Those who exploit the powerless anger their maker,
while those who are kind to the poor honor God.
Speak out on behalf of the voiceless,
and for the rights of all who are vulnerable.
Speak out in order to judge with righteousness
and to defend the needy and the poor.
God takes his stand in the divine council;
he gives judgment among the gods:
“How long will you judge unjustly
by granting favor to the wicked? Selah
Give justice to the lowly and the orphan;
maintain the right of the poor and the destitute!
Rescue the lowly and the needy.
Deliver them from the power of the wicked!
“Just remember this, Mr. Potter, that this rabble you’re talking about . . . they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community. Well, is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath?” — George Bailey
The prophets of the Hebrew Scriptures were wildly emphatic that God would judge harshly those who turned a deaf ear to people who suffer oppression. We hear stories that break our hearts everyday — but what can we do? We know that agricultural corporations often employ workers who cannot afford to eat the produce they have labored to grow and bring to market; we know workers who cannot live on the wages they are paid; we continue to remain ignorant as we make purchases and participate in oppressive practices as if we are clear of blame. George Bailey was not a “bleeding heart,” only a compassionate man with eyes that could see and ears that could hear the real life experiences of his neighbors whom he loved and respected — even as it cost him financial profit and social esteem. Like the prophets of old, he understood that compassion is a basic component of being human, that respect regardless of social standing is a strong form of love, and that our life isn’t worth much of anything unless we understand that we all live in this world together.
God of all people, lover especially of those who suffer, who are in need, who have lost their way — haunt us with Your call to compassion and justice. Enable us to speak for those who have no voice to raise on their own behalf. Give us creative minds to understand the complexities of poverty and injustice and bold courage to do what we have the power to do. Allow us into the goodness of Your loving compassion as we go out to be Your people, Your hands and feet, in this world. Amen.