A heart for the poor

Many, many years ago I attended a course where the course leader took us through the Bible to show us that God is actually biased… towards the poor, that is.

It was quite something to have my preconceived notions peeled away to read Scripture as it is actually written.

Of course God is not unjust. But Scripture teaches me that the poor, the weak, the helpless, have a special place in God’s heart. Even to the extent that when we are kind to the poor, God regards that as kindness to Him.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Matthew 25: 34-40

A few days ago I read this article by Praba Ganesan, a Malay Mail columnist, entitled “Why faith in the poor works”.

In it he shared about his uncle, who was caught in the vicious cycle of drug abuse and eventually passed away.

He was a junkie who had two wives, because he never divorced the first one. Children from both marriages, he never lived to see any of his children marry. Junkie means a drug addict. He was in and out of prisons, more out in his later years, and then passed away.

But then,

My uncle could not break away from his addiction. He brought his wife down, and later on acquired another in India with the misguided notion that marriage solves problems.

Both sets of children are saddled with his problems, but to their amazing credit they love each other even if from separate mothers. They assume responsibility for each other, and I can’t express my admiration at their resolve to be right by each other. Maybe my uncle did get something right, when he was alive.

The thing is, they are walking examples that if the state had a bit more faith in its people, it would be worthwhile.

The point Praba wants to make is that while there are many who made wrong choices and threw their lives away, there are others who make the right choices but will need help to escape their circumstances.

I am living embodiment. If there was no subsidised public education or the state government willing to back me, I’d not have a degree. I’d be shut out of opportunities. I’d be an outcast.

Which is why I fight for the less privileged. It may not be noticed, but we are nasty to those born on the wrong side of the track. I’d be at my old school’s homecoming dinner this weekend, but I do not forget where I come from. There is nothing which will make me forget where I come from. It defines me.

But what I do argue, and I do so regularly is that many Malaysians need a hand up, but not pity from their fellow Malaysians.

A country is about the potential and not about reality. And if a country is about what is possible, it realises we have done really badly for those who should have had assistance to sort out their bootstraps a long time ago. The real error is that we did not do enough so long ago.

This is where I stand, this void, sometimes in the impression it is a lonely stretch. A very lonely stretch.

There is so much we can do, really, so much. But the fact we are encumbered by history, a sense of entitlement and the burdens of history, leads us away from the real things, the opportunity to lift the most deserving from the weight of the world. Actually, to lift even the most undeserving from the filth of the world.

His convictions resonate with me. So too his experience because I too came from a poor family. I too would not be where I am today if not for the education opportunities provided by the Government.

But what caught my attention, and prompted this article, is his passion for the poor. So close to the heart of God. And I do wonder if He would be biased towards such a one. I pray so.

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