God’s Heart for the Helpless

There are people God likes better than you. You don’t notice them and don’t know their names. They are faceless statistics, grim ideas. They may smell like mildew or Fritos or urea or pickles. They have no Klout score. They may live alone in a shoebox apartment or down a country lane, or they may drift from couch to couch to floor. They may sit in silence beside your son or daughter in civics class today and be absent forever starting tomorrow. They may fluff your pillow or fry your potatoes.

These are God’s favorites—not me, and not you.

When Jesus throws a party, you know who gets the VIP tickets? The sun-scorched woman with crusted, matted hair standing in the soup line. The one-legged vet muttering to himself in a back alley. The pimply, palsied kid in gym class who always gets picked on but never gets picked for the team. The stooped widow living on a pittance in a fourth-hand, singlewide trailer.

Now any good Southern Baptist and most evangelicals know about Henry Blackaby’s Experiencing God study and its basic formulation that “God invites us to join Him where He is already at work.” Determining where God is at work at this time may be, as Blackaby suggests, a nuanced matter of prayer, Bible reading, and the confirmation of personal experience. But if, as the truism goes, God’s Will does not contradict God’s Word, then determining where God is at work at all times requires consulting the clear and persistent themes revealed across the entire Bible.

The Bible is super-saturated with certain themes that we hopscotch around on Sunday mornings: exodus and exile, feasts and fasting, keeping the Sabbath and blessing the Land, God’s tabernacle and temple and kingdom. We don’t read or teach much about these things because Paul’s letters to the churches feel more directly applicable to us than the travels and travails of the ancient Israelites. Among our most egregious elisions of scripture is our willful ignorance about God’s heart for the helpless.

I cannot and you should not be able to read through the entirety of the Bible without hearing God’s heart valves lub-dubbing for the defenseless and forgotten. From Genesis through Revelation, God’s kettledrum heartbeat for the least, like the end of Poe’s “The Tell-tale Heart,” shall not be quieted: “It grew louder—louder—louder! And still the men chatted pleasantly, and smiled. Was it possible they heard not?”

In Matthew 19, Jesus interrupted his bodyguard-disciples: “Slow down, Rocky and the Thunder Twins! You think you’re doing me a favor by herding these toddlers away from me? You act like they’re interrupting some catered business meeting. Here’s the truth: these syrupy short-stacks aren’t interrupting anything; in fact, they’re the heirs to my Father’s vast fortune! If this is a business meeting, then they own the business.”

God’s favorites are, like little kids, dependent and defenseless. They are without resources and without recourse. They are often downtrodden, afflicted, and abandoned. They are the scriptural triumvirate of “the alien, the fatherless, and the widow.” They are “the least of my brethren.” They are the blind, the deaf, the mute, the lame, the lepers, the deformed, the disfigured, the crippled, the bleeding, the poor, the gaunt, the convicted, the infected, the contagious, the undocumented, the untouchable, the forgotten, the troubled, the discarded, the fostered, the outcast. They are needy, and they know it. They turn to Jesus for help, because he is their only hope. Thick wallets and thin waistlines are false insulation from our deep needs. Jesus would rather swoop to the rescue of the abject needy than plead with the well-to-do that they are undone.

If you are God’s friend, or if you aspire to be God’s friend, then your heart must beat to the rhythm of his heart. The beats sound like this:

LUB

He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing.

DUB

Cursed is the man who withholds justice from the alien, the fatherless or the widow.

LUB

Do not deprive the alien or the fatherless of justice, or take the cloak of the widow as a pledge.

DUB

But you, O God, do see trouble and grief; you consider it to take it in hand. The victim commits himself to you; you are the helper of the fatherless.

LUB

Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

DUB

The LORD watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.

LUB

Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.

DUB

Your silver has become dross, your choice wine is diluted with water. Your rulers are rebels, companions of thieves; they all love bribes and chase after gifts. They do not defend the cause of the fatherless; the widow’s case does not come before them.

LUB

Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless.

DUB

This is what the LORD says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of his oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the alien, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place.

LUB

“I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive aliens of justice, but do not fear me,” says the LORD Almighty.

DUB

The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel.

LUB

For he had healed many, so that those with diseases were pushing forward to touch him.

DUB

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

LUB

Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For he who is least among you all—he is the greatest.

DUB

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.

LUB-DUB. LUB-DUB…

About Ben Ponder, Editor-at-Large

Ben Ponder, PhD, is Editor-at-Large at Media Rostra. Ben has received decorative pieces of paper conferring upon him an unnamed set of “rights and privileges accorded thereto” from the University of Arkansas, Regent College, and Northwestern University (where he was a Presidential Fellow). He studied (in alphabetical order) architecture, classics, communication, history, political science, rhetoric, and theology. He is the author of American Independence: From Common Sense to the Declaration (“Sizzling.” – TMZ) and the co-editor of Making the Case: Advocacy and Judgment in Public Argument (“Six-pack abs-olutely great!” – US Weekly). Ben is currently an executive in the educational software industry. He and his organic wife, Amy, live with their four free-range kids in a farmhouse Ben designed and built. His personal site on the Interweb is benponder.com, and he can be reached on Twitter @ponderben.

Comments

  1. Great post, Ben Ponder!

    The Lord surely has disdain for the proud and haughty and loves the brokenhearted.

    None of us really do an adequate job of seeking out those on the margins of life, the unlovely, the brokenhearted…but our Lord does forgive us for that, and frees us, to try again and seek out life’s losers.

    And if we are really honest with ourselves, we can see how we fit in with that group that desperately needs a Savior, as well.

    Thanks.

    – theoldadam.com/