I’ve been rereading a biography of Dr. Paul Farmer (Mountains Beyond Mountains, Tracy Kidder), who is an anthropologist and physician with a passion for the world’s poor. It was a stunning read the first time, several months back; I picked it up again after finishing A Crime So Monstrous, which talks a good deal about Haiti, and remembering that Paul Farmer from that book I’d read awhile back worked in Haiti.
Farmer’s ideas on religion tend toward Catholic Liberation Theology, and his morality is basically outcome-based. Not exactly Biblical, black-and-white truth. His driving passion, his guiding rule, is bringing help to the poor, helpless, and oppressed. I imagine he would be all for mandatory wealth redistribution and welfare and… and and. And he has done much good for people left by everyone else in poverty and disease.
And yet, as I read, I am struck by his attitude. He loves people. He listens and is compassionate and seeks to do all he can for each individual patient he sees– whether in Boston, Haiti, Peru, Russia, or anywhere.
And I wonder. I don’t think I see the poor. I don’t think of them. Well, that’s not entirely true; I do, but in a far-off way. Not in terms of an imperative to do what I can for them. But have you ever done a word study on “the poor” in Scripture? I was amazed… you know, how you’re amazed that while you “knew” something you didn’t ever really see it… at what I found last night. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it has given me a lot to think about. One thing I know, it is evident that the poor, the needy, the oppressed, the helpless, have always been very near to the heart of God.
- Exo. 23:6, 11
- Deut. 15:4, 7-11
- Job 5:15-16; 29:15-16
- Ps. 69:33; 107; 109:31; 140:12; 72:2-4, 12-15; 82:3-4
- Prov. 14:31; 19:17; 21:13; 29:7
- Eze. 16:48-49
- Amos 5:12
- Matt 5:3; 19:21
- Mar. 10:21
- Luke 4:18-19; 14; 18:22
- Galatians 2:10
- James 2:5-6
- 2 Cor. 8-9
I’m beginning to wonder if the issue of “personal finances” in Scripture is not always very much connected to the issue of meeting the needs of the poor.
So what does all this mean for me, today, and in my decisions about the future?