Crossroads Church
People on mission with God
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Crossroads Church
People on mission with God
www.crossroadschurchcma.org
175 County Road 78, Middletown NY 10940
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Pastor's Blog

WHAT SHOULD BE MY RESPONSE TO THE POOR


Posted: 1/5/2015
This past weekend while out shopping, I was approached by a young man asking me for a couple of bucks so that he could get something to eat. I politely told him I wasn't interested in helping him.

But while I was polite in my speech, in my head I was thinking... does he really need money for food or did he need money for something illegal or some type of food or drink that I didn't think he needed.

I was also thinking... what would Jesus do in this situation? Part of that thought came from my own reflections, wondering if I did the right thing by not giving him some money. But also wondering... what would Jesus really do in this situation?

Now, I do have to admit that I have helped people out with food & money. But it's not my normal, first thought response.

So to help me think thru what I should do in the future, I read through and meditated on some of the words of Jesus from the Gospels. Below are the ones I looked at and commented on.

JESUS SAYINGS ABOUT THE POOR

Matthew 6:3-4, "But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."

Matthew 25:34-40, "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'"

Luke 14:12-14, "Then Jesus said to his host, 'When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.'"

Luke 6:20-21, "Then he looked up at his disciples and said: 'Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 'Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. 'Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh."

Luke 4:16-19, "When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor."

Mark 10:21-22, "Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, 'You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.' When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions."

Mark 12:41-44, "He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. 43 Then he called his disciples and said to them, 'Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. 44 For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty.'"

WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT GIVING TO THE POOR?

In both the Old and New Testaments, we see God's desire for His children to show compassion to the poor and needy. Jesus said that the poor would always be with us (Matthew 26:11; Mark 14:7). He also said that those who show mercy to the poor, the sick, and the needy are in effect ministering to Him personally (Matthew 25:35-40) and will be rewarded accordingly.

There is no doubt that poverty's reach is both widespread and devastating today. God's people cannot be indifferent toward those in need, because His expectations for us in regard to taking care of His poor are woven throughout the entirety of Scripture.

For example, look at the Lord's words about the goodness of King Josiah in Jeremiah 22:16: "He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me, declares the LORD?" And Moses instructed his people how to treat the poor and needy: "Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to" (Deuteronomy 15:10).This sentiment is perfectly captured in Proverbs 14:31: "Whoever is kind to the needy honors God."

Conversely, there is another part to this verse: "He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker."

Proverbs is, in fact, filled with Scripture clearly showing that God loves the poor and is offended when His children neglect them (Proverbs 11:4; 17:5; 19:17; 22:2, 9, 16, 22-23; 28:8; 29:7; 31:8-9). The consequences for ignoring the plight of the poor are also made clear in Proverbs: "If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered" (Proverbs 21:13).

And note the strong language in Proverbs 28:27: "He who closes his eyes to the poor receives many curses." Among the many sins of Sodom described in Genesis 19, her people were "arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy." (Ezek. 16:49)

The New Testament is equally clear as to how we are to take care of the poor.

One verse that nicely summarizes our expected charity is found in the first Epistle of John: "If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with action and in truth" (1 John 3:17-18).

Equally important is Matthew 25:31-46. Now, this judgment precedes Christ's millennial reign and is often referred to as the "judgment of nations," in which those assembled before Christ will be divided into two groups-the sheep on His right side and the goats on His left. Those on the left will be sent to the "eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels" (v. 41), whereas those on the right will receive their eternal inheritance (v.34). Noteworthy, however, is the language Christ uses in addressing these separated groups. The sheep are basically commended for taking care of the poor, the sick, the imprisoned, and the vulnerable. The goats, on the other hand, are chastised for their lack of concern and action toward them. When the righteous ask Him when they did these things, Christ responds by saying, "Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."

Now, we are not to misconstrue this as meaning the good works of the sheep factored into their gaining salvation; rather, these good works were the "fruit" or evidence of their having been saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8-10), further evidencing that a commitment to Christ will indeed be accompanied by undeniable evidence of a transformed life. Remember, we were created to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do, and the "good works" Christ speaks of in Matthew 25 included taking care of the poor and suffering.

Now, with all of these scriptural truths in mind, we are to obey them and act on them, because "faith without works is dead" (James 2:26). As James stated, "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says" (James 1:22). Similarly, John said, "The man who says, 'I know Him,' but does not do what He commands is a liar and the truth is not in him. . . . Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did" (1 John 2:4, 6).

And the words of Christ Himself: "If you love me, you will obey what I command." (John 14:15)

Jesus commanded us to love one another (John 13:34-35), and what better way to demonstrate the love and kindness and compassion of Jesus Christ than by reaching out to the "least of these" among us?

JESUS THE ADVOCATE FOR THE POOR

Jesus had a special sense of mission to poor & oppressed people. At the outset of his ministry, sometimes referred to as Jesus' mission statement, Jesus stood up in the synagogue at Nazareth &read from the prophet Isaiah: "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." (Luke 4:18-19)

The biographies of Jesus depict him repeatedly reaching out to those at the bottom of the social pyramid--poor people, women, Samaritans, lepers, children, prostitutes and tax collectors. Jesus was also eager to accept people who were well-placed, but he made clear that all, regardless of social position, needed to repent. For this reason, he invited the rich young man to sell all of his possessions & give the proceeds to the poor. (Matthew 19:16-30, Luke 18:18-30, Mark 10:17-31)

Jesus commanded, "Love your neighbor." When asked to define "neighbor," Jesus expanded the traditional meaning of the word--defining our neighbor as anyone who is in need, including social outcasts: "But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed." (Luke 14:13)

In his portrayal of the day of judgment, Jesus pictured people from all nations gathered before him, separated into "sheep" and "goats." (Matthew 25:31-46) To the "sheep" he says, "Come you blessed of my Father, for I was hungry and you fed me... " In their astonishment they ask, "When did we do that?" And he answers, "When you did it to the lowliest of my brothers (and sisters)." Conversely, to the "goats" he says, "Out of my sight, you who are condemned, for I was hungry and you did not feed me... "

Jesus himself cared for those in need by feeding the hungry. Crowds of 4000 (Mark 8:1-13) and five thousand (Mark 6:30-44) had assembled to listen to Jesus. They soon became hungry. When his disciples suggested that Jesus send the people away to buy food, he responded by saying "I have compassion on these people... " and "you give them something to eat." He proceeded to perform miracles to feed these large crowds of hungry people.

MY CONCLUSION FOR ME

So how should I respond the next time I'm approached by someone asking me for money?

  • I should first of all see Jesus in them... they too were created by Him & for Him.
  • I should pray & ask Jesus by His Spirit, what to do... and then do it!
  • I should treat them as I would want someone to treat me, if I was in that same situation.
  • I should ask Jesus to help me to put on the mind of Christ as I go thru my day, so that I might see all things thru Jesus' perspective & not my human puny perspective.
  • I should pray for them, as I would want someone to pray for me.
  • I should show them the Jesus in me, even if I don't have money to give.