Reading the Bible with the Poor
We need the poor.
This is a simple truth, but often forgotten or never discovered.
But it is a truth to which I am increasingly drawn.
We need to study the Scriptures with the poor because our life experiences inform our theology, and because we’ll never quite understand what a special place God has in his heart for the poor unless we hang with them. And we’re the ones who will be blessed.
My wife and I have been visiting a couple bilingual churches the past few weeks. In last Sunday’s Spanish service, the pastor preached about how hard life is ‘para nosotros inmigrantes’ (I was the only gringo in the room), especially those who are ‘sin papeles’ (without papers). “We” have to be so careful at work and in the stores and in our neighborhoods. We have to work long hard hours in the sun but we have to live in the shadows. We are foreigners in a foreign land.
But look at God’s promises in Juan 14:1-4: “No se angustien. Confíen en Dios, y confíen también en mí. En el hogar de mi Padre hay muchas viviendas; si no fuera así, ya se lo habría dicho a ustedes. Voy a prepararles un lugar. Y si me voy y se lo preparo, vendré para llevármelos conmigo. Así ustedes estarán donde yo esté. Ustedes ya conocen el camino para ir adonde yo voy.”
I’ve always thought it was cool that Jesus is preparing a room for me. But I’m also comfortable right here on earth because I’m wealthy. Imagine how much more profound that promise is to poor immigrants, who really are scratching and clawing to get by in a hostile world. Imagine that your Uncle Carlos went to work at a meat packing plant a few days before Christmas, but instead of coming home that night, was deported back to your dirt poor town in Mexico. Imagine what it must feel like to come to Los Estados Unidos and wash my toilets and clean my house and change my daughter’s diapers and roof my buildings – but then be told that you’re a filthy lawbreaker and that you should go back to where you came from.
Why is it that wealthy Christians don’t point out that we serve a savior who was an illegal immigrant? When Jesus was a baby, his parents illegally fled their country in order to escape a corrupt government (King Herod’s) and in search of a brighter future for their son. The theme of that story never caught my eye until I started hanging out with modern day economic refugees.
I told one of my immigrant friends that it seems like God is at work more in the immigrant community than in the middle class demographic of our country. He told me that this is because most immigrants are poor and that they therefore cling to God as their only hope.
These immigrants with whom we have been worshipping – they are humble, authentic people who pour their tears out before God and worship him from the heart. And last Sunday I came home with the distinct impression that I am not worthy of these people.
We need the poor so that we can catch a glimpse of the heart of God.
middle-aged gringo living in northeast denver
urban rookie with a lot to learn