The very idea of addressing our Lord like this would repulse anyone who truly believes in Him. But how many of us are doing this very thing by berating the poor and the needy with this cruel phrase!
People typically use the phrase “Get a job!” against the poor and needy to rebuke their alleged laziness and propose what they think is the solution to their problems. But Christians have also followed suit to this line of thinking. In using this verbal bludgeon against the less fortunate, they are testifying to the world that they have forgotten where they came from.
God sought to prevent this evil from happening in the days of Israel.
“If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren within any of thy gates in thy land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother: But thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth…Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land… And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in the land of Egypt, and the Lord thy God redeemed thee: therefore I command thee this thing to day.” (Deut. 15:7, 8, 11, 15).
According to the original Hebrew, to be poor is to be “depressed, in mind or circumstances.” Needy, in the text, refers to the “sense of want (especially in feeling)” and to destitution. Centuries of forced servitude (depressed in circumstances) had worn down the Israelites and they cried to their God in Heaven for deliverance (depressed in mind).
God heard their cries and redeemed them from their afflictions. He gave them the provisions they needed and the laws that would ensure they would always be taken care of. All He asked in return was for them to be obedient, remember where they came from, and redeem others as He redeemed them.
Every Christian that has ever lived and lives today can relate to this experience. Countless years of indulging sin put us in woeful circumstances that brought us to our knees. But Jesus redeemed us from our poverty and gave us the spiritual (His teachings and His peace) and earthly provisions we needed to bear and eventually overcome our difficult circumstances. All He asks us to do in return, by His Great Commission, is to pay it forward and bless others as He blessed us.
But we’re not doing this for our poor brothers. We’re hardening our grace-softened hearts against those who are depressed in mind and in circumstance, an utter contradiction to those who profess to have the Spirit of God.
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me…to bind up the brokenhearted… To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;” (Isa. 61:1, 3).
Jesus has a special place in His heart for the poor and needy. He Himself was raised by a single mother in Nazareth, a city we would call “the hood” (Jn. 1:45, 46) He struggled to provide for His (at least) six brothers and sisters. (Matt. 13:54, 55; Mk. 6:4). He relied on the provisions and lodgings of others throughout His ministry. (Lk. 8:1-3, 19:1-6; Jn. 4:1-7). He was cruelly treated and murdered, dying in the same way He was born; poor and destitute. (Matt. 27: 24-44; Lk. 11:14, 15; Jn. 8:39-41, 48 19:1-18).
Jesus identifies with this group so much, He taught people that whatever is done to them is done to Him (Matt. 25:31-46). Every time we harden our hearts against the poor and needy, berating them for what we think is their problem, we are telling Jesus Himself to “Get a job!”
We have exceptional means and ways to raise up the poor and needy in the faith before the coming of Jesus. But in the days before our Redeemer returns, many of us are hoarding these blessings for ourselves and telling those who need them to get a job! As if a job alone will do for them what Christ did for us! Will not these ungrateful persons receive the reward of the wicked servant at the coming of their Lord?
“The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 24:50, 51).
Those who would inherit the kingdom should remember where they came from and how God delivered them. They should remember their duty to the poor and the needy, not giving heed to those who abuse the charity of others for their own benefit. Nor should they allow past experiences to keep them from their duty to redeem the less fortunate as their Lord redeemed them. The Lord offers redemption for them just as much as He offers it to us. The means by which their lives can be transformed should not be held back from them because of our preconceived opinions.
Time is running out and those found not fulfilling their duty to the poor and the needy will find that they have robbed themselves from the blessings God has for the faithful on the day of His return. The kingdom of heaven belongs to them and only those who remembers Jesus’ promises to the afflicted will truly labor for they whom the world has forgotten.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”(Matt. 5:3, emphasis supplied).