Jesus cared for the least, but did Paul?
The apostle Paul has a reputation for being detached from the concerns of the poor and powerless. In this book, Carla Swafford Works demonstrates that Paul’s message and ministry are in harmony with the teaching of Jesus. She brings to light an apostle who preaches and models good news to the “least of these”—the poor, the marginalized, the disadvantaged, and the vulnerable.
The Least of These begins by highlighting the presence of the marginalized in Paul’s ministry by looking at poverty in Paul’s churches, the involvement of slaves and freedpersons in the community, and the role of women in the Pauline mission. Works then examines the significance of the marginalized in Pauline theology by investigating how the apostle employs metaphors of the “least.”
Like Jesus, Paul cared deeply for people at the margins. Paul’s ministry is consistent with that of Jesus. Both men cared for the poor. Paul served the least in his mission, modeling his apostolic ministry after the cross of Christ. Works shows that Paul, far from being an abstract thinker, was a practical theologian teaching a message and leading a life of compassion, kindness, and care.
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Carla Swafford Works is associate professor of New Testament at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C. She is the author of The Church in the Wilderness: Paul’s Use of Exodus Traditions in First Corinthians and Philippians in the Women’s Bible Commentary.