I have been thinking about the story of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. This story came to mind some time ago as I stood in a dusty field with thousands of other fun-loving Jamaicans taking in some of our talented Christian reggae artists at the Fun in the Son concert. Some parts of Jamaica had not had rain for months and the time was hot and the ground was dry and dusty. This did not bode well for many of us women who like to wear sandals and flip flops. By the end of the night I was ready to sit and have my feet washed.
Jesus spent much of his time walking around just to have special encounters with people who had been marginalized and who were in need. I was prepared to stand to the point of fatigue and tolerate the discomfort of dirty dusty feet in exchange for the pleasure of listening to amazing Christian reggae music. Would I have been as quick to tolerate the heat and the dust in exchange for the pleasure of serving the most vulnerable among us? There are some verses in the Bible that I find particularly haunting: Isaiah 3:13-15. “The Lord stands up to plead, and stands to judge the people. The Lord will enter into judgment with the elders of His people and His princes. For you have eaten up the vineyard; the plunder of the poor is in your houses. What do you mean by crushing my people and grinding the faces of the poor?”
If we avoid the tendency to over-quote our favorite verses that bring us special comfort and take the time to do even a casual read of the Bible, it becomes crystal clear that God stands on the side of the poor. The truth is that our consumerism and our pre-occupation with ourselves and the people we prioritize fly in the face of a Christ who came from heaven, gave up all, and walked this dry dusty earth to have special encounters with those in need. So many of our “good deeds” to help the hurting and vulnerable take place from the comfort of our air-conditioned homes and offices – with clean well-shod feet. We have all seen the hurt, brokenness and despair of individuals whose lives had been crushed because of the selfish and egotistical actions of those with power and authority. We have heard the faint whisper of their cries, and cries like these are going up to heaven from all across the world. Yes, cries from discarded and forgotten people who were created in the image of God, just like you and me. And, as I try to cast blame on those in authority, I am humbled when I consider my own habits, actions, and prejudices that help to perpetuate the damning condition these people face every day.
Unfortunately, I have heard many of these people express a deep distrust of people like me who claim to be God-loving, Christ exalting adherents of the Christian faith. This is truly heart-breaking and convicting. I can only think that just maybe when we are able to leave behind our board meetings and our impressive reports on our organizational spending to help the poor (much of which goes into salaries and benefits for the non-poor); maybe when we are willing to leave behind the comfort of our decorated homes and well-stocked refrigerators and learn to walk the dry and dusty road and feel the pain of the poor, maybe then we will become credible to them. I am challenged as I confront my own life of over-abundance. Will I be held accountable one day to answer the question: “What [did] you mean by crushing my people and grinding the faces of the poor?”
Author: Donna Gabbadon