In 2014, something called the Multidimensional Poverty helped researchers determine that there are 1.6 billion poor people on earth! When you read through Scripture, it soon becomes clear that God has always had a particular concern for the poor, the forgotten, and the vulnerable (Deuteronomy 10:18, 15:11). And when Jesus spoke His Sermon on the Mount, it’s not surprising that He first blesses the poor (Matthew 5:3). So if we’re to be about God’s business, shouldn’t we bless those who God blesses?
In 1865, President Abraham Lincoln said these words near the end of the US Civil War as part of his second inaugural speech: “Let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”
In great cities,” noted Nathaniel Hawthorne, “it is unfortunately the case, that the poor are compelled to be the neighbors and fellow-lodgers of the vicious.” Hawthorne was writing about the slums of early 19th-century London, but his observation is timeless. Those among us who lack money tend to congregate in neighborhoods marred by crime and human exploitation.
They say that justice is blind, but recent research suggests that justice likes to snack as well! In 2010, a team of researchers tracked the rulings of eight judges during 1,100 parole-board hearings over 10 months. Nearly 65 percent of the prisoners were granted parole during hearings held right after the judges had eaten breakfast. Over the next few hours, the chances of getting a favorable parole hearing plummeted. But the prisoners’ chances of parole increased to 65 percent again after the judges’ mid-morning snack or lunch.
Bob Goff traveled to a country where he witnessed extreme human rights violations. In response, he chose to live out the call of Isaiah 58:3 by seeking justice on behalf of the oppressed. Goff founded Restore International to “fight for freedom and human rights, working to improve educational opportunities and to be helpful to those in need of a voice and a friend.” For more than a decade, Restore has helped to free those in bonded labor and sex trafficking, along with other exploited men, women, and children in select troubled countries.
My conversation with the woman had turned from the care of our Maltese poodle to her ex-husband and her estranged mother. “I can’t forgive my mother; she abused me terribly. And my husband abandoned me when I was ill.” Although she longed to be free of the two people who had left her among the walking wounded, she couldn’t forgive them and so bitterness clung to her like a rotting stench—seeping through her pained words and weary eyes.
Which of these two questions causes you to squirm the most: Why do seemingly honorable people suffer? or Why do the people who do bad things prosper? I wrestle with both of them. For instance, it makes we wonder why people who strike unethical deals and cheat on their contracts seem to get away with their schemes and even prosper, while someone who is seeking to live for Jesus struggles to pay his or her bills.
In the midst of the rain and cold of an icy winter in 2014, more than 800 illegal shack-dwelling families were evicted from their homes along the southwest coast of South Africa. Although the eviction followed a high court order to prevent further land invasions and had come after many years of wrangling between land owners and the city council, the timing and the method of the eviction caused a public outcry. There appeared to be a lack of compassion shown by the leaders involved.
God has given me new things to treasure and value since I left the US for Uganda 6 years ago. Some of the interests and things that I truly enjoyed before moving to my new ministry have, to my surprise, been replaced. I haven’t even missed American football—my favorite sport! Nor have I missed many things that my birth country’s culture suggests are necessary for fulfillment, significance, and happiness.
In Mumbai, India, a boy named Lakhan lives with his elderly grandmother, Sakubai. Lakhan has cerebral palsy and is deaf. With no home or family to help care for him and Sakubai, they slept on the pavement behind a small bus stop. A published photo shows 9-year-old Lakhan tied to a pole—the only way his grandmother could ensure his safety when she went out to search for work. Sakubai explained her drastic action: “[Lakhan] is deaf, so he would not be able to hear the traffic coming. If he ran onto the road, he’d get killed.” Thankfully, a group that works with special-needs children heard the story, secured a room where both grandson and grandmother could live, and helped the grandmother obtain a job.
A little boy’s mother baked a batch of cookies and placed them in a cookie jar, instructing her son not to touch them until after dinner. Soon she heard the lid of the jar move, and she called out, “Son, what are you doing?” A meek voice called back, “My hand is in the cookie jar resisting temptation.” It’s funny to think of a person trying to resist temptation with their “hand in the cookie jar.” This is as much a challenge in our culture today, as it was for the Ephesians.
Recently I decided to renovate the living room of our old terrace house. I painted the ceiling and replaced the ugly and dated lights. I took down the faded curtains and put up roller blinds. I spent hours on the walls—sanding off flaking paint, filling the many dents and holes, resanding, then applying multiple coats of new paint. A cement slab in the corner was removed and new tiles were laid. The fireplace also needed to be replaced. Finally, I sanded back the skirting boards and repainted them with gloss. It was hard work, but I felt proud of the changes I saw each day.
After I moved to Africa, a couple living in the US contacted me and said, “We’d like to make a financial contribution to help you with your ministry in Uganda.” Because my job at the time didn’t require that I raise funds, I thanked them but declined their generous offer.
When I was hiking in a park with my grandfather, our trail lassoed a lake at the bottom of a valley. As we walked, several smaller paths broke away from the main trail. Each time we came to a fork in the road, my grandfather let me choose which way to go. I always picked the steepest, rockiest, most difficult choice. My grandfather sighed a few times, but he took on the most challenging path for my sake.