Jesus answered and said to [John the Baptist’s disciples], ‘Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard: that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who is not offended because of me.” (Lk 7: 20-23)
… wait a minute … The poor were not “made prosperous,” or at least given a steady income? Wouldn’t that be the “cure” for them? But no, the poor “had the gospel preached to them.”
The point I’m making is that material poverty is not an “affliction” our Lord promises to “heal” materially.
Sr. Vassa Larin, The Gospel and Prosperity (emphasis added).
Sr. Vassa’s quick observation that “material poverty is not an ‘affliction’ our Lord promises to ‘heal’ materially” left me wanting more, and before the day was over, I got more.
Father Steven Freeman in a podcast (I think it was an older one I hadn’t yet heard) noted that Christ made the lame walk, not fly. Christ restored the truth of things, mended brokenness. He didn’t lower himself to cheap parlor tricks.
This brought to mind some of the things C.S. Lewis wrote about Christ’s miracles as well. For instance, I believe he commented on the miraculous change of water into wine at the wedding at Cana (I can’t find the Lewis passage) as being what God always does — though He usually uses sunlight, soil and time — so that there’s a fitness to Christ’s miracles in a way missing in some miraculous stories from other religious traditions.
Is there anything broken about poverty? Is a rich man whole in a sense that the poor man lacks? Apparently neither our Lord nor His Apostle James thought so. (The scriptures make clear, though, that relief of poverty is a Christian duty.)
So in what sense does preaching the gospel to the poor restore the truth of things or mend brokenness? I’m not sure there’s any deficit unique to the poor that the preaching of the gospel addresses, but there’s a deficit in us all. Our truth is that we were made for union with God. Our brokenness is that we are alienated instead. And that’s where the preaching of the Gospel is exact what the poor need — as do all of us.
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