You shall not pervert the justice due to your poor in their lawsuits. Exodus 23:6
There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus. Luke 16:19-20
I grew up watching Superman on a black and white TV. I remember being amazed at him flying through the air, wearing that magical cape and the leotard with the big “S” emblazoned on his chest. My uncle once made a Superman “S” that I pinned to my t shirt, and to that I added a safety-pinned towel as a makeshift cape, and an extra pair of underpants worn on the outside of my jeans!
Superman’s slogan, “Truth, justice, and American way,” was pretty much ingrained in my conscience. It was a given as far as I was concerned. I thought everyone subscribed to that ideal, and that it was readily available to anyone in America.
Sadly, however, that is not the case. Whether it is payday loans provided to poor people at exorbitantly usurious rates of interest, or day laborers being cheated out of their pay, the ability of the wealthiest of people having access to expensive attorneys who know how to game the system, or the super-wealthy hiding their ill gotten gains in offshore bank accounts, the world is full of injustice. Too often the poor and powerless are taken advantage of by the wealthy and strong.
From human-trafficking to illegal drug trade power prevails over innocent people. Add to that list the growing shame of abuse on the part of priests and Hollywood film moguls, and you have a clear picture of the kind of injustice that God despises. The prophet Micah says simply, “Do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.” – Micah 6:8
Mary, when she learned she was to bear the Savior sang:
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty. – Luke 1:51-53
These words hit close to home to me. I am a privileged person. Anyone living in the same zip code as I is likely richer than 95% of the people in the world. I make a conscious effort to be fair and just with all people. But I wonder. Do I ignore the poor man at my gate? It’s all too easy to do. Am I the “One eyed, one horned flying purple people eater?!?” This is not a silly question. Although I’ve never thought of that song as anything other than a silly verse, isn’t that just what the privileged and wealthy power-brokers all-too-easily do? I pray I do not. The end of that story is not a good one for the once-privileged man in purple.
God seems quite serious about justice and mercy for the poor. We tend conveniently to overlook that, or dismiss the poor as lazy and without ambition. If we are to reflect the character and nature of God – who receives repentant sinners, and who sent Jesus to seek and save the lost – we will consider how we might help the less fortunate rather than summarily dismissing them.