Jesus once said, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God” (Lk. 6.20). This is not a conditional challenge but a statement about the way things are. If the kingdom of God does belong to the poor, then we know something important about why Jesus prioritised them in his roving work. And because Jesus did prioritise the poor in what he did, so should we. That is why Serve Scotland exists.
Jesus’ preferential option for the poor in his actions and teachings is the culmination of centuries of emphasis upon the same. In the story of Ruth,for example, Naomi’s family friend Boaz ensures that the impoverished Ruth and herself are left enough sheaves from his fields after his reapers have collected the harvest (Ruth 2). It is interesting to note that Jesus belongs to the lineage of Boaz (Matt. 1.5). Sometimes virtue passes through the generations.
Boaz’s act of charity was unsurprising in some ways because God himself had made clear provision for the poor in the law he made for his people Israel: “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. You shall not strip your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the alien: I am the Lord your God” (Lev. 19.9-10). Boaz was just doing as any good Jew should do.
But God wanted his people to really feel for the disadvantaged and commanded them to respond in with compassion when, “If there is among you anyone in need, a member of your community in any of your towns within the land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted towards your needy neighbour” (Deut. 15.7).
If there is among you anyone in need, a member of your community in any of your towns within the land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted towards your needy neighbourDeut. 15.7
Later on the prophets brought God’s message of justice and concern for the poor to the door of his people, who were being neglectful of them: “The Lord enters into judgement with the elders and princes of his people: It is you who have devoured the vineyard; the spoil of the poor is in your houses. What do you mean by crushing my people, by grinding the face of the poor? says the Lord God of hosts” (Isa. 3.14-15). And many other prophets followed suit if God’s people fell foul of further injustice towards those in poverty. They didn’t hold back either, which shows just how passionately God is on the side of the poor.
So when Jesus came on the scene it was no big shock that the God of Israel in the person of Jesus announced that the kingdom of God, the new reign of God, belongs to the poor. His message has been consistent throughout the history of his people.
And in the early days of this new reign, the Holy Spirit was poured out abundantly at the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem after Jesus’ ascension. Some frustrated followers of Jesus brought the case to the twelve apostles that there were some widows who were being missed out on a daily distribution of food to those in poverty. So the apostles identified seven good men, full of the Holy Spirit, and with this issue beating in their hearts to sort the problem out. (Acts 6.1-6)
Serving the poor is at the heart of following Jesus.
We seek to continue this as an organisation because serving the poor is what we do.