Today I went into London to meet a friend for lunch.
I was early and so went for a walk around the station. Turns out the area around London Bridge isn’t that interesting. I was actually hunting for a good pub to eat at. On my little exploration I passed two homeless gentlemen begging on the streets. Sadly I had no cash on me to give them but made a note to donate to a homeless charity later.
But the homeless leave me with a problem.
In a wonderfully developed country like the one I currently live in, why are there still thousands of people who don’t live as most do?
I’ve heard many reasons for this. Some say they are work-shy, addicts and are victims of their own folly. Others point out the flaws in the economic systems of this world, the reason for suffering lies in the ways this world works.
The problem I have with both of these views is that the face of the homeless man is forgotten. Either he becomes a despised rat or an anonymous statistic to which we all feel a pang of guilt before buying our next cup of designer coffee.
Not that I’m against designer coffee, honest.
Did you know that the Bible talks about the poor a lot?
The Torah, more specifically the book known as ‘Exodus’ in english is the foundational document of God’s people. Amongst other things, it says this concerning the poor:
25 “If you lend money to any of my people with you who is poor, you shall not be like a moneylender to him, and you shall not exact interest from him. 26 If ever you take your neighbor’s cloak in pledge, you shall return it to him before the sun goes down, 27for that is his only covering, and it is his cloak for his body; in what else shall he sleep? And if he cries to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate. (Exodus 22:25-27)
6 “You shall not pervert the justice due to your poor in his lawsuit. 7 Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent and righteous, for I will not acquit the wicked. 8 And you shall take no bribe, for a bribe blinds the clear-sighted and subvert the cause of those who are in the right. (Exodus 23:6-8)
Do these words terrify you?
What if the 1 billion people who live in what we call slums?
What if a sixth of the world cried out to a God who has compassion on them?
Surly he will fight their cause. I hope I will join him.
To follow Christ is to become a child of God, that is the God who promised compassion to the poor. It means doing life his way. It seems in the foundational document of that way, the poor are to be given voice and fought for.
I recognise that I’m seriously inadequate for that. ill-equipped at best, ignorant or worse.
Yet for now at least I want to hear the voices God listens to.
I wonder where that will take me.