In today’s political arena, we hear — especially, though not exclusively, from the Christian and conservative right — a lot of talk about abuse of government programs by the disenfranchised of our nation. Yet, God repeatedly calls us to what He refers to as “true religion.” What is this true religion?
True religion, says God, is to help those who can not or do not — for whatever reason — help themselves. God specifically mentions orphans and widows, i.e. the vulnerable of our societies.
I want to look at these two groups of people in the time of the prophets: orphans, who truly can not help themselves and widows, who may actually be able to help themselves. An orphan is on her own; she needs total assistance. However, a widow may marry her dead husband’s brother, and so make her way in the world. The wife described in Proverbs is quite well-off; yet God calls us to help her when her husband passes.
Repeatedly, God calls us to establish justice, not to tax the poor, not to turn aside the needy. Those of us who have things have them because of God. Why do we cling to them as if they belong to us?
Recognize our place is not to judge the disenfranchised; our place is to assist them.
“because you trample on the poor
and you exact taxes of grain from him,
you have built houses of hewn stone,
but you shall not dwell in them;
you have planted pleasant vineyards,
but you shall not drink their wine.
12 For I know how many are your transgressions
and how great are your sins—
you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe,
and turn aside the needy in the gate.
13 Therefore he who is prudent will keep silent in such a time,
for it is an evil time. 14 Seek good, and not evil,
that you may live;
and so the LORD, the God of hosts, will be with you,
as you have said.
15 Hate evil, and love good,
and establish justice in the gate.” (Amos 5: 11-15)