Jesus has so much to say regarding the poor, and has a deep love and even preference for them. First off, In Matthew 25, he boldly tells us we will be held accountable in how we treat them. In Luke 7: 22-23, He also tells us that the good news must be preached to the poor (emphasis mine).
Not long after we moved into Coopevega I encountered the local pack of drunk men who were always wandering the streets. Daniel seemed to be the ring leader. He was a known borracho (drunk) in our small town. “Don’t help him, we have all been burned by Daniel!” they would warn me as they saw me speaking with him. Daniel’s story was no different than most people with a drinking or drug problem. He had burned basically every bridge and opportunity he had. His family wouldn’t let him back inside their home cause he was always drunk or high, he couldn’t keep steady employment because employment is sparse here and he is often drinking.
I don’t know about you but I am tired of hearing from people other than Jesus about how I should treat people like Daniel. “Don’t give him anything; he doesn’t deserve it.” “Its best that you don’t feed him or else he will keep coming back into our neighborhood” or “You have better things to do than talk to drunk men.” Jesus never said these things about the poor. I think in our imaginations we believe that the poor Jesus is referring to are these perfect unfortunate humans who by some horrible twist of fate have become poor. But they happen to be as sweet as our grandmother and as sanitized as a new born baby in a hospital. That’s never the case. The poor are dirty, they often stink, and they are most times more than inconvenient. If we reach out to the poor they will drain us of our time, they will take advantage of our talents, and they will convince us to spend our money on them. And that’s OK. How else are we to embrace them as Jesus is calling us to do so?
One day when Daniel had been sober and reading his Bible for about a month he expressed to me how bad he wanted to sleep inside a house. He had been working hard and wanted to find a place to rent and he wanted to know if I would help him find a place. “For sure, Daniel! Anything for my brother.” Lacy and I even thought we would pay his first month’s rent. We live in an extremely small town so our options were very limited especially since he had burned just about every landlord in town. Our plan was for him to stay in my van and I would get out and ask each landlord if I could rent the place. I emphasized to Daniel how important it was for him to remain in the van at least while I got the conversation going. One by one each landlord seemed eager to rent to me. “Yes, the house is available, but how will your entire family fit into this small house?” and that’s when I would bring up my man Daniel. “Well you see I am renting the place for a dear friend of mine” I would say. “Oh, that’s so kind of you” they would respond. To which I would respond “Well let me go and get him, he’s in the van.” And out would pop Daniel with a smile like he was in some gameshow behind a curtain. Turns out our plan was a bit short sighted as one by one each landlord turned us down. Daniel chuckled at our first denial, explaining to the lady how he had been sober for almost a month and that he had been reading his Bible and wanted to changed. He frowned at our next denial, and then was in tears by the third one. Real, grown man tears. He knew he had wasted his life and burned bridges. He knew people in town were afraid of him, but his heart still hurt.
We did it big for Daniel’s move in. He was so proud when his landlord handed him over the keys. He actually gave me a copy and told me this was our place. I almost teared up at his excitement and hospitality. I thought for about thirty seconds how insane it would have been to live with Daniel even for just a week, but declined his offer telling him that this was his place and he was to be responsible and care for the place like it was his own. Plus, my wife expected me to live with her. We took a picture with him holding the keys that I will forever cherish in my memory. Behind his second or third hand hooters t-shirt, and my Nike shoes was an enormous smile and sense of pride that I will always remember. He had been given an opportunity. He had been treated like a human being, with dignity. It was a thing of beauty.