READ: Proverbs 31
THINK: This chapter is best known for the epilogue to the book of Proverbs concerning The Wife of Noble Character. But something I find particularly interesting about it is that the description of the wife of noble character ties in to the part of the chapter that proceeds it. Verses 8-9 implore us to, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Then verse 20 says that the noble wife, “opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.”
This theme of caring for the poor and the oppressed, of standing with those who are marginalized and in need, is not just found in Proverbs 31. It is highlighted here. But it is also highlighted in over 20 different books of the Bible, time and time again. Clearly this is an issue that is close to God’s heart. And I am forced to wonder – and forced to ask myself – as we approach yet another 21st century American-style Christmas: how are we doing with caring for the poor? What kind of a job are we doing when it comes to our Biblical call to stand with and stand for the weakest and most vulnerable in our world?
One Sunday evening, William Booth – the man who had founded the Salvation Army over his concern for the least and the lost in Victorian London – was walking along with his son, Bramwell, who was then 12 or 13 years old. He shocked his son by taking him into an East London saloon! The place was crowded with men and women who bore the scars – emotional and physical – of a lifetime of hard knocks, crime, and addiction. Many of the patrons were missing teeth, and the stench of alcohol and tobacco was overwhelming. Booth looked down at his wide-eyed son and instructed him, “Look around you son. These are our people! These are the people I want you to live for and bring to Christ.” Bramwell Booth went on to dedicate his life to that very purpose, to those very people.
I find William Booth’s statement to be profoundly theological and incredibly challenging each time I remember this story. “These are our people.” They are ours. God has set them in front of us and called us to bring the glorious liberating truth of the gospel to them. He has called us to set them free from captivity and to feed them and to clothe them and to care for them and to love them. These are our people.
Christmas in America tends to be a time that is focused on either one of 2 things: getting things for ourselves or giving more to those around us who already have much. Neither really captures the vision of William Booth. Neither really takes seriously the words of Proverbs 31 – and so many other Bible passages. So the question that I want to leave you with this Christmas – it is no simple question and living out the answer will be no simple task – is this: who are these people in your life? Who are the least and the lost, the poor and the needy, the marginalized and the voiceless in your world – right in front of you – that you need to be radically exemplifying Christ to this Christmas?
PRAY: Pray that God would open your eyes to the people in your world whom he has called you to see as your people – the people he is calling you to live for and bring to Christ. Ask him to show you the ways and the places where he wants you to stand in solidarity with the poor and defend the defenseless and provide for the destitute. And then commit to doing it. And then thank him – profusely – for the awesome privilege it is to get the chance to be a part of what he is doing in our world!