“The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.” (Luke 4:18-19)
Christ says He is anointed by God to minister to ‘the poor,’ ‘the brokenhearted,’ ‘the captives,’ ‘the blind,’ and the ‘oppressed.’ Many Christians today are so influenced by the prosperity gospel that they cannot recognize that Jesus did not come to claim the affluent, the prosperous, the contented, those who have everything they want, the satisfied or those lacking nothing. Christ comes into the world because there are poor people, oppressed people, needy people, the downtrodden, the powerless, the meek and the hungry. These are the very people who bring Christ into the world, and so we owe them thanks, support, love and kindness as they bring Christ close to us. (See the Virgin Mary’s Song of Praise in Luke 1:46-55).
St John Chrysostom points out that it is poverty and need which motivates people to work. The idle rich aren’t the ones actually building homes or roads, or farming or crafting all the things we use in our daily lives. We all benefit from the needs of others because that is what encourages people to work. If everyone belonged to the idle rich (a dream perhaps of many Americans), Chrysostom points out nothing would get done and our society would collapse in filth and disrepair.
After all, were you to do away with poverty, you would do away with the whole fabric of life and would destroy our way of living: There would be no sailors, no steersman, no farmers, no builders, no weavers, no shoemakers, no architects, no metal workers, no leather workers, no bakers, no craftsman of any type; and with none of these available, all our life would disappear. As it is, you see, the pressure of poverty, like an excellent teacher, falls upon each of these and urges them to work, albeit unwillingly, whereas if all were destined to be rich, all would be destined to live in idleness, and thus everything would perish and be lost. (OLD TESTAMENT HOMILIES Vol 1, p 128)
It is the poor and needy who do most of the hard work around us – the backbreaking work we don’t want to have to do ourselves. They make our lifestyles possible and so instead of looking down on them or treating them as inferior humans, we should be giving them thanks and looking out for them. We need them in order for us to live the lifestyle to which we have grown accustomed. But we need them not only in this world, but by showing them love, they are the ones who will welcome us into the Kingdom of God as they will go in ahead of us. We will follow them and get into the kingdom because Christ will reward us and pay us back for everything we gave to them (the least of Christ’s brothers and sisters) in our lifetime.
St John the Almsgiver (d. 619AD) says:
Those whom you call poor and beggars, these I proclaim my masters and helpers. For they, and they alone, can really help us and bestow upon us the Kingdom of heaven. (THE ORTHODOX CHURCH, p 35)