Read Zechariah 7:8-10
8 The word of the LORD came to Zechariah,saying: 9 Thus says the LORD of hosts: Render true judgments,show kindness and mercy to one another; 10 do not oppress the widow,the orphan,the alien,or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another. (NRSV)
The former Brazilian Roman Catholic Archbishop,Dom Helder Camara,was notable for his work amongst the poor in his country. This did not make him popular. “When I feed the poor they call me a saint; when I ask why the poor are hungry they call me a Communist.”
Such are the perils of trying to apply texts such as the one for today. Works of charity to the poor and needy are regarded as obviously good things to do. But when it comes to addressing the underlying causes of poverty and need,we run into controversy. Not all Christians agree on how to address those causes and what those causes might be. Some argue for greater state intervention,others argue for less. Some blame the tax structure,others blame family breakdown.
Some withdraw from that area altogether. Let’s just settle for bandaging up those who fall off the cliff rather than trying to stop them falling off the cliff in the first place. That may well be a failure to live out our text. Then again,we can’t hope to presume to create some prosperous utopia here on earth,we can’t hope to fix each and every problem.
Followers of Jesus are those who not only address individual needs but the wider structural problems of society. We realise we can’t make things perfect. But we can work at making things just that bit less imperfect.