Responding to Poverty A Spiritual Path
Is not this the fast that I choose:
To loose the bonds of injustice,
To undo the thongs of the yoke,
To let the oppressed go free,
And to break every yoke.
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
And bring the homeless poor into your house;
When you see the naked, to cover them,
And not to hide yourself from your own kin?
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn
Isaiah 58: 6-8.
At the heart of our Christian ethical tradition is the call to care for the poor. Well, it’s more than just a call. It’s an imperative! This goes way back to our Jewish origins when the prophets were the conscience of Israel, and even before that time to the Holiness Code of the Book of Leviticus. The prophets of ancient Israel diagnosed, chastised and provided the remedy for society’s ills. Their special concern was to call Israel back, time after time, to faithfulness to the Covenant, that bond of love between God and the people. This faithfulness to God was centred in an ethical code, the observance of which would make them ‘God’s people’. It required hospitality for the stranger, utter honesty and fairness in dealing with people, taking care of the needy, the poor, the orphans and the widows, those who had no means of supporting themselves. In the ancient Kingdoms of Israel and Judah, the mark of a good king was that he was compassionate to the poor, to orphans and widows, and took good care of them. Unlike most of the surrounding cultures of the era the religion of the Israelites was what is called ethical monotheism – worship of the deity, sacrifice and ritual were empty and ‘displeasing’ to God without adherence to this ethical code, as we see in Isaiah’s words, above. It is held that this new social order of relationships of justice was responsible for the survival of Judaism as the religion of a relatively small group of people in the face of attack form surrounding nations. Israel was to be a ‘light to the nations’ and this social order was known as the Shalom vision – a world in which nothing less than God’s own righteousness and mercy, compassion and particular concern that the poor be treated well and given their share in the banquet of life, were embodied.
Ms Kerry McCullough
Dean of Mission