The poor are pushed off the path Job 24: 4a (NLT)
The other night I encountered a man at my church who told me about his plight; to which I’m not going to elaborate any further because I respect his dignity as a human being. But my encounter got me to thinking about this post.
The above text was taken from the book of Job where Job is discussing the indignities the poor of his world receive. The above piece of Scripture stood out because it makes me think about how we treat the “other” in our society. What I mean by “other” are people who we push off the path, or to the margins of our society: the poor; the homeless; those who have addictions and/or mental illnesses; the disabled; or, those who are HIV-positive.
We don’t look upon the above individuals as human beings that need to be engaged as such, and where they are in their lives. We instead, look down at them with suspicion and with the “you asked for it” attitude (as if we’re so good). We bemoan any government program that offers assistance since it involves our tax dollars, saying that social service or “faith-based” groups should be totally involved instead. We offer tacit approval to when funding for such individuals are cut. We bemoan their presence in the streets and public spaces we frequent and wish the cops would remove them. If they’re family, we really don’t talk about them, if ever.
And thanks to our Conservative streak here in the US, the “other” attitude is almost acceptable. We have Representatives in Washington who want to cut social service spending. We have churches where Jesus’s words in Matthew 25 are ignored. We have city politicians giving police the power to round up homeless people like they’re common criminals. We take drug addicts and toss them into the slammer instead of the rehab center. We demonize the HIV-infected and hope they just die.
I say “we” because I too am guilty. I too have felt one or all of the above-even the other night. It’s an easy trap to fall into. I believe it goes back to our tribal memories where everyone had a function and pulled his/her weight; that if you wanted to consume, you had to contribute. Those like the people above were on the fringes of, and at the mercy of, society. Even as recent as Western Industrialization we had asylums, prisons, and workhouses we could corral them in. And for the sick, we had nice places like Molokai (where we shuttled lepers to) they can go to.
But lest we forget, the “other” is us. In fact, therefore but for the grace of God, go us. We’re all human beings in God’s eyes; and we need to engage those in less desirable circumstances as human, not “other”. We need to be like Jesus and offer ourselves to heal their situations the best we can without judgement or marginalization. These people wound up in their present circumstances for many a reason; reasons that if we’re not careful could put us in a similar, or worse, situation!