What’s the work of the church?
It is firstly to solve the problem of spiritual poverty. This is why Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3, NIV).
We have the gospel. As we share the gospel, we share the kingdom of heaven with those around us. And that’s exactly what the apostle Paul and his team loved to do as they reached out to the Gentile people of their day. They were solving world spiritual poverty by giving people Jesus.
When Paul spoke with the pillars of the early church, though, they emphasized that one could not divorce solving spiritual poverty from working to solve physical poverty as well. So these godly men made only one request of Paul as he asked them for their blessing to take the gospel to the Gentiles.
“As you teach people about Jesus, and share the beautiful gospel message with them,” they said, “continue to remember the poor. Extend a helping hand not just to the spiritually poor, but to the physically poor as well.”
And Paul’s response was, “That’s the very thing I’m eager to do!”
There’s no question that the first work of the church is to help people know Jesus. We want to be Christ’s ambassadors to share Jesus as the world’s Lord and Savior.
But it’s also clear that God wants us to help people know the love of Jesus. This love of Jesus is the very thing that caused him not only to forgive sins and offer reconciliation and peace with God, but also to assist those who needed his help and healing.
For Jesus, the work of the kingdom was not an either/or choice between the spiritual and the physical. It was a both/and proposition. Clearly, this subsequently became the commitment of the early church as well.
And still today, the work of the church is a both/and proposition. It is solving world poverty — spiritual poverty first, while always remembering to work on the problem of physical poverty as well.
What an amazing privilege! What an awesome responsibility! What an outstanding opportunity!
“On the contrary, they recognized that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised. “For God, who was at work in Peter as an apostle to the circumcised, was also at work in me as an apostle to the Gentiles. James, Cephas and John, those esteemed as pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised. All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along”(Galatians 2:7-10, NIV).
Lord Jesus, thank you for saving me from my spiritual poverty. Thank you for richly and daily providing for me. Give me the same heart for those who struggle with poverty — spiritual or physical — as you have for an entire world struggling with poverty.
Our Bible reading for Tuesday, September 15, is Isaiah 36:1 – 37:38, Galatians 2:1-10 and Psalm 107:23-32.
Header image based on "Poverty: Damaged Child," Oklahoma City, OK, USA, 1936" by Kelly Short, CC By-SA 2.0