Jesus was homeless – for that matter, most of the great spiritual masters of history have been homeless either by choice, economic circumstance, because of society’s reaction to them, or some combination of the above. Many of us have never considered that Jesus was homeless, or what the full implications of his homelessness might be. How do we know that Jesus was homeless? He told us when he said, “Foxes have holes and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” The very fact that the one whom many believe to be the Son of God was homeless should challenge most if not all of our preconceptions about the homeless. The book of James warns the rich who oppress those who work for them that their riches, and their bodies, will all go corrode because of their mistreatment of others. James also tells us that true religion in the eyes of God is to care for widows and orphans in their distress and to keep yourself undefiled by the world. In a world where the predominant belief is that the one who dies with the most toys wins, can there be any doubt that the path to being undefiled is to care for those less fortunate than ourselves?
The Old Testament Prophets Hosea and Amos tell us what God expects. God, speaking through Hosea (6:6), says that God desires mercy, not religious sacrifices of animals. Amos counsels those in power to change their ways (ch. 5), saying, “You trample on the poor, and force them to give you grain…you oppress the righteous and take bribes, and you deprive the poor of justice…” Finally, in Isaiah 55, God says, “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.”
These are but a few of the biblical passages calling on us to provide justice and to care for those without money – yet contemporary religious folk who make the most noise about being biblically based seem to have forgotten about God’s command to provide for the less fortunate. Forgetting, or selective memory, doesn’t change the reality of God’s call to us to care for the less fortunate and treat them with justice. The poor, the homeless, the widows, the orphans, the working poor – the list goes on and on. Socially Engaged Christianity hears God’s call to us on behalf of the downtrodden and responds!