Because the so-called Religious Right is reluctant to listen to Jesus’ words; because the only Jesus who concerns them is a long-haired cracker with an AR-15, it has ironically enough fallen to the alleged “party of the Godless” – Democrats, to preach the Gospel to the Religious Right and the GOP.
It is a task we do not undertake lightly.
Because the Religious Right prefers cherry-picked and out of context Old Testament fire and brimstone, I thought, Heathen that I am, that I would take it upon myself to put together a handy list of Old Testament passages testifying to YHWH’s concern for the poor. This is far from a complete list, but it should get your started and perhaps provide fuel for further research.
Here’s the thing, fellow missionaries: from listening to conservatives you would get the idea that the entirety of the Bible is dedicated to condemning homosexuality, which in any case is a pathology of the 19th century CE and not the 19th century BCE. And besides, very little of the Bible, Old Testament or New, concerns itself with homosexuality.
Nearly the entirety of the Religious Right’s case rests on two passages from Leviticus:
- You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.” (Leviticus 18:22)
- “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.” (Leviticus 20:13)
And in the New Testament we find:
For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.(Romans 1:26-27)
Religious Right figures speak of Sodom and Gomorrah as further examples of God’s displeasure with the so-called “gay lifestyle” but in reality, Sodom’s sins had nothing to do with the dreaded “gay agenda.” The Bible itself tells us,
Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good. (Ezekiel 16:49-50)
Egads! Sodom’s sin was not in advancing the gay agenda but rather in disregarding the poor and needy!
Sound like any group you know?
Really, there isn’t much in the Bible condemning homosexuality. A few passages, a couple of minutes worth of reading. It is hardly the case, as the Religious Right pretends, that the entirety of the Christian Religion is dedicated to opposition to homosexuality (let alone abortion!).
But it is the undeniable case that the Bible abounds with concern for the poor. So without further ado, here is your handy list of poor-oriented Bible passages. Feel free to spread the Gospel with your godless Religious Right neighbors.
First a quick overview of Jesus on the subject, just to provide some context, since these are the passages studiously avoided by Republican politicians and their Religious Right puppet-masters like David Barton and Bryan Fischer and Tony Perkins and Ralph Reed, etc, etc.
Jesus roundly condemned the rich and heaped praise on the poor:
“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”
Looking at his disciples he said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.”
“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.”
Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.
1 John 3:17-18
If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.
From the guy many Christians believe was Jesus’ brother in the Epistle of James:
Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you.
And Paul is as concerned with the poor as Jesus, and no more welcoming of the rich:
1 Timothy 6:9
But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.
“In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'”
Conservatives will quote from Romans when it suits their needs but they will not cite this passage:
Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
Those little children on the border are God’s people. Almost to a man (and woman) the Republicans would turn them away.
2 Corinthians 9:6-13
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.
The Old Testament provides abundant evidence that when he wasn’t ordering the bellies of pregnant women to be cut open, or condemning them to sexual slavery, YHWH was greatly concerned with the plight of the poor:
“Because of the oppression of the weak and the groaning of the needy, I will now arise,” says the LORD. “Then I will protect them from those who malign them.”
“You rescue the poor from those too strong for them, the poor and needy from those who rob them.”
He will defend the afflicted among the people and save the children of the needy; he will crush the oppressor.
For he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help. He will take pity on the weak and the needy and save the needy from death. He will rescue them from oppression and violence, for precious is their blood in his sight.
Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.
He will respond to the prayer of the destitute; he will not despise their plea.
… for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.
For he stands at the right hand of the needy one, to save his life from those who condemn him.
He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap.
I know that the LORD secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy.
He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets prisoners free, the LORD gives sight to the blind, the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down, the LORD loves the righteous. The LORD watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.
Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act. Do not say to your neighbor, “Come back later; I’ll give it tomorrow” — when you now have it with you.
The LORD does not let the righteous go hungry but he thwarts the craving of the wicked.
One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.
From the fruit of their lips people are filled with good things, and the work of their hands brings them reward.
It is a sin to despise one’s neighbor, but blessed is the one who is kind to the needy.
Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.
Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward them for what they have done.
The generous will themselves be blessed, for they share their food with the poor.
He who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth and he who gives gifts to the rich — both come to poverty.
Those who give to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to them receive many curses.
If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them.
Rather, be openhanded and freely lend them whatever they need.
There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.
Similarly, Jesus said,
“You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”
Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.
Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless. What will you do on the day of reckoning, when disaster comes from afar? To whom will you run for help? Where will you leave your riches?
The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion — to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.
Compare to Jesus at,
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed.”
“He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?” declares the LORD.
“Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.”
“This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other.'”
He saves the needy from the sword in their mouth; he saves them from the clutches of the powerful. So the poor have hope, and injustice shuts its mouth.
It is clear that if it obsesses about anything, the Bible obsesses about the plight of the poor. The rich are condemned by Jesus yet exalted by the Religious Right and their pet Republicans. The poor are condemned by the Religious Right and their pet Republicans yet exalted by Jesus. These are facts. It is impossible to refute them and if the Bible is the Word of God, as Republicans insist, how can they deny it? But they do, every day.
What we find at the end of the day, in Jesus’ own words, is that the Republican Party and the Religious Right have become what the New Testament has Jesus condemn most, the alleged hypocrisy of the Pharisees:
Then the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You fools! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? So give for alms those things that are within; and see, everything will be clean for you. “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and herbs of all kinds, and neglect justice and the love of God.”
‘Nuff said, I think.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.