In Part III, I closed with this thought:
"Yes, on the global poverty stage, Americans do not struggle at the same level (millions upon millions living on less than a $1/day), but this does not justify ignoring or setting aside the mandate of scripture to care for the poor and needy (widows and orphans).
What does God's Word say on this topic?"
Well, if you've ever read the Holy Bible or have heard it read, it doesn't take long to recognize that God has a special place in his heart for the poor. There are hundreds of references to the poor in Scripture. And not just poor financially, but poor in spirit, as ones who are humble and recognize that we are the created and we have been created to fellowship with and glorify our Creator. But, I want to just highlight some passages of scripture that have impacted me on the subject of caring for the poor. We have much to learn from them (even as a one working in full-time ministry in the US, I am probably in the wealthiest bracket on the world's stage), and even as election time is rearing its ugly head, we have an opportunity to remember whose kingdom we are living in. (JR just posted an interesting piece on his blog about Sex, Economics and Worship and how the former two are expressions of worship to God in this world, the way we use our bodies and the way we use our resources, and how the political divide often falls between these two expressions).
As you read these passages I have laid out, maybe keep the following questions in the back of your mind: Have we become too dependent upon the structures of the world in regards to using and investing our resources? Does the way we care for the poor and needy look different from those around us who are not Christ-followers? How do/can we effectively communicate and live out the radical Gospel message through our simultaneous efforts to help break the cycle of poverty? Do you know any one in need?
From the beginning, the Levitical law directed the people of God to care for the poor and alien:
" 'When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God.' "
There is much wisdom to be found in the Proverbs on this topic:
All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.
He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.
He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward him for what he has done.
If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered.
He who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth and he who gives gifts to the rich—both come to poverty. (American tax system? maybe?)
Do not exploit the poor
for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags
Better a poor man whose walk is blameless than a rich man whose ways are perverse.
He who gives to the poor will lack nothing, but he who closes his eyes to them receives many curses.
The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.
Words of Jesus:
Matthew 6:1-2 "Be careful not to do your acts of righteousness before men, to be seen by them...So when you give to the needy do not announce it with trumpets..."
Matthew 6:19 "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal..."
Here are two passages that relate to our current context, the final act in which we live out the kingdom of God in this world. How did the early church do that? Where did they place their value?
Acts 2:44 "All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need."
Galatians 2:9-10 "James, Peter and John, those reputed to be 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 Jews. All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do."
And at the end of the day, we have this passage:
Rich and poor have this in common: The LORD is the Maker of them all.
I'm never a huge fan of just quoting scripture without looking at the context that each passage is spoken within, but perhaps it's just a starting point for each of us. Thanks for reading this series of postings; I've really enjoyed it! I have only begun to touch the surface here, but I hope it has opened up doors of thought and communication that will hopefully "spur [us] on toward love and good deeds." (Heb 10:24)