Tuesday, June 05, 2007

OUR POOR

OUR POOR
by Keith Giles

Poverty in America has once again become a hot topic these days. That's probably because the election campaigns are all in full swing now, I suppose.

As I hear what people are saying about poverty in America, I always have to mention that, although poverty in our country may not be as "severe" as what we see in Africa or India, etc., it is not any less poverty.

For example, if you were to give air conditioning or color television to one of those families living in a cardboard box in the Sudan, would they cease being poor? Of course not. And families in America with color tvs and air conditioning are no less poor because of their level of comfort. They are still poor. And they are "Our Poor".

I belive that there is a Biblical difference between how we are called to serve the poor in other countries and "our poor". The poor in India, Mexico, Ethiopa, etc. are seriously, desperately poor. No one argues that. This is why I've served on the board for groups like Arms of Love (www.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.
So, please, let's be clear; I'm not saying don't help the poor who are "out there".

But the poor in your city, in my city, down the street from me, they are "our poor", and what we're called to do, Biblically, is 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.

Actually, as I've said before, the point of serving the poor is not to "cure" or "solve" poverty, but to befriend people who are in need and to learn to love and serve them as we would serve and love Jesus. We are the one's who are most changed in that relationship, by the way.

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.

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 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.

God has called us to care for the poor, not to justify their poverty or our lack of compassion by comparing them to the "real poor" in third world countries.

So..how are we doing with serving and loving and befriending "Our Poor"?

kg

1 comment:

Dan said...

"Our poor." What a powerful, convicting phrase.

Yes, yes, yes... They are "our poor," and our neighbors... and our responsibility - our opportunity to help and serve and love.

Our poor - it's not something I need to think about. It's something I need to act on...