God’s People and the Homeless: A Scriptural Guide

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“You shall not wrong an immigrant or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.
You shall not afflict any widow or orphan. If you afflict him at all, and if he does cry out to Me, I will surely hear his cry; and My anger will be kindled, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless.
If you lend money to My people, to the poor among you, you are not to act as a creditor to him; you shall not charge him interest. If you ever take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, you are to return it to him before the sun sets, for that is his only covering; it is his cloak for his body. What else shall he sleep in? And it shall come about that when he cries out to Me, I will hear him, for I am gracious.”
Exodus 22:21-27

The widows and orphans are those who have no ability to bring their matter to court because they had no social or legal standing, just as a felon or the very poor do not in our society, because they cannot sue. God especially sees the helpless in any society– the children, the mentally ill, the outcast, those who cannot or will not be listened to by society at large.  One of those groups today are the homeless.  Note that God takes very seriously those who use their privileged position to harm the helpless.  God’s judgment is reserved for the poverty pimps– those who take advantage of those who cannot strike back.

 

How blessed is he who makes plans for the poor; The LORD will deliver him in a day of trouble.
The LORD will protect him and keep him alive,
And he shall be called blessed upon the earth; And do not give him over to the desire of his enemies.
The LORD will sustain him upon his sickbed; In his illness, You restore him to health.
Psalm 41:1-3

Just as we do to others in need, the Lord will do to us in our time of need. The amount of mercy we show, that is the mercy we will receive. Many of the homeless are blessed by God because of their generosity to their friends. 

 

God takes His stand in His own congregation; He judges in the midst of the rulers.
How long will you judge unjustly And show partiality to the wicked? Selah.
Vindicate the weak and fatherless; Do justice to the afflicted and destitute.
Rescue the weak and needy; Deliver them out of the hand of the wicked.
They do not know nor do they understand; They walk about in darkness; All the foundations of the earth are shaken.
I said, “You are gods, And all of you are sons of the Most High. Nevertheless you will die like men And fall like any one of the princes.”
Arise, O God, judge the earth! For it is You who possesses all the nations.
Psalm 82

I think this is one of the most under-discussed passages in the Bible. The rulers of the world—whether spiritual or earthly or religious—will be destroyed unless they assist the poor as God commands them. Why did God judge Sodom?  Because they oppressed the poor.  Why does God destroy the Hitlers and Sadaams of this world?  Because they harm the helpless.  Every nation should take note– God cares how they treat the most needy under their care.  Some cities are on the edge of being judged, just for how they treat the homeless.

 

And turning His gaze toward His disciples, He began to say,
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.
Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. Be glad in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven. For in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets.
But woe to you who are rich, for you are receiving your comfort in full.
Woe to you who are well-fed now, for you shall be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.
Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for their fathers used to treat the false prophets in the same way.”
Luke 6:20-26

Jesus was saying this to his disciples—“You of my disciples who become poor, you will possess God’s kingdom… but you who remain rich, you will gain nothing.”  It isn’t the amount of wealth that we have, according to Jesus, but what we do with it.  If we use our meager resources for the needy and desperate, if we have struggled to endure with God and others have been attacking us for it, then we will gain all we need and more by God’s hand.  However, if we use our great resources for our own comfort, our own entertainment, to soothe our addled minds, then no matter how good of a disciple we are, God has no room for us in His kingdom.  Many of the craziest of the homeless are God’s people, while many of those safely in church leadership are out.

 

“Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day. And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores. Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony.
Luke 16:19-25

The rich man suffers because he refused to give.  The homeless man is rewarded because he suffered.

 

My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives? Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor man.
James 2:1-6

The church who honors the rich but does not honor the poor has broken Christ’s law.  The church who honors the poor honors the ones who live in faith.  Churches should stop trying to find ways to get more middle class people into seats.  They should start planting churches among the homeless, no matter how much money they lose.

 

And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.
I Corinthians 12:21-26

The church has the responsibility to give greater respect to those of the body who are less honored by the world, and those who are weaker.  The members of Christ who suffer should be assisted by those who do not.  How many churches seek to welcome the poor to their leadership groups?

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