Hands & Feet: Reflections on Love for the Poor in Worship Music

brillianceThe modern church has been reconnecting to her roots in the area of social concern. There has been a season where she was far more consumed with personal self-interest, Christendom’s agenda, and small kingdom expansion. I am thankful that in many ways, though not completely, this is beginning to die. The burden for the poor has been recovered in many corners of Evangelicalism and I noted it most recently, and surprisingly, in our worship music. A number of worship songs speak directly to God’s heart for the poor.

All Sons & Daughter sing about it beautifully in “All the Poor and Powerless.” “All the poor and powerless…will come confess and know that you are holy,” the group sings. “All who hurt with nothing left…will sing out hallelujah.” It’s a beautiful song that depicts the rejoicing of the needy in the God who loves them. It reminds me of the words of Psalm 69, where the author pleads with God, “Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me, O Lord GOD of hosts; let not those who seek you be brought to dishonor through me, O God of Israel” (v. 6). We see this refrain often repeated in the psalms, a plea that those who hope in God would not be foolish. Though the poor have many needs it is plea that they could trust in God and not be ashamed of it. The psalmist turns to encouragement in verses 30-33, he writes:

I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving. This will please the LORD more than an ox or a bull with horns and hoofs. When the humble see it they will be glad; you who seek God, let your hearts revive. For the LORD hears the needy and does not despise his own people who are prisoners.

All Sons & Daughters have painted a beautiful picture of the hope of the restoration of the world in God’s coming Kingdom. God cares for the needy. But this group is not the only one to include references to the poor in their worship music.

Other worship songs call us to love justice and practice grace. Hillsong sings, “let love and justice become my embrace” in their moving prayer “From the Inside Out.” Jon Foreman, in the vein of the Old Testament prophets, sings against the modern church’s “show.” “You’ve turned your back on the homeless,” he says in pain. He calls her to repentance and change: “Instead let there be a flood of justice, an endless procession of righteous living, instead let there be a flood of justice, instead of a show. I hate all your show” (see, “Instead of a Show“). I could list others, like Josh Garrels’ “Zion and Babylon,” or Jeff Lawson’s “Come to the Feast.” Perhaps, however, the most beautiful of these songs is The Brilliance’s “Hands and Feet.”

The song begins with a confession. “For all the strives we’ve made. For all our blessings. We’ve fall far away from truth. Turning our face away from this hurting race, we’ve turned our face away from you.” It shifts from confession, however, to prayer: We want to be your hands, your feet. It builds to a cry that God would draw us near to his heart, that we might love what He loves. So they sing:

Here we are, words can only go so far. Draw us closer to your heart. Bring us back to you.

The cry goes up that we would love the needy as God does, that we would seek His help in applying grace to those in need. So they get even more specific and honest, when they sing:

For every broken heart, for every widow, for those without shelter from the rain, we lifted our eyes to you, looking for answers, when we have been called to ease the pain.

The song beautifully depicts the struggle Christians have between knowing we should care for the poor and not knowing always how to be most helpful. It also depicts the need we have to be drawn back to God’s heart. Loving others is not easy. We need God’s heart to enable this compassion in us.

I love that this is a trend we are increasingly seeing in our worship music. It reflects a return to the mission the church has always had, but in more recent centuries lost. It reflects a bit of the trendiness of missional Christianity, but it’s a trendiness that I believe is good. We should pray and sing more that God would help us to love the poor. So, here we are…bring us back to you, God.


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