Jeremiah 5:1-5 (ESV)
Run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem,
look and take note!
Search her squares to see
if you can find a man,
one who does justice
and seeks truth,
that I may pardon her.
 Though they say, “As the Lord lives,”
yet they swear falsely.
 O Lord, do not your eyes look for truth?
You have struck them down,
but they felt no anguish;
you have consumed them,
but they refused to take correction.
They have made their faces harder than rock;
they have refused to repent.
 Then I said, “These are only the poor;
they have no sense;
for they do not know the way of the Lord,
the justice of their God.
 I will go to the great
and will speak to them,
for they know the way of the Lord,
the justice of their God.”
But they all alike had broken the yoke;
they had burst the bonds.
Is the Gospel for the middles class? Do the poor and homeless and destitute not believe because of intellectual incapacity, lack of resources, lack of ability to focus on abstract concepts in the face of a very concrete world that offers very little concrete help? Would food, or education, or housing or money make them more able to consider the claims of the Gospel upon them and help them respond more favourably to the news they receive from the well meaning, well heeled, well educated who drop in from time to time? Jeremiah thought so.
God has told him to search throughout Jerusalem for anyone who seeks justice and does truth. So he does. And his search proves futile. So he, like any good leader, sits down to analyse what the problem is. When Jeremiah does his analysis of why he could not find a lover of justice and truth in the city of Jerusalem, he concludes that he went to the wrong kind of people. He went to the poor who have no sense. If he had gone to the leaders of the city, people of substance who can think in the abstract and project beyond the next meal and who read books and smell nice (well, OK, he didn’t say smell nice – but it smells like it’s there) … then he would get a better response and he could find the man that God has sent him to find.
We should commend Jeremiah for starting his search where he did. He had no prejudice against the lower classes of people. God told him to search for a just man and it never occurred to him that he could not find one among the poor. But when he did not, he assessed that the problem may have been that their lack of intelligence blinds them to godliness. They are so consumed with the basics of life that they can hardly focus on the important issues of eternity. Their lack of education keeps them from being able to assess things properly.
Some in the contemporary church do this. They reason that the poor do not believe because they are necessarily too focussed on material things to concern themselves with the loftier ideas of forgiveness and a relationship with God.
This may be one of the reasons why we can always talk about “the poor” as those outside our churches. They are “them”, not “us”. “You can’t convince a hungry person that he has needs greater than his hunger” is our mantra. James would disagree. He maintained that God has chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith (James 2:5). Paul agreed with James. He told the Corinthians that there were not many in the church who are rich or wise or strong (I Corinthians 1:26-31). The Gospel is the power of God to them that believe, not to those who have had the basics taken care of so that now they can pay attention to loftier things.
There are two ways to abuse the poor in relation to the Gospel. 1) Avoid them since they cannot receive it anyway. Their stupidity and lack of resources make it a losing battle. Let’s just go to those who have nourished their brains with all the right vitamins and can therefore think. 2)Let’s help the poor, but not with the Gospel. It becomes believed that helping them is the Gospel. No need for spiritual meat. Physical meat will do just fine. It eventually gets us to where we are; a “Christianity” that spends time helping the poor but rarely, if ever gives the Gospel of Jesus Christ to them, or a “Christianity” that ignores them because the Gospel is a spiritual thing. Absent in large measure, it seems, is the robust Christianity that pays attention to the physical and spiritual well being of all people.
Jeremiah found out that a rejection of God has nothing to do with class. It is a testimony to the truthfulness of Scripture that teaches the total depravity of sinners who will not come regardless of who they are, unless they are first moved upon by the Holy Spirit and which also teaches that when such a movement happens nothing at all, not income or abuse or riches or intelligence or its lack can prevent someone from embracing Christ by faith and walking in obedience to Him.
We believe in equality. All are sinners and all need Christ and all can be won over to faith by a grace that is greater than everything.