Jesus Was No Stranger to a Life of Poverty
Written by Elli Atchison and Molly Lorden
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.” Luke 6:20-21
Born in a cave to poor parents in the shepherding community of Bethlehem, Jesus was no stranger to a life of poverty. As an infant, his family fled to Egypt as refugees, trying to escape a genocide of the maniacal ruler, King Herod. Throughout his adult ministry, he had no home of his own. In a conversation with a would be follower, Jesus made his humble lifestyle clear: “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head” (Matt. 8:20). All his life, Jesus was reliant upon God to provide.
With Jesus’ background, how would he encounter people living in Gaza today? If Jesus walked through the streets, it would be apparent much of the territory still lies in rubble from the 2014 war. Controlled borders limit access to supplies desperately needed to rebuild. Many families are still displaced, living in crowded shelters like refugees in their own cities. Simple necessities like electricity and water are limited and largely unavailable. Feelings of isolation, sadness, and abandonment are abundant in the hearts of these impoverished people.
Children have few safe places to go and end up playing in the streets. I imagine Jesus pausing in his walk, sitting down in the dirt, and playing a game with these kids (Matt. 19:14). Perhaps the family of one of the children would invite him into their home for tea, as an expression of hospitality deeply rooted in their culture. As Jesus enters their humble home, he might see the extended family who lives there. He might sit next to a young, widowed mother, who has had to move in with her brother and his family.
I imagine Jesus beginning a conversation with this woman, encouraging her to share her story with him. She might hesitantly share about the daily struggles to provide for her children since her husband was killed. But, something about the kindness in Jesus’ eyes would show her that he really cared. And somehow, simply talking about her burdens with this gentle man would make them seem less heavy in her heart (Matt. 11:28).
The conversation might turn to the outside world. She shares her dream of taking her children and leaving the “prison” that Gaza has become. The woman would express her feelings of isolation and ask, “Does the world even care?”
I think Jesus would thoughtfully remind her of how precious she is to God. He would lovingly tell her that God does not forget even one sparrow, and she is worth so much more to God than they are (Luke 12:6). If God provides food for birds, how much more will God provide for her? “Don’t worry about what you will eat or what you will wear. Life is more than food and the body more than clothes” (Luke 12: 22-23). Jesus would reassure her that God has counted every hair on her head and knows every detail of her life (Luke 12:7).
I think Jesus would show her that even though her beautiful family might be poor in eyes of the world, they are rich in God’s eyes. Their earthly poverty requires a daily dependence on God that the wealthy people of the world think they do not need. Blessed are they who are poor, hungry, sad and rejected now; their reward will be in heaven (Luke 6:20-23). After sitting with this family, hearing their stories, and probably sharing a meal, Jesus would quietly depart from their home with a blessing of peace. While their physical, social and economic situations may not have been altered, they feel a sense of peace. They know that the God who provides, the God who liberates, this God made flesh, loves and cares for them, and is in some way working all things together for their good (Romans 8:28).
You see the world in a different way. Those who are needy for you are actually rich in the blessing of your presence. Be with the suffering people of Gaza. They feel forgotten by the world. Show your love by providing for all of their needs, day by day. And help the outside world to remember their plight and to show your kindness through acts of charity and love. Remind us that we are called to the task of caring for “the least of these,” in real and practical ways here and now.
In your holy name, Amen
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