What would Jesus say about poverty? Quite a bit, actually.
I am not a biblical expert, but I think Jesus would have had more to say about helping the poor than about gay marriage. He would have had more to say about income inequality than sex education.
In Luke 14:12-14, Jesus said, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return, and repayment come to you. But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
There is a power in these words.
Like many others, I have been impressed by the new pope. I never thought I would hear the head of the Roman Catholic Church say, “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has a good will, who am I to judge?”
By putting a greater emphasis on poverty, Pope Francis has electrified the Catholic Church:
“A way has to be found to enable everyone to benefit from the fruits of the earth, and not simply to close the gap between the affluent and those who must be satisfied with the crumbs falling from the table, but above all to satisfy the demands of justice, fairness and respect for every human being.”
They are not just words. According to local church officials that I have talked to, the interior changes have been even greater. Pruning administrative deadwood. Asking for more input. Giving more power to officials in economically developing nations.
This new focus on poverty is also apparent in the conservative fundamentalist churches here in Sacramento. Bayside Church, Capital Christian Center and The Rock Church, to name just a few, all have a greater focus on poverty and service now than they did just a few years ago. At a Bayside of South Sacramento sermon I attended a few months before Pastor Sherwood Carthen’s passing, his voice boomed through the auditorium. He told us that it was time to stop judging our gay brothers and sisters. It was time to love all of God’s children. It was time to give back.
This same powerful message is being repeated at religious services throughout Sacramento. I am very excited about this new focus in the pews. But I would be even more excited to see religious organizations supporting government entities to combat poverty.
I believe Jesus would help at the food bank and support food-stamp programs. I believe Jesus would help build Habitat for Humanity homes and support low-income housing. I believe Jesus would give at the collection plate and demand that the rich pay their fair share of taxes. What do you think?