Editors’ note: The Worship Initiative is an online platform developed by Shane & Shane and devoted to training musicians for songwriting and worship leading. The following meditation was written to accompany the song “All the Poor and Powerless” from Shane & Shane’s album The Worship Initiative. You may listen to “All the Poor and Powerless” for free.
You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. (2 Cor. 8:9)
Christianity is not for the self-sufficient. It’s not a religion for the rich and the strong. Jesus didn’t come to comfort the well-to-do and rally those who have their lives all in order. He didn’t come to gather the good, but the bad. Jesus came not to call the righteous, but sinners (Mark 2:17).
This is one of the great paradoxes of the gospel. It’s the poor he makes rich, the weak he makes strong, the foolish he makes wise, the guilty he makes righteous, the dirty he makes clean, the lonely he loves, the worthless he values, the lost he finds, the have-nots who become haves. Not mainly in this age, but in the new creation to come.
Paradox of the Gospel
It is not the emotionally endowed that he blesses, but the poor in spirit (Matt. 5:3). It’s not the buoyant and boisterous he comforts, but those who mourn (Matt. 5:4). Not the prideful, but the meek (Matt. 5:5).
He prophesies in Hosea 2:23, “I will have mercy on No Mercy, and I will say to Not My People, ‘You are my people.’” God loves to show himself strong by being the strength of the weak, by showing mercy to those who otherwise receive no mercy. To take people that typically would hear “not my people,” and make them his people.
Pharisee and the Tax Collector
In Luke 18:9–14, Jesus tells us about two different men who came to worship. One, a Pharisee, thought himself a good, impressive person. The other, a tax collector, came keenly aware of his unworthiness, not just acknowledging his sin, but feeling deeply undeserving before God.
The Pharisee prays, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector” (Luke 18:11). Meanwhile, all the tax collector can muster is, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13).
Jesus, then, gives us this commentary: It is the unrighteous tax collector, not the Pharisees, whom God graciously declares to be righteous. The Pharisee, who trusted in himself that he was righteous, is the one cast out. Jesus explains, “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:14).
This Is Good News
There is a great beauty to our God being the strength of the weak, and the riches of the poor. This is truly good news to those who of us who will acknowledge how needy we really are, how weak are hearts can be, how poor we really are in spirit. What good news that we have a God like this: who takes the foolish, the weak, and the lowly—like us—and makes us into trophies of his grace, for our joy and for his glory.
This is a message worth screaming from the mountains and telling to the masses. This is our gospel.