The Poor and Jesus Criteria for Authentic Christianity
Updated: Nov 3, 2019
No one who professes to follow Jesus Christ can exempt themselves from genuine concern for the poor. To be a faithful follower of Jesus involves an authentic commitment to social justice. Jesus makes it very clear that we are judged with respect to the way we treat and respond to the needs of the poor and oppressed in our midst. In Matthew 25:35-36, he lays out the criteria for avoiding God’s judgement in the parable of the sheep and the goats saying: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” Whenever we act in this way to a person in need, we do it as to Jesus. Now that’s a very sobering thought! Showing love to our neighbour, to those in need, and the poor is one of the touchstones of authentic Christianity.
The same criteria were at the heart of Jesus mission and central to his announcement of the kingdom of God. At the beginning of his mission, Jesus declared in the synagogue at Nazareth that:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”
This concern for the poor is deeply embedded in the Gospel’s and the traditions of the church. It is certainly not the invention of some left-wing ideologues, but fundamental to biblical Christianity. Hence we are called to hear the voice of the poor, break the bonds of injustice and oppression in every situation where injustice and oppression hold sway.