Tuesday, January 10, 2006

A BIBLICAL PERSPECTIVE ON POVERTY

In my last [subversive underground] e-newsletter, I referenced a story I had read on MSN about how the poor in American aren't really poor because they have color tvs, microwaves, refrigerators, etc.

My reaction to this, in the article I sent out to everyone, was centered on how the article really had no intention of dealing with the very real problem of poverty in America, but was more about justifying our own apathy towards the poor who live among us because, "Hey, they're not as poor as those in Mexico or India, etc.".

I actually got several great responses from people on the list (which is the cool thing about the e-newsletter format...people can talk back!) and so I had to expand on my thoughts and really dig down on this issue of poverty in America and our Biblical mandate to respond.

Here's a little of what I sent out to those who responded:


I guess what I was saying about the article was that it really wasn't trying to actually deal with the very real problem of poverty in America. It was actually trying to make us feel better for not helping at all because "they're not REALLY poor".

Secondly, and mainly, I'm trying to say that there's a Biblical difference between the poor in another country and "our poor". The poor in India, Mexico, Ethiopa, etc. are seriously, desperately poor. No one argues that. This is why I'm on the board of Arms of Love (armsoflove.org), a ministry that builds orphanages in the poorest nations of the world to provide homes for street children who live in the city dumps and are forced into prostitution, etc. I'm not saying don't help the poor "out there".

But the poor in your city, in my city, down the street from me, they are "our poor". What we're called to do, Biblically, is to do something about it. Not to solve poverty. Not to cure it. Not to erase poverty forever, but to do what we can to help a few, in the name of Jesus and with the compassion of Jesus.

The quote from Jesus in Matthew about "the poor you will always have with you" was Jesus referencing Deuteronomy 15:7-11. You should seriously read this passage. The point is that God, the Father, is commanding the Jews to not have a hard heart or a closed fist towards the poor, the stranger, etc., but to give generously, freely to the poor among them. At the end of the passage, God say, "There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land."

That's what Jesus means when he says what he does in Matthew. He is not suggesting that, since we'll always have the poor with us, why bother?

Read Matthew 25. At the Judgement Seat of Christ the one criteria is whether or not those who call him "Lord" had any regard for the poor, the hungry, the thirsty, the homeless, the prisoner. The Sheep almost unconsciously care for these poor, not because they think it will get them into Heaven, but simply because they have genuinely been transformed into the people of God. The Goats, who also call Him "Lord", have the same unconscious attitude, but towards the existence of the poor or their needs.

The people of God, redeemed by the Blood, saved by Grace, seem to have an inability to walk past someone who is naked, poor, hungry, thirsty, lonely, etc. and do nothing. They cannot do that. It's not in their new nature.

We have a Biblical mandate (and it's alllll over the Scripture, both Old and New) to care for the poor..."our poor"...and that takes more than writing a check.

Again, this is my very biased conviction. I've been hammered by God on this issue and I cannot let it go because it won't let me go.

Do you know what the sin of Sodom is? Read Ezekiel 16: 49. It's not what you think.

"Now this is the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were proud and did detestable things before me. Therefore, I did away with them as you have seen."

Wow.

How about this one?

Galatians 2:10- "All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do."
(Paul's response after being sent out as the first missionary by Peter, James and John).

or...

{God is speaking of King Josiah:}
"He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?" (Jeremiah 22:16)

Wow.

"Is that not what it means to know me?"

What does it mean to "Know" God? This verse suggests that it means to care for the poor and the needy.

and of course we could also look at, Isaiah 58:6-7, Amos 5:21-24, 1 John 3:17-18, James 2:14-17, etc., etc.

I just wanted, in the article, to make the point that God has called us to care for the poor, not to justify their poverty or our lack of compassion by comparing them to the "actual poor" in Third World countries.

Still, I'm new to this whole thing. I'm still trying to work out my own calling in this area too.

Thanks for letting me rant.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Keith,
I read something you wrote on the OOZE about the homeless in Orange, Ca. I drive by the homeless lady on the corner of Main and Chapman every morning and sometimes bring her something from the Starbucks. I am a nurse at a nursing home in the area. I am interested more in what you are doing in Orange and where you guys are meeting. Your brother, Tim.

Keith Giles said...

Tim,

Hey, email me at "keith (at) soul survivor . net (not .com).

Just remove the spaces and remember to use the "@" sign, as normal.

I'd love to talk with you more about what God is doing with us in Orange.

Blessings to you!

Peace,
kg