Hebrew Scriptures: Preferential Option for the Poor
The Bible Is Biased
Tuesday, February 24, 2015
Most of political and church history has been controlled and written by people on the Right, because they, more than those on the Left, have the access, the power, and the education to write books and get them published. One of the few subversive texts in history, believe it or not, is the Bible! The Bible is most extraordinary because it repeatedly and invariably legitimizes the people on the bottom, and not the people on the top. The rejected son, the barren woman, the sinner, the leper, or the outsider is always the one chosen of God! Please do not take my word on this, check it out. It is rather obvious, but for some reason the obvious needs to be pointed out to us. In every case, we are presented with some form of powerlessness—and from that situation God creates a new kind of power. This is the constant pattern, hidden in plain sight.
So many barren women are mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures that you begin to wonder if there was a problem with the water! Sarah, Abraham’s wife, was barren—and old, too—before God blessed her with baby Isaac (Genesis 17:15-19). Rachel, Jacob’s wife, was barren before God “opened her womb” and she bore Joseph (Genesis 30:22-24). Barren Hannah poured out her soul before the Lord, and God gave her Samuel (see 1 Samuel 1).
Even before Moses, God chose a nobody, Abraham, and made him a somebody. God chose Jacob over Esau, even though Esau is the elder and more earnest son and Jacob is a shifty even deceitful character. Election has nothing to do with worthiness but only usability, and in the Bible usability ironically comes from facing one’s own wrongness or littleness, as we see in Mary. God chose Saul to be King out of the tribe of Benjamin, the smallest and weakest tribe in Israel. The pattern does seem to be that “The last will be first, and the first will be last” (Matthew 20:16).
One of the more dramatic Biblical stories in this regard is the story of David. God chose David, the youngest and least experienced son of Jesse, to be king over the nation. Jesse had not even mentioned him as a possibility, but left him out in the fields (1 Samuel 16). In fact, he was a totally forgotten son, who then finds his power on a new level. Yahweh evened up the odds (1 Samuel 17) and David, just a young boy with a slingshot (powerlessness), brought the giant Goliath (power) down. This is the constant pattern of redemptive suffering and trial that finds its final revelation on the cross where Jesus is abject powerlessness, and in this very state redeems the world!
God’s bias toward the little ones, the powerless, and those on the bottom has been rediscovered by those who learn to see deeply and with compassion: Francis of Assisi, Thérèse of Lisieux, Mother Teresa, and 12-Step spirituality being well known examples, but even they are usually marginalized by the establishment mind and the Right. Notice the shock when a Pope took the name of a non-establishment saint, “Francis.”
Gateway to Silence:
God hears the cry of the poor.
Adapted from Dancing Standing Still: Healing the World from a Place of Prayer, p. 93; and
The Great Themes of Scripture: Old Testament, pp. 49-50 (published by Franciscan Media)