For there will never cease to be poor people in the land. Therefore I am commanding you, saying, “You must surely open your hand to your brother—to your needy and poor in your land.” (Deuteronomy 15:11 TLV)
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3 TLV)
One of the first lessons I learned in our marriage was that any problem that troubled either of us afflicted both of us. My initial assumption was that if my wife had an issue, the problem was hers. I could help if I chose to do so, but if it didn’t bother me, then it wasn’t a real problem. It was only after much argument, tears, and unfortunate words and actions that I got the message: if she is struggling, then I am struggling also. It didn’t matter if I felt no pain like she did, or whatever it might have been that had never risen above my threshold of notice. The reality was that it bothered her, and that my very lack of notice inflicted new wounds and rubbed salt in old ones. If left unchecked, that tendency on my part would have ripped our marriage asunder years ago. Then God intervened and knocked some sense into me, and we have been on much firmer ground for 33 years.
How does this relate to other relationships? It took the brutal death of an African American brother in Messiah to help me understand that. I know George Floyd had a criminal record, but he had a testimony of redemption and transformation in Yeshua. What happened to him should never happen to anyone. It’s what a totalitarian government does to freedom protestors in Hong Kong, not what officers of the peace should be doing to any human being in a free Christian nation.
A good friend helped me see the spiritual dimension to this tragedy. He, like George Floyd, is an African American brother in Christ (he is part of a traditional Christian denomination). We have had the joy of knowing him and his family for many years, so when this brother pleaded for his white Christian friends to say something, I could not be silent – especially when he shared how his godly, law-abiding family had suffered outrageous discrimination just because of their skin color.
If this were just a black-white thing, it would be bad enough, but it’s not. When one of my godly white friends refers to one of my godly Native friends as “that Indian,” I know it’s a much bigger problem. When my Orthodox Jewish friends are outraged at seeing in Christians, Messianic Jews, and Hebrew Roots believers the same attitudes that brought persecution to their ancestors in Medieval Europe, I know we haven’t yet arrived. No wonder we all remain in exile, with the poor still among us. We haven’t yet learned to obey our Creator with all our hearts – an obedience that somewhere includes viewing every human being as precious in His sight regardless of their color, national origin, doctrinal statements, political affiliation, or any other distinction.
The solution begins in individual hearts. I can’t fix other people, but I can try to fix myself – and I’ve found plenty in my heart that still needs attention. This is where we learn a new perspective on what our Lord meant when He said we would have the poor with us always. Maybe He wasn’t talking about people who are economically disadvantaged, but people who are so broken and humbled at the human condition that their inner being is empty of all pride and arrogance. Yeshua calls such people “poor in spirit,” and He says that the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to them.
I pray we all become poor in spirit, so that together we may celebrate the restoration of all things in the Kingdom.
May it be soon, and in our day.
Albert J. McCarn