entered the United States without proper documentation or have overstayed temporary visas.  While these actions violate existing laws, socioeconomic, political, and legal realities contribute to the problematic nature of immigration. Society has ignored the existence of an unauthorized work force due to the economic benefits of cheap immigrant labor. Without legal status and wary of reporting abuses, immigrants can be mistreated and underpaid by employers. Deportation of wage-earners has separated families and complicated the situation for many. Most undocumented immigrants desire to regularize their legal status, but avenues to assimilation and citizenship are blocked by local, state, and federal laws. This has generated an underground industry for false documentation and human smuggling.

These quandaries offer fresh opportunities for the church.  Immigrant communities offer a new, vibrant field for evangelism, church planting, and ministry. Denominations have launched efforts to bring the gospel to these newcomers, establish churches, and train leaders for immigrant believers. Millions of immigrants also come from Christian backgrounds. These brothers and sisters in Christ are revitalizing churches across the country and are planting churches and evangelizing. Their presence is a blessing of God. These spiritual realities remind evangelicals that an evaluation of recent immigration cannot be reduced to economics and national security issues.

Call to Action
Motivated by the desire to offer a constructive word for the country’s complicated immigration situation and guided by the Scripture, the National Association of Evangelicals calls for the reform of the immigration system. We believe that national immigration policy should be considerate of immigrants who are already here and who may arrive in the future and that its measures should promote national security and the general welfare in appropriate ways. Building upon biblical revelation concerning the migration of people and the values of justice and compassion championed in For the Health of the Nation: An Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility, we urge:

That immigrants be treated with respect and mercy by churches. Exemplary treatment of immigrants by Christians can serve as the moral basis to call for government attitudes and legislation to reflect the same virtues.

That the government develop structures and mechanisms that safeguard and monitor the national borders with efficiency and respect for human dignity.

That the government establish more functional legal mechanisms for the annual entry of a reasonable number of immigrant workers and families.

That the government recognize the central importance of the family in society by reconsidering the number and categories of visas available for family reunification, by dedicating more resources to reducing the backlog of cases in process, and by reevaluating the impact of deportation on families.

That the government establish a sound, equitable process toward earned legal status for currently undocumented immigrants, who desire to embrace the responsibilities and privileges that accompany citizenship.

That the government legislate fair labor and civil laws for all residing within the United States that reflect the best of this country’s heritage.

That immigration enforcement be conducted in ways that recognize the importance of due process of law, the sanctity of the human person, and the incomparable value of family.

“Blessed are the Courageous.” Christianity Today, April 3, 2006. http://www.christianitytoday.
. Vol. 50, April (Web-only) 2006.

Carroll R., M. Daniel. Christians at the Border: Immigration, the Bible and the Church. Baker Academic, 2008.

Galli, Mark. “Blessed is the Law - Up to a Point.” Christianity Today, April 7, 2006.
http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2006/aprilweb-only/114-53.0.html?start=1. Vol. 50, April (Web-only) 2006.

Soerens, Matthew and Jenny Hwang. Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion & Truth in the Immigration Debate. InterVarsity, 2009.

NAE Resolutions on Immigration:
Compassion for Immigrants and Refugees 1995
Immigration 2006

National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference 

World Relief 

Resolutions on immigration by NAE member denominations:
Evangelical Free Church of America 
Vineyard Church
Wesleyan Church 

A list of denominational, organizational and individual endorsements can be found here.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Alien Love

I received several comments about my recent post.  Generally they went something like, “Surely those verses about aliens don’t refer to illegal aliens who broke to law to get into our country.” I believe they do.

Loving the alien is a clear calling for the follower of Christ. The author of Hebrews in chapter 13 verse 2 tells us, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby ‘some have entertained angels unawares.’” In Paul’s list of marks of the true Christian in Romans chapter 12, we are told in verse 13 to “seek to show hospitality.” The word translated as hospitality both in the Hebrews and Romans passages comes from the Greek word philoxenia (φιλοξενία), which is literally the love of aliens. In English we have the word xenophobia—the fear of aliens—but we don’t have the word xenophilia, which might mean the love of aliens. 

Friends, hospitality is more than tea and cookies.  Starting at verse 10 in Romans 12, Paul lists the characteristics of a true Christian: “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality” (Rom 12:10-13 ESV).  Note that Paul’s list of marks of the true Christian opens with the easily recognized philadelphia in verse 10.  Paul instructs the listener to practice brotherly love—philadelphia—which all the more sets up the listener for the closing of that list where philoxenia—alien love—in verse 13 leaps off the page.  It screams out at me: Love the ALIEN!  THIS is Christian hospitality.  (With apologies to Rev. Steve Yamaguchi from whom I borrowed [stole] much of the above)

Thursday, October 8, 2009


(i.e. the fatherless, widows, orphans, etc.)

The verses following were gathered over the course of a few hours.  I probably missed several.  If you think of any that I missed, please let me know.  All citations, unless noted otherwise, are from the NIV. Unless otherwise noted, all words in italics are mine. 

Old Testament

Exo 22:21  Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt.

Exo 22:22-24  Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan.  If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry.  My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives with become widows and your children fatherless.

Exo 23:6  Do not deny justice to your poor people in their lawsuits.

Exo 23:9  Do not oppress an alien; you yourselves know how it feels to be aliens, because you were aliens in Egypt.

Lev 19:10  Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen.  Leave them for the poor and the alien.  I am the LORD your God.

Lev 19:33-34  When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him.   The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.

Lev 19:35-36  Do not use dishonest standards when measuring length, weight or quantity.  Use honest scales and honest weights, an honest ephah and an honest hin. I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt.  (I believe God is condemning all dishonest business practices here.  The banker who talks a poor working woman into a balloon mortgage she does not understand and cannot possible pay is just as guilty as the merchant using corrupt scales.)

Lev 23:22  When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest.  Leave them for the poor and the alien.  I am the LORD your God.

Lev 24:22   You are to have the same law for the alien and the native-born. I am the LORD your God.

Lev 25:35-38  If one of your countrymen becomes poor and is unable to support himself among you, help him as you would an alien or a temporary resident, so he can continue to live among you.  You must not lend him money at interest or sell him food for profit.  I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan and to be your God.

Deu 1:16b  Hear the disputes between your brothers and judge fairly, whether the case is between brother Israelites or between one of them and an alien.

Deu 10:17-19  For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no brides.  He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing.  And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt.

Deu 14:28-29  At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year’s produce and store it in your towns, so that the Levites (who have no allotment of inheritance of their own) and the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.

Deu 15:7-11  If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother.   Rather be openhanded and freely lend him whatever he needs.    Be careful not to harbor this wicked thought: “The seventh year, the year for canceling debts, is near,” so that you do not show ill will toward your needy brother and give him nothing. He may then appeal to the LORD against you, and you will be found guilty of sin.  Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to.   There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land. Do not take advantage of a hired man who is poor and needy, whether he is a brother Israelite or an alien living in one of your towns.

Deu 23:15-16  If a slave has taken refuge with you, do not hand him over to his master. Let him live among you wherever he likes and in whatever town he chooses.  Do not oppress him.  (I can’t help but wonder if this does not apply to “illegal aliens” who have entered our land fleeing economic servitude in their homeland.)

Deu 24:14-15  Do not take advantage of a hired man who is poor and needy, whether he is a brother Israelite or an alien living in one of your towns.  Pay him his wages each day before sunset, because he is poor and is counting on it.  Otherwise he may cry to the LORD against you, and you will be guilty of sin.

Deu 24:17-18  Do not deprive the alien or the fatherless of justice, or take the cloak of the widow as a pledge.  Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the LORD your God redeemed you from there.  That is why I command you to do this. 

Deu 24:19-22  When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it.  Leave it for the alien, the fatherless and the widow, so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.  When you beat the olives from your trees, do not go over the branches a second time.  Leave what remains for the alien, the fatherless and the widow.  When you harvest the grapes in your vineyard, do not go over the vines again.  Leave what remains for the alien, the fatherless and the widow.  Remember that you were slaves in Egypt.  That is why I command you to do this.  (Christians today should remember that before we were set free by the blood of Christ we were slaves to sin.  We should remember also that even now we are aliens in our land since our citizenship is in heaven.)

Deu 25:13-16 Do not have two differing weights in your bag--one heavy, one light. Do not have two differing measures in your house--one large, one small.  You must have accurate and honest weights and measures, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you. For the LORD your God detests anyone who does these things, anyone who deals dishonestly.  (I wonder how many corporate CEOs, and small business owners who fill their warranties, contracts, and rebate instructions with confusing legalese loopholes that allow them to renege on their promises are aware that the LORD their God detests them. I wonder how many of their pastors have had the courage to preach honestly on this passage.)

Deu 26:12-13  When you have finished setting aside a tenth of all your produce in the third year, the year of the tithe, you shall give it to the Levite, the alien, the fatherless and the widow, so that they may eat in your towns and be satisfied.  Then say to the LORD your God: “I have removed from my house the sacred portion and have given it to the Levite, the alien, the fatherless and the widow, according to all you commanded.  I have not turned aside from your commands nor have I forgotten any of them.”

Deu 27:19a  Cursed is the man who withholds justice from the alien, the fatherless or widow.

Psa 12:5   Because of the oppression of the weak and the groaning of the needy, I will now arise” says the Lord. “I will protect them from those who malign them.”

Psa 14:6  You evildoers frustrate the plans of the poor, but the LORD is their refuge.

Psa 35:10  My whole being will exclaim, “Who is like you, O LORD? You rescue the poor from those too strong for them, the poor and needy from those who rob them.”

Psa 37:14  The wicked draw the sword and bend the bow to bring down the poor and needy, to slay those whose ways are upright.

Psa 68:4-6  Sing to God, sing praise to his name, extol him who rides on the clouds—his name is the LORD —and rejoice before him.  A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.  God sets the lonely in families, he leads forth the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.

Psa 72:1-4  Endow the king with your justice, O God, the royal son with your righteousness. He will judge your people in righteousness, your afflicted ones with justice. The mountains will bring prosperity to the people, the hills the fruit of righteousness. He will defend the afflicted among the people and save the children of the needy; he will crush the oppressor.

Psa 82:3  Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed.

Psa 94:20-21 CEV  But you are opposed to dishonest lawmakers who gang up to murder innocent victims. (Hmmm… could this apply to our lawmakers who voted in lavish healthcare packages for themselves and their families but deny even basic coverage to the poor?)

Pro 14:21  He who despises his neighbor sins, but blessed is he who is kind to the needy.

Pro 14:31  He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.

Pro 17:5  He who mocks the poor shows contempt for their Maker; whoever gloats over disaster will not go unpunished.

Pro 19:17  He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward him for what he has done.

Pro 21:13  If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered.

Pro 22:9  A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor.

Pro 22:16  He who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth and he who gives gifts to the rich—both come to poverty.

Pro 22:22  Do not exploit the poor because they are poor and do not crush the needy in court, for the Lord will take up their case and will plunder those who plunder them.

Pro 28:3  A ruler who oppresses the poor is like a driving rain that leaves no crops.

Pro 28:27  He who gives to the poor will lack nothing, but he who closes his eyes to them receives many curses.

Pro 29:7  The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.

Pro 29:14  If a king judges the poor with fairness, his throne will always be secure.

Pro 31:9  Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”

Ecc 4:1  Again I looked and saw all the oppression that was taking place under the sun: I saw the tears of the oppressed-- and they have no comforter; power was on the side of their oppressors-- and they have no comforter.

Isa 1:17  Learn to do right!  Seek justice, encourage the oppressed.  Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.  (What happens when we fail to obey this command?  God tells us a few verses later: “…you will be devoured by the sword.  For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” Isa 1:20b)

Isa 3:14  The LORD enters into judgment against the elders and leaders of his people: “It is you who have ruined my vineyard; the plunder from the poor is in your houses.

Isa 3:15  What do you mean by crushing my people and grinding the faces of the poor?” declares the Lord, the LORD Almighty.

Isa 5:7-9 CEV  I am the LORD All-Powerful! Israel is the vineyard, and Judah is the garden I tended with care. I had hoped for honesty and for justice, but dishonesty and cries for mercy were all I found.  You are in for trouble! You take over house after house and field after field, until there is no room left for anyone else in all the land.   But the LORD All-Powerful has made this promise to me: Those large and beautiful homes will be left empty, with no one to take care of them.  (Amen! Come, Lord Jesus)

Isa 10:1-2  Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless.

Isa 14:30  The poorest of the poor will find pasture, and the needy will lie down in safety. But your root I will destroy by famine; it will slay your survivors.

Isa 32:7  The scoundrel’s methods are wicked, he makes up evil schemes to destroy the poor with lies, even when the plea of the needy is just.

Isa 58:5-7  Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself? Is it only for bowing one's head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD? "Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter-- when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? (Instead of fasting to get something for themselves, i.e. self-righteous proud piety, God wanted his people to give food to the hungry, bring outcast poor into their homes, and clothe those who did not have sufficient clothing. They were especially to do this for those unfortunate ones in their own families. Are we not also called to do the same today, and especially for those unfortunates who are brothers and sisters in Christ?)

Jer 5:26-29  Among my people are wicked men who lie in wait like men who snare birds and like those who set traps to catch men. Like cages full of birds, their houses are full of deceit; they have become rich and powerful and have grown fat and sleek. Their evil deeds have no limit; they do not plead the case of the fatherless to win it, they do not defend the rights of the poor. Should I not punish them for this?" declares the LORD. "Should I not avenge myself on such a nation as this?

Jer 7:5-8  If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, if you do not oppress the alien, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your forefathers forever and ever.  But look, you are trusting in deceptive words that are worthless.

Jer 9:23-25 This is what the LORD says: "Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight," declares the LORD.    "The days are coming," declares the LORD, "when I will punish all who are circumcised only in the flesh--

Jer 22:1-3 This is what the LORD says: "Go down to the palace of the king of Judah and proclaim this message there: "Hear the word of the LORD, O king of Judah, you who sit on David's throne--you, your officials and your people who come through these gates. This is what the LORD says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of his oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the alien, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place. (God is speaking here, through the prophet Jeremiah, to the secular king of Judah.  Will God not hold the secular rulers today to the same standard--especially those who claim to be Christian? Note that a few verses later a curse is pronounced on the king if he chooses to disobey this command.)

Jer 22:16  He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?” declares the LORD.

Eze 16:49  Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. (Now be honest, if you were asked what God considered to be the chief sin of Sodom, would your answer be "they did not help the poor and needy"? It makes you wonder what God would consider to be the worse sin in American.  Would it be the pervasiveness of hedonistic sex outside of the bonds of marriage; or, would it be that in the land of plenty we seemingly have no concern that the infant mortality rate among the poor in America is higher than that of many third world countries? )

Eze 22:6-7  See how each of the princes of Israel who are in you uses his power to shed blood.  In you they have treated father and mother with contempt; in you they have oppressed the alien and mistreated the fatherless and the widow. 

Eze 22:29  The people of the land practice extortion and commit robbery; they oppress the poor and needy and mistreat the alien, denying them justice.

Amos 2:6-7a  This is what the LORD says: “For three sins of Israel, even for four, I will not turn back my wrath.  They see the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals.  They trample on the heads of the poor as upon the dust of the ground and deny justice to the oppressed.

Amos 4:1-3  Hear this word, you cows of Bashan on Mount Samaria, you women who oppress the poor and crush the needy and say to your husbands, “bring us dome drinks!”  The Sovereign Lord has sworn by his holiness: “The time will surely come when you will be taken away with hooks, the last of you with fishhooks.  You will each go straight out through breaks in the wall, and you will be cast out toward Harmon,” declares the Lord.

Amos 5:11-12  You trample on the poor and force him to give you grain.  Therefore, though you have built stone mansions, you will not live in them; though you have planted lush vineyards, you will not drink their wine.  For I know how many are your offenses and how great your sins.  You oppress the righteous and take bribes and you deprive the poor of justice in the courts. 

Hab 2:8-10 Because you have plundered many nations, the peoples who are left will plunder you. For you have shed man's blood; you have destroyed lands and cities and everyone in them. Woe to him who builds his realm by unjust gain to set his nest on high, to escape the clutches of ruin! You have plotted the ruin of many peoples, shaming your own house and forfeiting your life.

Zec 7:9-10  This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another.  Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor.”

Mal 3:5  “So I will come near to you for judgment.  I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive aliens of justice, but do not fear me,” says the LORD Almighty.

New Testament

Matt 19:21-24 & Mark 10-21-23 Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. Then Jesus said to his disciples, "I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

Mat 23:23 Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices--mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law--justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.

Matt 25:31-46  "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger* and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' "Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger* and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger* and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.' "They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger* or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?' "He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.' "Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life." (* The Greek word xenon, from which we get the word xenophobia, translated as "stranger" here in the NIV, actually referred to someone outside your ethnic or cultural group. i.e., an alien or foreigner.)

Mark 12:38-40 & Luke 20:45-47  While all the people were listening, Jesus said to his disciples, “Beware of the teachers of the law.  They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets.   They devour widow’s houses and for a show make lengthy prayers.  Such men will be punished most severely.”  (J.D.M. Derrett comments: “Apparently they misused their responsibility as legal arbiters and betrayed the financial trust innocent widows placed in them.”  One wonders if Jesus’ curse here applies to church going mortgage lenders today who talked widows, single mothers and other poor people into loans they could not afford.)

Acts 2:44-45  All the believers were together and had everything in common.  Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.

Acts 4:32-35  All the believers were in one heart and mind.  No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had.  With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all.  There were no needy persons among them.  For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need. (Note that the comment Luke makes about the apostles’ ability to testify “with great power” is sandwiched between the verses reporting that all the believers shared what they had with those in need.  One wonders if there is a connection.  Could it be that if Christians today “shared everything they had” with their brothers and sisters in need our pastors and priests might preach and teach with this same power?!)

Acts 9:36  In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which, when translated, is Dorcas), who was always doing good and helping the poor.

Acts 10:1-4  At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment.  He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly.  One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision.  He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, “Cornelius!”  Cornelius stared at him in fear.  “What is it, Lord?” he asked.  The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God.” (I can’t think of a greater honor than for our prayers and gifts to the poor to be accepted as a memorial offering before God.)

Acts 20:35  (Paul is speaking) "In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'"

Rom 12:13  Share with God’s people who are in need.  Practice hospitality.

Rom 15:26-27  For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem.  They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them.  For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings.

2Co 1:3-4 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,  who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.

Gal 2:10 All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.

Gal 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Gal 5:13-14  You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbor as yourself."

Eph 4:28  He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.

1Th 5:14 And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.

1Ti 5:3 CEV Take care of any widow who is really in need.

Heb 13:3 Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.

Jas 1:9-11 CEV  Any of God's people who are poor should be glad that he thinks so highly of them. But any who are rich should be glad when God makes them humble. Rich people will disappear like wild flowers scorched by the burning heat of the sun. The flowers lose their blossoms, and their beauty is destroyed. That is how the rich will disappear, as they go about their business.

James 1:27  Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (Could James really be saying that “pure and faultless” religion has more to do with our treatment of the poor and the amount of time we spend watching trash on TV than with perfect attendance in church or Sunday school?  Shocking!)

James 2:1-4  My brother, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism.  Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in.  If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

James 2:5-10  Listen, my dear brothers:  Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?  But you have insulted the poor.  Is it not the rich who are exploiting you?  Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court?  Are they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of him to whom you belong?  If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right.  But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.  For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.  (James is saying here that when we commit the sin of discriminating against the poor or showing favoritism to the rich we are as guilty as if we had committed all the sins mentioned in all of the Scriptures.  Thus he who discriminates against the poor or shows favoritism to the rich is just as guilty as the adulterer, the murderer, the sexual pervert, the thief or the liar.)

Jas 5:1-6 Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you.

1John 3:17-18 If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.