This post is part of a monthly synchroblog. This topic of this month’s synchroblog is “Poverty”.
Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. (James 1:9-10 ESV)
If I had written about poverty a year ago (and I probably did), I would have written from a theoretical position. While my family has never been “rich”, we were also never poor. Similarly, I had never spent time around people who generally would be considered poor, except for a short time in Nicaragua.
In fact, as I think back, my life generally resembled the lives of the children of Israel. God consistently admonished them through the prophets because they did not care for the fatherless, the widows, the foreigners, the oppressed, and the poor:
They do not bring justice to the fatherless, and the widow’s cause does not come to them. (Isaiah 1:23 ESV)
They know no bounds in deeds of evil; they judge not with justice the cause of the fatherless, to make it prosper, and they do not defend the rights of the needy. (Jeremiah 5:28 ESV)
Father and mother are treated with contempt in you; the sojourner suffers extortion in your midst; the fatherless and the widow are wronged in you. (Ezekiel 22:7 ESV)
Thus says the LORD of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.” But they refused to pay attention and turned a stubborn shoulder and stopped their ears that they might not hear. (Zechariah 7:9-11 ESV)
Thus says the LORD: “For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment, because they sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals – those who trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth and turn aside the way of the afflicted; a man and his father go in to the same girl, so that my holy name is profaned… (Amos 2:6-7 ESV)
While the children of Israel kept the feasts and Sabbaths and offerings and sacrifices, they did not show mercy to those in need.
This is a good picture of my life until a few months ago. I met with the church. I gave money. I sang songs and prayed. But, what about those in need? I “cared” for the poor, but I didn’t care for the poor. I “loved” the needy, but I didn’t love the needy. There was a huge disconnect between what I said or through about myself, and what my life demonstrated.
Then, God began to transform me. It all started when I began to view the church as people instead of structure, organization, or leadership. As God began to turn my heart toward people, he also began to turn my heart toward “the least”. And, for the last several months, God has given me opportunities to truly demonstrate his love toward the fatherless, the widows, the foreigners, the poor, and the needy.
Something interesting happened as my family began to truly serve the needy. As we sought to bless others, we found that God blessed us through them. You see, these poor and needy people are often more rich than we are in some areas. And, we have found that we need them in our lives more than they need us. In fact, for our family, there is no “us” and “them” anymore. They are part of our family.
So, I’ve learned from friends who have less financial resources than myself. I’ve grown by listening to people who have no family members to care for them. I’ve been helped by single parents struggling to provide for their children. I’ve been taught by people who are struggling physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
I believe that God has much in store for his children – those who are poor and those who are rich. For those of us who are rich (in finances, in possessions, in education, in health, in relationships, etc.) to learn from those who are poor, it takes much humility.
When God commands his children to care for “the least”, he does not command this simply for the benefit of “the least”. Instead, he understands what his children need. I’ve missed out on so much of what God is doing for so long. God is with “the least”; and when we serve them, we are serving him. In fact, we serve him through the poor, the needy, the oppressed, the fatherless, the widows, and the foreigners much more than we do through singing and listening to preaching. Don’t believe me? Then learn what this means: “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice” (Matthew 9:13; Hosea 6:6).
Here is a list of bloggers who are participating in this synchroblog on poverty:
Sonja Andrews: Fully Known and Fully Loved
Phil Wyman at Phil Wyman’s Square No More
Adam Gonnerman: Echoes of Judas
Cobus van Wyngaard: Luke: The Gospel for the Rich
Lainie Petersen at Headspace
Steve Hayes: Holy Poverty
Jonathan Brink: Spiritual Poverty
Dan Stone at The Tense Before
Jeremiah: Blessed are the poor… churches…
Alan Knox: Boasting in Humiliation
Miss Eagle: Poverty and the Hospitable Heart
Jimmie: Feeding the Poor