Speak Up. Step Out.
“Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.” – Proverbs 31:8 MSG
There are far worse traits than apathy. When we get to the point that we just don’t care or refuse to be bothered by anyone or anything, we have lost our purpose for existence. God created us to do good works. “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (Ephesians 2:10 NLT). But before we can do good, we have to care. We have to be willing to make a difference. This is a repetitive theme in Proverbs. “Do not withhold good from those who deserve it when it’s in your power to help them. If you can help your neighbor now, don’t say, ‘Come back tomorrow, and then I’ll help you'” (Proverbs 3:27-28 NLT).
All men are made in the image of God. We have the ability to understand right from wrong. We are fully equipped to see injustice and acts of unrighteousness against those who can’t defend themselves. And those of us who are Christ followers should have a special affinity for the hopeless and helpless because it was “while we were yet sinners” (Romans 5:8) that Christ came and died for us. It was when we were in our most helpless and hopeless condition that the Son of God came to save us and give us new life.
God loves all men, but He has a special place in His heart for poor, the downtrodden, the innocent, and those who find themselves suffering injustice in the world. He commands us to care for widows and orphans. He demands that we give special attention to the poor and needy. Here in Proverbs we are reminded, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed” (Proverbs 31:8 NLT). We have a God-given responsibility to care for those who find themselves incapable of helping or providing for themselves. To ignore them is to ignore the very heart of God. In his letter, James reminds us that “pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you” (James 1:27 NLT). Isn’t it interesting that James lumps caring for orphans and widows together with refusal to be corrupted by the world? Why? Because the world we live in is antithetical to God and His ways. In our world the poor suffer in silence, the weak get run over, the helpless have no hope, and the needy receive no aid. They become the silent victims of injustice as the world looks on in apathy. But God calls us to speak up and step out. He expects us to do something about the poor in our midst. He wants us to use our voices and our hands to remedy the situation, not just notice it.
Once again, James gives us further insight into this issue. “What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, ‘Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well’ — but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless” (James 2:16-17 NLT). Awareness of need is useless without action to meet the need. Noticing poverty, but refusing to do anything about is not only cruel, it’s unrighteous. It’s unjust. But we are called to “ensure justice for those being crushed.” We need to speak up and step out on behalf of the poor and helpless. What will that look like for you today?
Father, this is a hard one for me. I confess that I am far more likely to say, “Have a good day, stay warn and eat well” than I am to do something about the poverty and need I see all around me. Too often I just assume that someone else will take care of it. Give me a special sensitivity to those I come into contact with today who fit into the category of poor and helpless. Let me look beyond just physical poverty and notice the spiritual poverty of those in my world. Let me step into the lives of those who are both physically and spiritually helpless and provide them with hope. Help me make a difference. Amen.
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men