Essay: "How does the way Jesus responded to/treated the poor compare with their self-perceptions and perceptions of God?"
Introduction Jesus, who grew up in Nazareth, was a carpenter until he began preaching at the age of 30 (Hill, 2003. p.104). Even though we know little about Jesus’ childhood and the events that took place before his years as a preacher and healer, people believe Jesus’ life was full of sensitivity towards neighbours, compassion and tenderness towards the poor and those who were sick and weak. This, as stated in Hill (2003. p.112) perhaps begun during his time living in close proximity with the community of Nazareth and having to share limited resources and live in such closeness with those who were outcast due to illness and weakness. Questions brought up by Hill (2003. p.112) ask: “Could it be in such an environment that Jesus learned compassion for the disabled and outcast? Could it be such situations that helped him discover his powers of healing and forgiveness?” These questions are not yet confirmed through research, but they’re closely related to this essay as we outline Jesus’ response to the less fortunate people of his day. We often refer to the poor as being those who lack basic survival needs such as food and clothing, which was true to Jesus’ time (“Poverty: The Poor”, n.d.). More commonly, people can either be spiritually poor, economically poor or in some cases both. Those who are economically poor are not, needless to say spiritually poor as well (“Poverty: The Poor”, n.d.). This essay focuses on the way Jesus responded to and treated the poor in comparison to how they are treated today and their perceptions of God. This focus will be achieved through readings and references to the bible where appropriate.
Jesus’ Response To The Poor Jesus had a special sense of mission to the underprivileged and the oppressed (Bennett Guess, n.d.). Repeatedly depicted in the biographies of Jesus, is him reaching out to the people who are at the base of the social pyramid (Bennett Guess, n.d.). This included poor people, tax collectors, women, Samaritans, prostitutes, children and lepers. An example as to how tax collectors and women were seen in the world of the day as stated in Loewe (1996, p.67) described a tax collector as human trash and undeserving of the company of good. Women similarly received great contempt as they were regarded as causes of uncleanliness and temptation (Loewe, 1996, p.67). The message they received from Jesus, however, was one significantly opposite in nature. They gained experiences of human acceptance through dining with Jesus and by his teachings them and sending them out as his disciples (Loewe, 1996, p.67). Also more directly related to women, he spoke publically with them. Those people who would not otherwise be seen as anything past their gender or job description are given options, but this was not done out of common friendliness. Like his miracles, as mentioned in Loewe (1996, p.67) it was a part of his ministry. Through Jesus’ offer of human acceptance he presented an indication of the reality represented as the coming of the kingdom, the kingdom of God (Loewe, 1996, p.67), which will be touched on again later in the essay. Jesus’ own passion and death in the Gospel of Mark illustrates how he responded to his own suffering and agony (Mark 14:32-42). He felt isolated and forsaken, as his closest friends could not stay awake during his hour of need. The same feelings, which accompanied those who were ill-treated during his time are the same feelings that are bestowed upon the world’s poor in the twenty first century.
Our Faith and Perception of God How can those who are less fortunate still have faith in God to bring good from their poverty? There are some passages throughout the biblical scriptures that appear to guarantee God’s shelter for the faithful and good (Bader-Saye, 2007. p. 29). An example of this is in