Bible Society has released a Poverty and Justice Bible which highlights “more than 2,000 passages that reveal God’s sorrow over poverty and injustice, and His command to believers to act to eradicate them.” I think that’s awesome. I’d definitely want to get a copy soon.
Poverty and Justice are huge issues for me. When I became a Christian at around 16 years old or so, I started to devour Christian books. I read charismatic books. I read non-charismatic theological books. I read very widely. I went to many different churches and conferences. But somehow, I never felt much about poverty or injustice. The books I read and the churches and conferences I attended all didn’t talk about such issues. The stuff I read were mainly about one’s individual spiritual walk with God and so on. It was only about 5-6 years later that I started to read more about the world. And only then did I start to realize how much poverty and injustice there are in the world.
I think things have changed quite a bit in the past 5 years or so. Now people are much more aware about these issues. Talk about Climate Change and poverty in Africa is quite common nowadays – at least more so than before. And yet, we Christians in the developed world are still living extremely comfortable lives and not doing much to help the poor – at least not as much as we should be doing. In fact, over the years I’ve encountered so many more non-Christians than Christians who had a passion to help the poor and combat injustice. I think that’s extremely sad because the Bible definitely portrays the compassionate heart of God for the poor, marginalized and oppressed.
It’s interesting to note that Bible Society was inspired to develop this Bible after reading of how Rick Warren totally missed God’s heart for the poor in his study of the Bible. When I read Rick Warren sharing about how he only recently found God’s heart for the poor in the Christianity Today article Purpose Driven in Rwanda, I wasn’t one bit surprised that such a great church leader missed out on that for so long. It took a long time for me to realize that helping the poor is so central to God’s heart. And I know we all read the Bible with our own lenses and biases, no matter how much we claim to be objective. 20th century Church history, as I explain here, has always had that bias against helping the poor and that has influenced the church till now.
I think what Rick shared in the above article is so telling. Rick realized God’s heart for the poor only after writing his famous Purpose Driven Life book. He had gone to two seminaries, had a doctorate in theology and had pastored for decades. And yet throughout all that time, it never occurred to him how important it was for Christians to love and bless the poor:
I found those 2,000 verses on the poor. How did I miss that? I went to Bible college, two seminaries, and I got a doctorate. How did I miss God’s compassion for the poor? I was not seeing all the purposes of God. The church is the body of Christ. The hands and feet have been amputated and we’re just a big mouth, known more for what we’re against.