fbpx

Worship: Help the poor, heed the earth, welcome immigrants

Photo by Danny Fulgencio

There is a moral crisis in America, but it’s not the one we most often hear about from Christian talking heads. That moral crisis is hardly mentioned in the Bible, if at all. Rather, the Bible regularly returns to a few common themes that are critical to what it means to walk with God yet are nowhere to be found in most pulpits.

First, treatment of the poor. We should start by saying that “the poor” are “the impoverished.” That is, something was done to them. They have been marginalized – economically, politically, socially – by the system of power in which they live. But God, as the liberation theologians like to say, has “a preferential option for the poor.” There is always an attempt by God to mitigate against the effects of poverty. 

The Law sets aside the gleanings and the corners of fields for the poor and enshrines the Jubilee, an event every 50 years in which all debt is erased. The resounding critique of the Prophets is against the exploitation of the poor. 

Jesus’ ministry in Galilee was focused on providing for the mental, physical, and spiritual well-being of the poor. He explicitly asks the rich, young ruler to give everything to the poor. And if you want to know what it takes to get into heaven, you might find Matthew 25 a sobering read. Regardless of which political and economic philosophies you embrace, if you’re not working for the poor, you should read the Bible.

Second, the Earth. Understand that the authors of the Bible saw natural events as acts of God in deeper ways than your insurance company might contemplate. Their behavior and their environment are connected. We can laugh at how anti-scientific this is or we can recognize the deep truth that they knew, but we seem to have forgotten: the Earth responds to us. We can measure our commitment to God by observing the Earth.

In the Hebrew Scriptures, a common measure was the famous cedars of Lebanon. Unjust rulers, one after another, would tear them down to build monuments to themselves and to their gods. The Assyrian King Sennacherib mocks God by cutting down the cedars, but God destroys him. Instead, Judah will sow and reap, plant and eat, a proper relationship with the Earth restored. The Lorax would be proud.

In the Christian Testament, Jesus can hardly be restrained from pastoral metaphors. Sheep and shepherds. Seeds and soil. Worry-free birds, content with God’s provision. Paul says that creation groans, pregnant with the children of God. If you’re not saving the Earth, you should read the Bible.

Finally, immigrants. The central mythology of the Hebrew people is that they were immigrants in Egypt, enslaved by Pharaoh, and rescued by God. The Law reminds them of this over and over, commanding them to treat foreigners as one of their own. Abraham and Sarah entertain strangers and discover that they were angels. Ruth was an immigrant fleeing drought. 

Ruth’s descendant Jesus is perhaps the most famous refugee in the Christian faith. His family flees genocide into Egypt.

The Epistles remind us that we who call ourselves Christians have no nationality on this earth; our citizenship is in heaven. We are “aliens and strangers” wherever we go. If you’re not welcoming to immigrants, you should read the Bible.

Other issues may or may not be covered in the Bible, but God regularly demonstrates care for the least among us and the creation in which we live. You don’t have to take my word for it. Just read the Bible. 

Scott Shirley is the pastor of Church in the Cliff. The Worship section is underwritten by Advocate Publishing and the neighborhood businesses and churches listed here. For information about helping support the Worship section, call 214.560.4202.
By |2019-06-25T11:51:35-05:00June 20th, 2019|All Columns, All Magazine Articles, Religion|Comments Off on Worship: Help the poor, heed the earth, welcome immigrants

About the Author: