Blessed is the one who considers the poor!
In the day of trouble the LORD delivers him;
the LORD protects him and keeps him alive;
he is called blessed in the land;
you do not give him up to the will of his enemies.
The LORD sustains him on his sickbed;
in his illness you restore him to full health.
As for me, I said, “O LORD, be gracious to me;
heal me, for I have sinned against you!”
(Psalm 41:1-4 ESV)
You really don’t want to miss what is being said here. It took me three readings before I was able to sort out the “hes” and “whos” of this one. The opening statement of Psalm 41 says that a person who “considers” the poor is blessed.
What does it mean, to consider? I considered going hiking when I got up this morning, but it is -7 on the thermometer, and I’ve got some of the aches and pains that go with being 55 years old, so I didn’t go hiking. But I considered it. Does that mean that I will gain muscle and lose weight today for having considered taking a long walk?
Of course not. The only way a person benefits from exercise is to actually DO it.
The Ancients knew this. For a First Century Jew, to consider the poor meant to actually do something for them. Remember, this was a time when there were no organized social service agencies, no government programs, no checks to write that would absolve you from getting off your couch. If you lived in the First Century and considered the poor, you went to them and did something. Your own hand had to touch theirs.
This morning is a good day to consider the poor if you live in the Northeast. Yes, there are social service agencies. But there are poor people almost everywhere these days:
Do you know for sure if your neighbors have enough fuel for their furnace? Most of us could probably afford one extra delivery of fuel this winter. I know, it would “hurt.” You might have to eat pasta for a couple of weeks – though I doubt most of us would even feel the loss.
There’s a Somali refugee man I see almost every time I drive to the grocery store. He walks along US 4, I assume either going to work or the grocery store. I don’t need to go all the way to Lee for groceries today, but I think I will. If I see him, I need to stop and offer him a ride. Yes, I know. How do I know the man is honest? What if he took advantage of me?
Jama asked me yesterday if our son Tim and his wife Alice, who live in Boston, might know of anyone who needs boots or a winter coat. Yes, there are social service agencies. But how hard would it be for me to stop at Wal-Mart and buy someone a pair of boots and a coat? I even have the resource to drive to Boston to deliver them. Now that’s a terribly inefficient way to serve the poor, isn’t it? Wasn’t Jesus dying on the cross was a terribly inefficient way to love me?
Those are just a few ideas. I’ll bet if you ponder for a moment you can think of a ton more ways to consider the poor, even if it is utilizing one of those social service agencies.
The way the passage above ends is telling. We don’t gain from offering ourselves to the poor. Even if it is just an offer; even if all we get to do is call some agency and put our name out there; even if we have to get in line to serve dinner at the local soup kitchen, it still opens our eyes to our own sickness and need and causes us to cry out to God about our own sin. And that is gain enough.
At least consider it.