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Summary: Looking at how we respond to the poor

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How should we respond to the poor? Is 58:1-11

Gladstone Baptist Church – 23/10/05 am

This year, there has been an unprecedented public exposure given to ridding the world of poverty. There has been the “Make Poverty History” campaign with Musicians such as Bob Geldoff and Bono and actors such as Brad Pitt and George Clunney taking a very public stand. It included the Live 8 Music Concerts.

The G8 nations were meeting and there was lobbying of them to “Make Poverty History.” They pledged to cancel the debts of the 38 poorest nations of the world and to invest over $3 Billion to eliminate hunger and treat AIDS. Some good things, but probably not far enough to “Make Poverty History.”

It is clear that at the moment, that poverty will continue to be a problem in our world. So the question is – How should we as Christians respond to the poor.

Some of you may be thinking at this point – “What can we do? – We haven’t got $3 Billion to throw at the problem – and money won’t necessarily solve all the problems anyway. It’s all too difficult, therefore I won’t do anything.” That’s an all too common attitude among wealthy Christians today. But I want you to hear that God is not asking you to be the solution to every problem in the world – that would be unrealistic. But He is asking us to be part of the solution. I think everyone in this world at some time asks the same question – “What can one person do.” “What can I do?” “What can we do?” … Not much by yourself, granted, but everyone working together can make a difference – you’ve got a part to play in making a difference. Which part are you going to be?

It is like that story of a man on a beach where millions and millions of starfish had been washed up. There was a little boy walk along the beach picking up individual starfish and taking them down to the water and releasing them. The man, approached him and said – the problem is too big, you can’t save them all, you can’t hope to make a difference. We are a lot like that man – “there are too many starving people, it is too difficult because there is corruption, there is drought, there are systems which prevent them from getting out of poverty. We can’t hope to make a difference.”

But the little boy answers as he picks up another starfish – “I maybe can’t save them all – but I can make a difference to the life of this one” and puts a starfish back in the water.

This morning I want to spend some time and look at the massive problem of poverty in this world of ours and look at what our response to it should be as followers of Jesus Christ. No we probably can’t solve the problem completely, but we can make a difference to someone.

The Bible has an enormous amount to say about looking after the poor. One commentator has identified over 3000 verses that speak about looking after the poor or underprivileged.

Here are some examples …

Ex 25:35 - ”‘If one of your countrymen becomes poor and is unable to support himself among you, help him as you would an alien or a temporary resident, so he can continue to live among you.

Prov 14:21 - He who despises his neighbor sins, but blessed is he who is kind to the needy.

Prov 14:31 - He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.

Prov 21:13 - If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered.

Prov 22:22-23 - Do not exploit the poor because they are poor and do not crush the needy in court, for the LORD will take up their case and will plunder those who plunder them.

Is 3:14-15 - The LORD enters into judgment against the elders and leaders of his people: “It is you who have ruined my vineyard; the plunder from the poor is in your houses. What do you mean by crushing my people and grinding the faces of the poor?”

Matt 19:21 - Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

The Bible is full of such verses because God LOVES poor people. God has a special place in his heart for Poor People whether we like it or not, Exploitation or the neglect of Poor people makes God’s blood boil. But who are we talking about here when we talk about the poor? I think there are two answers to this.

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