It Only Takes A Smile

The righteous considers the cause of the poor, but the wicked does not understand such knowledge.

—Proverbs 29:7

Righteous means to be morally right or justifiable. God’s view of what is “morally right” includes being concerned for the rights of the poor in our communities. He judges us by how we treat the most down and out in our society. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said “Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3) Scholars agree that “poor in spirit” does not mean lacking in spirit, be it courage, the Holy Spirit, or religious awareness. Rather it is that poverty is not only a physical condition, but also a spiritual one. In fact, the more self aware a person is of his or her spiritual poverty caused by the innate human condition of the sinful nature, the more one is humbly aware that they are “poor in spirit” left to his or her own ways without Jesus Christ as Savior. Without Jesus having in one’s heart, it remains in a completely impoverished spiritual state; once a person declares Jesus as Lord and Savior of his or her life, Jesus sustains them through a daily renewing of their poor spirit: ” And Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.’” (John 6:35).

In American Christianity we hear a lot about righteous living that is inwardly focused. The focus is on virtues such as honesty, hard work, or faithfulness; which all are characteristics the Bible promotes, but too many Christians don’t spend as much time talking about how they or systems in our society are treating the poor, the needy, the downtrodden, or the marginalized. Proverbs highlights the importance of our engagement rather than ignorance on these issues. God wants us to treat everyone with dignity and respect. The greatest example of Christians not following God’s word is how many Christians treat those of the LGBTQ+ community. Instead of welcoming us and loving us unconditionally, the shun us or put conditions on their love. The truly righteous considers the the poor, the needy, the downtrodden, or the marginalized. It is those that need love and acceptance the most that are often pushed aside by Christians. 

In America, we often hear about the “Protestant Work Ethic.” The phrase was initially coined in 1904–1905 by Max Weber in his book The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Weber asserted that Protestant ethics and values along with the Calvinist doctrine of asceticism and predestination gave birth to capitalism. In Puritan society, those who were most prosperous were seen as the most worthy of God. Whereas Catholicism teaches that good works are required of Catholics as a necessary manifestation of the faith they received, and that faith apart from works is dead and barren, the Calvinist theologians taught that only those who were predestined to be saved would be saved. Since it was impossible to know who was predestined, the notion developed that it might be possible to discern that a person was elect (predestined) by observing their way of life. Hard work and frugality were thought to be two important consequences of being one of the elect. Protestants were thus attracted to these qualities and supposed to strive for reaching them. Therefore, the more prosperous a person was, the more likely he or she was predestined for Heaven.

From American colonial days, prosperity and frugality were seen as virtuous characters. In turn, that meant that the poor were unworthy of God. They did not work hard enough for their faith. Eventually, the Christian Right used this as their justification to fight against any type of public assistance. The poor were seen as not worth the effort because it was their fault they were poor. Poverty was caused by laziness, and never poor circumstances. This philosophy led to greed becoming a virtue, but it was never phrased that way. You would never hear the wealthy say greed was a virtue, but they would claim that frugality was a virtue. For many frugality really only means not sharing their wealth. The prosperous Puritans lived lavished lives in fine houses and better clothing. The same is true of many of the most greedy of the Christian Right. They further thief belief in their righteousness y condemning anyone who does not conform to their ideal, which includes all those who are marginalized, such as the LGBTQ+ community.

Proverbs 11:25 says, “The generous soul will be made rich, and he who waters will also be watered himself.” We must work to make a difference today and be generous towards others. One of the best ways to be generous is by giving words of encouragement and to show our love.  Encourage people around you, and you’ll see that you yourself will be refreshed and rejuvenated. There’s nothing like the feeling you get from bringing a genuine smile to someone’s face.  Try thoughtfully encouraging and you will receive enrichment from your generous words and deeds, we must work to up fit each other. It can be done in a myriad of ways, but greed and discrimination will never be a tool of generosity and love. There are numerous ways to show generosity that don’t mean monetarily. Sometimes a kind word or a smile is all that is needed. Respect for one another will bring self-respect because you can be proud of being a good person.

As the saying goes, “Smile and the world smiles with you.”

About Joe

I began my life in the South and for five years lived as a closeted teacher, but am now making a new life for myself as an oral historian in New England. I think my life will work out the way it was always meant to be. That doesn't mean there won't be ups and downs; that's all part of life. It means I just have to be patient. I feel like October 7, 2015 is my new birthday. It's a beginning filled with great hope. It's a second chance to live my life…not anyone else's. My profile picture is "David and Me," 2001 painting by artist Steve Walker. It happens to be one of my favorite modern gay art pieces. View all posts by Joe

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