READ: 1 Kings 4-6, Psalm 100, Matthew 11, 2 Thessalonians 2
Jesus’ primary way of dignifying the poor was by preaching to them. Jesus looked beyond socio-economic status and treated every human equally. Jesus’ interaction with the poor is notable for what He did not do. He did not maintain a feeding program. He did not organize social institutions. He did not concentrate on the political or economic injustices of the day. Jesus dealt with sin and He found it in the poor as much as in the rich. Jesus had no priority on the poor. When we say that the ground at the foot of the cross is level, this means that the poor have no special salvific considerations.
Humanity has always been offended at the equality of humanity before God. There is a twisted sort of pride that presents the poor as specially advantaged before God. Neither God nor sin are any respecter of persons – and Jesus’ earthly ministry was devoted to one primary task: saving sinners. Jesus sent a message back to John, “the poor have the gospel preached to them and blessed is he who is not offended because of me” (Matt. 11:5-6). The hubris of the rich elevates the needs of the poor because it makes the rich feel superior and self-satisfied at being the solution. Jesus says the primary solution for poverty is to preach on sin and the Savior. The one advantage of the poor is recognition of need. The poor are not ashamed to admit they need help. The best thing we can do for the poor is to tell them about Jesus. Blessed is he or she who is not offended at Jesus’ priority on the eternal soul.
A prioritization on soul winning does not in any way delegitimize caring for people’s bodies and minds. Those who struggle with the language of priority when it comes to holism usually do not struggle with the concept of priority in other spheres of life. Does anyone resist the priority we have in our relationship with God over loved ones and friends? Prioritizing my walk with Jesus makes me a better husband, father, and friend. I love others best by loving Jesus first. The same principle applies to holism. We care for the totality of humanity’s needs best by prioritizing care for their souls. The insertion point is arbitrary (sometimes you bind up wounds before you open your mouth), but the priority on addressing sin in the heart and offering heaven as the eternal home remains.
Solomon’s kingdom [“…The people were eating and drinking and rejoicing….dwelling in safety, each man under his own vine and fig tree.” (1 Kings 4:20, 25)] prefigures life in the Kingdom of God. There is coming a day when this will be our eternal reality. It is fitting to work towards it now – for little glimpses of that glorious sin-free existence. Yet because of the indwelling sin resident in our hearts, we soberly realize that kingdom living can only fully be accomplished when Jesus comes. So we prioritize inviting people (rich and poor) into the kingdom. We preach the good news to the poor. That good news is centered on sin being removed and Jesus eternally gained, and it has the tremendous benefit of eventual peace, safety, provision, and rest.