A CHRISTIAN RESPONSE TO POVERTY
For the past several month, we have been bombarded by news of hurricanes, and flooding. We have seen pictures of the devastation left behind in Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana, and the damage left by the latest storm in Texas. We as a denomination, and as a nation have responded to the many heart-rending scenes we have seen of people left with nothing, of children separated from parents, of folks crying over lost loved ones.
Of the many pictures I’ve seen though, none strike me more than those of the people in New Orleans. Now, I know there were many people who suffered great losses and heart ache from the storms in other states and other areas. My heart goes out to them and hopefully, we will be able to send a team from our church in the upcoming weeks to help with the disaster relief in some of those areas.
No, it wasn’t so much the great destruction and the great loss that that will leave the most lasting impression in my mind; it was rather the crushing poverty of so many of the people. As I looked at those pictures and thought about them this past week, I asked myself, “How, in a country as great as this one, in a country with preschool programs like Head Start and free public education offered through grade 12; in a country where scholarships and student loans are available to most who desire to attend college, in a country that has spent more than 4 Trillion dollars on social programs in the past 30 years; how in the world can we continue to have pockets of such poverty? How can we have such poverty and how are Christians to respond to the poor?
As I thought about this, I remembered Jesus’ words in Matthew 26:11 when He said, “The poor you will have with you always.” But why? Why will there always be poor?
I believe there are several reasons why there will always be people who are poor.
WHY THERE IS POVERTY
1. Injustice causes poverty -
- Proverbs 13:23 The field of the poor yields abundant food, but without justice, it is swept away.
Sometimes, the actions; the immoral actions, of others causes poverty. There are those who have lost their businesses, or their homes, or their savings because of the actions of others. We are all aware of those in our society who prey on the weak, the kind and the trusting. Some people are led to poverty through phone solicitations, unscrupable salesmen, and e-mail scams. Others are led to poverty because of the lawsuits of people trying to get rich at the expense of others. There are many other examples, but, injustice causes some poverty.
2 Physical & Mental Problems cause poverty -
In Mark 5 we are told about a woman who had an issue of blood for 12 years. She came to Jesus to be healed. During those 12 years though, we are told,
- Mark 5:26 She ... had endured much under many doctors. She had spent everything she had and was not helped at all.
There are times, even when you have insurance, that a crippling disease can drain your finances and leave you in poverty. There was a man in Mississippi named Kenneth, I visited with in the hospital many times. Ken was in there because he needed a heart transplant. Ken had medical insurance. He had good medical insurance, but even that did not cover his 6-month stay in the hospital, the temporary heart pump they put him on while waiting for a transplant, the transplant, his loss of employment, and the drugs and medical follow up required after the surgery.
We have all seen the homeless in our communities, the people holding up signs saying “Will work for food,” and such. Many of those people one mental problem or another and are unable to meld into society. We remember the Gadarene Demoniac was an impoverished outcast as well.
Physical and mental problems cause poverty.
3. Sinful Living causes poverty
> Proverbs 23:21 ... the drunkard & the glutton will become poor,
There are many who are addicts, and drunkards, who have nothing and live on the streets. They only live for their next fix, or their next drink. Many of the prostitutes working in our area and across the country, work only to support their habits.
I know a man, so wrapped up in online pornography that he stole from the church where he was treasurer and was asked to leave. He was so wrapped up in that lifestyle that he stole from his employer to support his addiction and lost his job. He was so wrapped up in that lifestyle that he started running around on his wife. When he was caught he lost his family and his home.
Think of the number of single mothers, those who have had children out of wedlock, living in poverty with their children today, because of both their sins and the sins of others.
> Proverbs 13:18 Poverty & disgrace come to those who ignore instruction ...
My friends, sinful living leads to poverty.
4. Laziness causes poverty -
> Proverbs 23:21 ... laziness will clothe them rags.
> Proverbs 14:23 There is profit in all hard work, but endless talk leads only to poverty.
There are some who live in poverty today because they are lazy. They simply do not want to work. They don’t want to work at school, so they drop out and end up working a job where they can barely make ends meet. They don’t want to work, so they make excuses about how they have been treated unfairly or about why they can’t work.
A while back, I visited in the home of a family in our community. I didn’t know the people but someone had called the church and told me they needed food. Gladys & I got some stuff together and went to see them. When we got there, we found a house full of animals. There were birds, dogs, cats, some gerbils or some rat-like animals. They had a rabbit. As I looked around, I wondered why in the world they had all of those animals if they couldn’t afford food. I looked at the rabbit and thought, “There’s supper right there.” But then the woman started telling me she couldn’t work because she was missing teeth in the front and no one wanted to hire her.
Excuse me, have you seen some of the people working at the convenience stores around here lately? Please. And let me ask you how many of the lawn care businesses around here ask for teeth count on the application form?
How right was God when He said through Solomon,
> Proverbs 22:13 The slacker says, “There’s a lion outside! I’ll be killed in the streets!”
Laziness causes poverty.
5. Godly Pursuits cause poverty
Sometimes people are so wrapped up in following the Lord and serving Him, and His call of their lives is so strong that they will give up their material possessions in order to follow Him.
We remember the disciples left their businesses, their homes, and all they had in order to follow Jesus.
We have a number of New Tribes Missionaries who attend our church. Many of them have lived on almost nothing during the years they served on the mission field.
A number of years ago, when Gene & Judy Dolash were serving in Columbia, they were audited by the IRS. Man, those people will find you even in the jungles of South America. They were audited because the IRS agent said no one could live on as little money as they were reporting. Gene sent them a picture of he and his family standing in front of their hut in the jungles of Columbia. They heard nothing else from the agent.
To those living in poverty, or sacrificing for Christ’s sake, Jesus says:
> Matthew 19:29 And everyone who has left houses, brothers or sisters, father or mother, children or fields because of My Name will receive 100 times more and will inherit eternal life.
My friend, there are many reasons why there is poverty in the world and in our country. Some I’ve mentioned, but there are many more. The question before us now is, “How are we to respond?”
A CHRISTIAN’S RESPONSE TO POVERTY
1. Be Kind to the poor -
> Proverbs 19:17 Kindness to the poor is a loan to the Lord, & He will give a reward to the lender.
> Proverbs 14:31 The one who oppresses the poor insults their Maker, but one who is kind to the needy honors Him.
You and I are to be kind to the poor, regardless of how they got that way. We are not to despise them or make fun of people in need. We remember that apart from the grace of God, we could be in the same situation.
2. Defend the poor -
> Proverbs 31:9 Speak up and judge righteously, and defend the cause of the oppressed and needy.
My friend, when you see someone being made fun of, when you see someone being oppressed or taken advantage of simply because they are poor and unable to defend themselves, the Bible says you are to stand up for them.
That means the person at school who’s made fun of because they can’t afford the nicest or newest clothes. That means the person at work or next door or at church, who can’t afford to eat all that well. It means we need to stamp out the lottery in this state, because it is nothing more than a tax on the poor who dream the right ticket will get them out of their poverty. My friend, you and I are to defend the poor.
3. Help the poor -
Good Samaritan. Help tutor them. Help them find clothes, food. Help them see the possibilities. Sometimes they are simply trapped because they see no way out.
4. Share Christ with the poor -
My friend, one of the best ways to help people seemingly trapped in poverty is to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with them.
When I attended seminary, I went to the projects in Memphis and witnessed door to door with a man named Ronnie Tullis. Ronnie was one of the greatest soul winners I ever met. Ronnie was a product of the projects himself.
I asked him one time why they didn’t start a church in the projects instead of working from the outside. He told me they had tried that several times but it never worked. He said, every time they would lead a few people to the Lord and try to start a church, the church would fall apart because the people always moved away.
He said, when they got Jesus in their hearts, Jesus changed their lives. Suddenly, people got off their drugs and alcohol. Then, they started going to work regularly. They started staying home with their families instead of running around all over town, spending their money. He said, after a while, the people began making enough money they could move out of the projects and find a better life for themselves and their children.
Oh my friend, we need to share Christ with the poor.