Defending the Poor or Warring Against One Another?

As I checked my Twitter feed yesterday morning and saw the World Vision controversy, I couldn’t help but sigh, thinking, “Here we go again.”  Just like with the Chick-Fil-A and Phil Robertson ordeals, I found myself neck-deep in a sea of opinions.

But this time it was different.  This time the controversy involved hungry children in conditions my mind’s eye can’t comprehend. This meant something to me because for a year, God has been getting my attention in this area. He has uncomfortably prodded my fingers from the grip of my narrow, comfortable, middleclass viewpoint into seeking to see the ones overlooked by society, to see the ones whose pain is hidden from the well-to-do, and to become a voice for the voiceless, no matter how limited that voice is.

Like many, my first reaction was outrage as I read tweets like these:

“Apparently, there are Christians who would rather a child go hungry than a gay person be employed. This is wrong.”  –Rachel Held Evans

“I think I’m going to call World Vision tomorrow and ask to sponsor a child dropped by someone in the name of Christ.” –Andie Redwine

“Your stance on same sex marriage should have ZERO bearing on whether or not you serve the poor & the least of these. ZERO”  –Nish Weiseth

And if I had blogged yesterday, you would have read something completely different than what you’re about to read today.


This morning it was still dark when my alarm went off.  My husband didn’t have to be at work early, Drew is in Spring Break, and my body was unnaturally tired.  If any day had a license to sleep in, it was today. But something pulled me out of bed – the knowing that I desperately needed time with God after gasping for air in a sea of voices yesterday – including my own.

I’m currently reading in both Ephesians and Matthew. The Ephesians passage seemed coincidentally appropriate:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, (Ephesians 6:10-17)

Here’s what I took from this passage:

  1. Our struggle is not with flesh and blood, despite what it appears.
  2. Our defense starts with truth – and to defend truth, I must be in the Word of truth.
  3. Our only offensive part of the armor is the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, again another reminder of the importance of the Word.
  4. Our use of this sword is crucial.  It isn’t a weapon to bludgeon at our will but instead of let the Spirit guide so that it can be used to defeat the true evil – which again, is not flesh and blood.

Then I turned to Matthew to read the next passage in my journey through the book.  Can I pause to tell you, God knocks my socks off with things like this.

Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper,a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table. And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.” But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial. Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”  (Matthew 26:6-13)

We know from John 12 that it was Judas Iscariot who presented this argument on behalf of the poor. It seems reasonable enough, even compassionate.  But Jesus saw right through it, and John explains Judas’ real motives: “He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it.” (John 12:6)

Sometimes defending the poor can be a masquerade cleverly hiding true intent.

In the World Vision controversy, I believe it’s possible that in some cases, the cause of the poor is a masquerade for picking a fight with the fundamental, conservative viewpoint.  And truth be told, I don’t think it’s intentional.  We truly care for the children.  We’re truly outraged when we see things like this:

But we’re truly so sick of the rhetoric that comes out of the fundamentalist camp sometimes that if we can engage them in battle in the name of the poor, that’s a fight we head into guns-blazing because we can win.

Using the poor as a weapon in our battles is not okay.  And again, I don’t think it’s intentional.  I think it’s deception and a product of the struggle that’s not with flesh and blood.  (Seriously, when the church starts making progress to unity, all the enemy has to do is prompt a reporter to ask a well-known Christian conservative about sin and then sit back to watch the fallout. Truly, is anyone coming to faith in Christ while watching His children bicker?)

We need to constantly be checking our motives.  I need to be constantly checking my motives.

Jesus knew that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, and that wisdom comes from emptying ourselves – our motives, our biases, our preconceived ideas – at the feet of Jesus and waiting for him to fill us with his truth.  In the Matthew passage above, Jesus elevates listening to him even over providing for the poor.

Jesus knows that only from an outflow of this saturation in him can we most effectively and purely serve – and defend – the least of these.


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