Summary: What does Jesus tell us to do for the poor?
“PREACHING TO THE POOR”
Most of you, who are middle class in America, don’t actually see many poor people in an average day, except on television. Most American church members are white . . . middle-class . . . well dressed . . . well fed . . . and have beautiful homes. But what about the poor? What does Jesus tell us to do for the poor?
Preaching to the poor was important to Jesus. Listen to how important it was to Jesus to preach to the poor. When John the Baptist was put in prison, he became discouraged and believed that Jesus was not the Messiah. He sent a messenger to ask Jesus, “Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?” (Matthew 11:3). John the Baptist expected a Messiah who was a political Deliverer, one who would drive the Romans into the sea. No wonder John the Baptist doubted, he was imprisoned by the Romans, the very ones he expected Jesus to drive into the sea.
Notice Jesus’ answer . . . “The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have the Gospel preached to them” (Matthew 11:5).
Surely, the miracles of Jesus were signs enough to demonstrate that He was Messiah, but Jesus added the phrase, “The poor had the Gospel preached to them.” Why is preaching the Gospel to the poor important?
There’s a little known fact about John Wesley I want to share with you. Wesley claimed a church was not a New Testament until it carried out the admonition of Jesus, “The poor have the Gospel preached to them.” Jesus said more than once, “Preach the gospel to the poor.” Why? Because we are supposed to preach the Gospel to them.
The great revivals of John Wesley and the beginning of the Methodist church were primarily among the poor. When Wesley began preaching in the field to coal miners, he could see the “streams of mercy” which were the tears flowing from their eyes down coal-blackened faces. When the rich would not respond to Wesley, the poor heard him gladly.
B. SEVEN THINGS THE BIBLE SAYS ABOUT THE POOR
1. Don’t despise the poor.
This command occurs early in Scripture, “Thou shalt not respect the person of the poor” (Leviticus 19:15). The Living Bible says about this verse, “Not noticing whether a person is poor or rich.” This verse continues, “Nor honor the person of the Mighty.” This means three things about the poor:
a. Don’t look down upon the poor, and despise them.
b. Don’t take advantage of them financially or otherwise.
c. Don’t turn your back to helping them.
2. There will always be poor people.
We have done much in America to eliminate poverty. While I didn’t like many other liberal tendencies of President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society program, I did commend his endeavors to get rid of poverty and raise the living standard of the poor. As much as America has done for the poor, there will always be poor people. The Scriptures remind us, “The poor shall never cease from the land” (Deut. 15:11). Even God understood in the best of economies, where the Jews lived by the Word of God; there would always be poor people. Even Jesus knew those facts when He said, “For ye have the poor always with you” (Matthew 26:11).
3. God blesses those who look after the poor.
The Bible teaches, “Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the LORD will deliver him in time of trouble” (Psalm 41:1).
One of the conditions to having your prayers answered is that, “He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord” (Proverbs. 19:17).
Since the fatherless and widows were usually considered the poor, James said, “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, [and] to keep himself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).
Since there will always be poor and there will always be great needs, God opens up His heart to the needy people. In Psalm 112:9 it says that God “He hath dispersed, he hath given to the poor.” The Living Bible says “they that give generously to those who need. Their good deeds will never be forgotten” (Psalm 112:9 LB).
Elmer Towns writes in his book, The Ten Greatest Revivals Ever that during the early 70s, there was a revival among Independent Baptist churches in America. Dr. Towns describes the revivals in our churches that focused on the bus ministry. Dr. Towns goes on to define revival as, “God pouring His Spirit out on His people.”
I agree with Dr. Towns, in the early 70s the Independent Baptists had the Shekinah-Glory cloud upon them, and God poured his blessing out on Independent Baptists because they carried out the Great Commission through the bus ministry. I believe that’s one of the reasons God put His hand upon Thomas Road Baptist Church. We had over 100 buses and faithful laymen who got up on cold, windy snowy days to crank up old buses and drive all over Central Virginia to pick up children and bring them to this church. Most of these children were poor—very poor—and they came from needy homes where parents were poor. They came from shacks, trailers, or inner city homes. Now there’s no disgrace in being poor, but in many of these homes of busing children, their fathers spent much of their time and money on drinking and their children were neglected.