One question in the survey was simply, “What are the words you live by?” While that may seem like a strange question for a survey on poverty and inequity, we wanted to see how people connected these issues to their deepest convictions and to the resources they turn to for direction and consolation.
Many respondents simply listed “Bible,” “Scripture,” or “Prayer.” Some mentioned “Daily Bible readings,” “Daily scripture reading and meditation,” “Daily prayers and devotionals,” or “Daily word” as critical for their day-to-day lives.
But some respondents offered more specific answers, and many of those answers were inflected with concern for people experiencing poverty. Among the most frequently mentioned scripture references by chapter and verse were the following:
Micah 6:8—“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.”
Matthew 25:40—“And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”
The biblical mandate to care for vulnerable members of the community is a huge part of what it means to be a Christian. Micah 6:8 entreats us to “do justice” and Matthew 25:40 exhorts us to serve “the least of these my brothers.” Many of our survey respondents know these scriptures and hear their call.
But more common than any of the verses mentioned by chapter and verse were paraphrases of two other scripture passages: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Matthew 7:12; Luke 6:31) and “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind … and you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39; Mark 12:30-31; Luke 10:27).
“Do unto others…” “Love your neighbor…” What does it mean to live by these words? What kinds of relationships do these words call us into?