Word for the day by Christian Education Forum
CONSIDER THE POOR
Happy are those who consider the poor; the Lord delivers them in the day of trouble.
(Psalm 41:1)The Psalmist highlights a tradition that is deeply embedded in the social-ethic of Jewish tradition. While the NRSV translates the first verse as “Happy is the one who considers the poor,” the Hebrew suggests a reading that renders the meaning of the verse to be: Happy is the one who acts intelligently to the poor. Whether understood as Hokma (Hebrew) or sophia (Greek), to act intelligently has three distinct components: a.) Enlightenment; b.) Discernment; and c.) Action.
Enlightenment is spiritual intelligence rooted in Revelation: In the prophetic tradition of scripture, enlightenment is deeply rooted in a personal relationship with the Infinite. The Psalmist reflects on the nature of this commitment by pondering on the ethical implications of being in relationship with the Infinite. The answer is remarkably simple: recognizing that our commitment to the Infinite is manifested through our commitment to those who are made in the Infinite’s image. In other words, seeing others as the children of God.
Discernment is spiritual intelligence that enables us to deeply reflect on who are the children of God: While the Biblical tradition is clear that we are all made in the image of God, the Biblical tradition is also clear that there is a preferential option for those who are marginalized. The poor, or as the Psalmist notes in the Hebrew root “dal,” are those who are excluded from the mainstream. Standing in the deep prophetic tradition, necessitates that we engage in discerning who stands at the margins or who is excluded?
Action is spiritual intelligence that enables us to translate enlightenment and discernment into concrete action:
The Biblical imperative of “acting intelligently to the poor” is lived throughout the Prophetic tradition (Eg: Micah 6:8) and is exemplified through the life giving and enabling ministry of our Lord, Jesus. Our spiritual journey becomes more concrete when we engage the world based on the social ethic of the Bible. Action or praxis translates what we know to be true through revelation and discernment into tangible expressions of Christian ministry.
In this context, let us take the time to: Evaluate the contemporary social and economic conditions that we live in as well as the structures that are involved in creating those conditions. Are they life giving or life negating? If the contemporary social and economic conditions in which we live are life negating, what are some concrete steps that we can take as a community to “act intelligently” to those who are marginalized?
Prayer: God of Justice and Peace, Mold our consciences according to justice, And shape our hearts according to peace, That we may recognize the talents that you have given us - to secure the rights of the poor, the oppressed, the sick and the marginalized. God, we are Your children. Grant us the courage and strength to work for justice, And in this way, Live out our call to be peacemakers. (A prayer by Jane Deren.)
Rev. Manoj Zachariah, New Jersey