Solving World Poverty

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

Tightfisted or Openhanded?

When God was preparing to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land, he was clear about the values he wanted the Israelites to espouse in their new home. He wanted his spiritual children to know how to live in a way that would put them firmly in the path of his blessings.

Generosity was one of those key values. And it was a value God had displayed many, many times to the Israelites as they wandered in the wilderness. From manna, to quail, to water flowing from rocks, God had taken care of the Israelites’ needs each day for 40 years.

Now God asked the Israelites to do the same for each other in their new home. And he graciously offered them a promise of rewards to encourage them.

One can’t think of generosity without thinking of Jesus. He’s the epitome of generosity. How can one possibly give up more than one’s own life? And Jesus did that for each of us!

Now we have an opportunity to give up a small portion of what God has given us, in order to display the heart and hands of Jesus in our world today. Having been so richly blessed, we now get to bless others who need our help.

Open your hands and be a blessing to others, God says. Hardhearted and tightfisted is not at all what God has been toward you. Hardhearted and tightfisted is not the way for you to be towards others!

Open hearts and open hands give you a chance to say a big-time “thank-you!” to Jesus. Open hearts and open hands will also place you firmly in the path of God’s graciously promised blessings.

This message is actually so important, it’s not just in what Moses commanded the Israelites. It’s also in what Jesus taught a Pharisee…

“If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them. Rather, be openhanded and freely lend them whatever they need… 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 15:7-8, 10, NIV).

“Then Jesus said to his host, ‘When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your 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 14:12-14, NIV).

Lord Jesus, you have an open heart and open hands toward me. There’s no greater example of this than what you gave for me on the cross. Send your Holy Spirit to help me grasp hold of that sacrifice of grace for the forgiveness of my sins. And in your grace, help me to show grace to others — with an open heart and open hands.

Our Bible reading for Saturday, April 11, is Deuteronomy 15:1 – 16:20, Luke 13:31 – 14:14 and Psalm 44:1-12.

Header image based on "Praise" by Ricardo Camacho, CC By 2.0