The highest experience of well-being is joy. It is deep, exhilarating happiness independent of circumstance. It’s what the heavenly messenger said was coming to the earth in a poor man’s manger.
“I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.” -Luke 2:10b
Joy is sometimes depicted in the Bible as a calf released from it’s stall, kicking up it’s heels. We see it in the giddy exclamations of leaping lame, seeing blind men, hearing deaf, and in the shouts of the mute. An astonishing reversal, and amazing change-of-fortune is the stuff of this kind of joy!
Everyone likes a “rags-to-riches” story. It’s a theme of classic literature, a topic for many self-help books and motivational speakers, and the reason why people continue to buy lottery tickets. Regardless of political systems, it is an economic fact-of-life that every generation will have its poor.
Jesus said “The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want.”– Mark 14:7
Many efforts are mounted to eliminate poverty, and there is a great difference-of-opinion regarding how best to achieve this noble end. The Bible has a lot to say about being generous and helping the poor. Helping those less fortunate has always been seen as a sign of righteousness and personal character.
The Bible, however, contains many interesting “paradoxical” opposites that sometimes confound our understanding. By way of example, according to scripture we must win by surrendering, be humble to be exalted, live by dying and be first by being last. Jesus also said:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”(Matt. 5:3)
In this “The Sermon on the Mount” Jesus calls mourners happy, the hungry, full, the persecuted as rulers, and the poor as,… rich?
Inaugurating his ministry in His hometown, Jesus quoted Isaiah 61 and said about himself that he had come with a message of Good News—specifically for the brokenhearted, the captive, the mourners, the despairing,… and the poor.
When we have plenty and all is well, we may take our ease, luxuriate, lean on those resources, guard them warily and try to build them up. We can then become self-sufficient and have an exaggerated sense of our own importance, becoming out-of-touch with real need. We can close and harden our hearts to those who still experience it. Perhaps this is why Jesus said:
“it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.”(Matt. 19:23)
The poor, by contrast are under no such delusions wrought by “the deceitfulness of wealth” (Mt.13:22, Mk. 4:19)
Philip Yancey, in his book, The Jesus I Never Knew, said,
“…When the poor have the gospel preached to them, it sounds like good news and not like a threat or scolding. The poor can respond to the call of the gospel with a certain abandonment and uncomplicated totality because they have so little to lose and are ready for anything…”
In this wonderful season of Advent, we recognize our need and anticipate together the extravagant way God is meeting that need. Be blessed. Know that you are when you believe God and trust His promises. Joy to the World!