Paying Attention to the Poor

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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Oh, the joys of those who are kind to the poor! The LORD rescues them when they are in trouble.

Psalm 41:1

Yesterday I began reflecting on Psalm 41:1. Today I want to continue this reflection, because something in the language of this verse strikes me as worthy of further consideration.

The New Living Translation of Psalm 41:1 reads, “Oh, the joys of those who are kind to the poor! The LORD rescues them when they are in trouble.” Other recent translations use a version of “to consider” instead of “to be kind.” The ESV, for example, reads, “Blessed is the one who considers the poor!” In fact, this conveys more literally the sense of the underlying Hebrew verb, which means “to pay attention, to ponder” (sakhal in the Hiphil). This verb captures the idea of focusing one’s mind on something.

Perhaps one of the greatest needs among American Christians today is to pay attention to the poor. Those of us who live with manifold material blessings can easily fail to care for the poor because we simply don’t see them. But when, for example, we take seriously the fact that there are over two billion people in this world who are chronically malnourished, and that over six million children die each year from malnutrition and its implications, then we may find our hearts moved to action.

In my experience, those of us who live in the midst of financial flourishing are encouraged to care for the poor by spending time with them. For some people, this means helping in a feeding program on a regular basis. For others, a mission trip to an impoverished country fosters a permanent change in perspective. Being with the poor not only helps us to see our own life in a new perspective and to be grateful for our blessings, but also it allows God to fill our hearts with compassion and a transformative desire to be kind to the poor.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: What helps you pay attention to the poor? How does this attention lead to tangible action in your life?

PRAYER: Dear Lord, I would confess that it’s easy for me to forget the poor. When I was in grad school, or when I worked in Hollywood, I saw homeless people every day. But for many years now, I’ve lived in places where poverty is rare. I know this can limit my perspective. Forgive me, Lord, for my hardness of heart.

Help me to pay attention to the poor. May I spend time with the poor so that I might know them and their challenges. And may I look at this world with your eyes, seeing its poverty as well as its potential. Amen.