THE STEPS OF JESUS LEAD TO THE POOR
Matt.25: 34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:
43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.
44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?
45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.
46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
Matt.19: 20 The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?21 Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.
22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.
Lk.4: 17 And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written,18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,
19 To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.
My two sons coach a varsity and junior varsity girl’s basketball team in a public high school. I cannot communicate to you just how “challenging” the home life is for the majority of these precious girls. Most of them are African American and Latino, but that should never matter to us believers except that we should understand the depth of their challenge. I lived for 22 years before my mother died and I only heard my parents quarrel once. I lived a Disneyland existence compared to what girls like these live.
And these and other teachings that I have posted clearly reveal the heart of God as it pertains to the poor. The prosperous church in America has given token importance to the plight of the poor in America, to say nothing about the poor in other countries. It is an affront to the name of Jesus how American believers complain loudly about unemployment and welfare and the 47% of people who supposedly pay no taxes. The overwhelming majority of white Americans have no idea what it means to be a part of the marginalized and disenfranchised poor, or for that matter the subtle and overt implications of being an ethnic minority. And worse yet, the evangelical church in America clings to the founding fathers and turns a deaf and even a demeaning ear to the plight of millions of people who were raised in conditions conducive to poverty, immorality, and a fractured family unit.
You would think that in light of the life and teachings of Jesus that loving and ministering to the poor and the ignored would be one of the ways the church of Jesus Christ distinguishes itself from the rest of the hedonistic and political culture, but you would be wrong. The church heartily joins in to castigate the lowly or the lazy or the criminal elements without ever considering how they were raised, the opportunities that were denied to them, as well as the blessedness of our own upbringing. If Jesus had only died for those who deserved it no one would be saved, and yet we juxtapose our sense of morality and personal industriousness upon those who cannot see and are in desperate need of unconditional love which ministers to their need instead of condemning their situation.
You want orthodox doctrine? I have just given it to you in no uncertain terms. Go ahead and proudly display your Trinitarian credentials, or your Scriptural inerrancy resume, or your salvation by grace through faith alone doctrines. Go ahead. But how do you feel about the black mother who has five children through five different fathers? What does your heart tell you about the 13 year old black boy who brandishes a gun in the streets? What about the Latin kid who has never known his father and was arrested breaking into your own home? What does your heart say to you about these people?
Make no mistake about it, loving and serving the poor is every bit a Christian doctrine as the virgin birth. In fact there are more Scriptures about ministering to the poor than there are about many of our other doctrines. What about the Book of James? Is that inspired of God? Well here is what James says concerning faith without works:
Jam.2: 15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?
17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
Do you see what the Spirit has done? He has couched works in the context of serving the poor? Millions give up smoking after they are saved and we marvel at those wonderful works. Millions begin to go to church and we consider those great works. And yet the Spirit describes spiritual works of faith by caring and giving to the poor. So who is right, the Spirit or the church? Churches by the tens of thousands in America borrow millions to build lavish buildings and then pay interest for decades. How many churches have borrowed millions to minister to the poor and needy? Come on, let’s get real here. The church has been so affected and infected by this capitalist culture that we cannot even see how far we have strayed from true and pure Christianity.
And now the prosperity gospel preys upon the poor. There must be a special judgment upon such heretics. But the average “We are not a prosperity gospel” church still gives an embarrassing little amount of attention to the poor. We spend more on the monthly electric bill than we do the poor. Let a “professional” Christian musician come in and his love offering could feed many people. The money we waste upon ourselves is a great sin. And how do we justify such a practice in light of all the teachings about God’s servants reaching the poor? We do not have to justify anything…we have crafted our own brand of Christianity and loudly proclaim to believe the Bible.
As I mentioned my two sons coach a girl’s basketball team. Many of the girls serve as surrogate mothers to their younger siblings. Many sit home on weekends while their mothers go out. And I have watched my sons spend countless hours driving these girls to and from practice, and to and from watching other teams, and giving them some spiritual counsel as well as the gospel. And while I was attending a recent game where we were watching another team, the boys had picked up two of the girls to come along. These girls are thrilled to be out of the house. I went to the concession stand and as I returned I saw the girls sitting there. I turned to my oldest son to volunteer to pay for these girls to get something to eat and I saw my son quietly slip some money into their hands without them even expecting it. One girl is black with a large blond afro and the other girl is Latin with long beaded hair. They would be prime candidates for criticism from the evangelical community.
But I submit to you that my sons have many faults, almost as many as do I. But what he did was light years more of Jesus than taking a journey to a voting booth.