They were cold, it rained most of the night. The ground was damp and their boxes did little to protect them from the inclement weather. They were lucky, it was for only one night, but they learned a valuable lesson: poverty is a scourge on civil society. Each generation faces the difficulties of the poor, and politicians and religious people argue over how to remedy the situation. For all their attempts the poor are with us.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.”
When John the Baptist was in prison his faith floundered for a moment, and he questioned if his cousin was the Messiah. Jesus answered him,
"John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”
Jesus fulfilled what he promised, and continues to do so today. The church is his hands and feet and she is the instrument of his message. The gospel is still good news because it brings release to what keeps us captive.
There will always be poverty, illness, and oppression in our sinful world, but the body of Christ is called to advocate for the victims and help them out of their plight, as much as it is possible. Yet, Jesus knew that unless the affects of sin were destroyed the destruction of the flesh would continue. However, the body of Christ isn't to be only socially active, but purveyors of the message of the cross. The first without the second is futile, second without the first is hypocritical.
Poverty, however, is more than a financial state. There is poverty of the heart, poverty of emotion, and poverty of the soul. I know the poverty of emotion. It is the dark place my feelings take me when I feel overwhelmed with my own inadequacies, my personal failures. Nothing seems to soothe the raw feelings of helplessness and despair. Encouragement is but ash and cheerfulness a reminder that it is always better somewhere else. When these emotions hit me I am a captive closed away from any hope of escape.
There is good news. Jesus came to proclaim liberation, declare release, and provide freedom. Because of the good news I have hope laid up for me in heaven. The poverty in which I find myself is temporary. The struggle I face each day but momentary. Yes, there is release now, but I can't do it alone.
Saturday my wife encouraged me to go shopping with her (I sat in a comfortable chair and wrote while she went from store to store). She knew I needed to get out of my box. She also is encouraging me to go to a writer's conference. These are her practical ways to help burst me out of my box; to find meaning outside of my faulty view. The good news sets me free from an incorrect view of myself. I have been redeem and accept by a perfect God and savior. I don't have to care about what others think of me, and most of all I don't have to be held captive to my own view of myself.
It is a struggle. I have to pick up my cross daily, not to suffer for my sins, but to release them, because Jesus has already carried them for me. Hope comes through reading God's word, through corporate worship and prayer, and fellowship with the saints. Hope comes when I look outside of myself and help the poor in spirit and in body. I am thankful that God is my hope, and when the darkness begins to overwhelm he peeks into my box and bids me to come out into the light. I'm just saying.