Blue Coat School 8/10/03
I wonder how you'd answer this question: 'True or false - God has a bias towards the poor?'
I had to work on that question while I was at college training for the ministry. And before I started I had to admit my own bias. I'd been very influenced by the then-Bishop of Liverpool David Sheppard who believed so strongly that Jesus did have a bias to the poor that he even wrote a book by that title.
Jesus certainly had plenty of time for wealthier people. Many of his friends were among the better-off folks of his community, he ate at their homes, they supported his work. He wasn't predjudiced against them.
But he had a lot to say about wealth and poverty, far more than about any other issue - I once saw a speaker hold up a bible he'd cut up with scissors - he'd cut out every reference to money, wealth and poverty. It literally fell apart in his hands.
Jesus made it plain that there is a special place in God's heart for those we would call 'poor'. He spent a great deal of time with those people. He had plenty to say about those things.
He condemned those who build their wealth up while exploiting their workers, and those who lift up their hands in prayer while neglecting needy people around them
He challenged the religious people about their values, their friendships, their use of time and money. Asked them to do things with their money which go beyond even charity and generosity. Made them wonder if they'd got their place booked in heaven after all.
And he did a lot of this while he was eating. Once Jesus said, 'The next time you put on a dinner, don't just invite your friends and family and rich neighbors, the kind of people who will return the favor. Invite some people who never get invited out, the misfits from the wrong side of the tracks. You'll be - and experience - a blessing. They won't be able to return the favor, but the favor will be returned - oh, how it will be returned! - by God.' (Luke 14:12-14, The Message)
So many of the stories about Jesus take place around a meal table where the guests are a real mix of people - the well-off hosts and the people Jesus has dragged in off the streets. There's all sorts of odd conversations as lawyers talk to fishermen, as prostitutes chat with businessmen's wives, as burglars pour wine for bishops and as society's celebrities pass the salt to folk they'd normally pass by lying on the street.
For the poor people, sharing in those meals would have felt like heaven. For the rich people it could have felt very uncomfortable. Or it could have opened their eyes and helped them see life in new ways. Imagine a meal like that at your house, how strange and wonderful it could be.
There is a bias to the poor in all of this, but also a blessing for the rest of us if we open our eyes and hearts.