Remembering the poor

Sometimes our fellowships can become too introspective. We forget that the Lord went "out" and served in order to bring people "in" to the fold. As we learn to step out of our comfort zone with this "practical" gospel, we will be faced with many challenges - like the many needs of poor. What does the Bible have to say about the poor?

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By: Sentinel
3/21/2012 10:12:21 AM

Remembering the Poor

1.  The priority of remembering the poor in the early church:

Consider Galatians 2:9-10: “And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.  Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do."

Bringing the gospel to the gentiles was the first priority. But, directly following was the admonition to “remember the poor.” Like the early church, this should be our priority as well.

2. God’s extreme concern for the poor and His promises to those of us that follow His heart in this matter:

In Isaiah 58:7 the Lord describes the kind of fast that He has chosen: “Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?”

And, for those of us that choose to follow God’s heart in this matter, great and wonderful promises are given: “Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the LORD shall be thy reward.  Then shalt thou call, and the LORD shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity;  And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noon day: And the LORD shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not” Isaiah 58:8-11.

3. Who are the poor?

Consider Psalm 146: “Praise ye the LORD. Praise the LORD, O my soul.  While I live will I praise the LORD: I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being.  Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.  His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.  Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God:  Which made heaven, and earth, the sea, and all that therein is: which keepeth truth for ever:  Which executeth judgment for the oppressed: which giveth food to the hungry. The LORD looseth the prisoners:  The LORD openeth the eyes of the blind: the LORD raiseth them that are bowed down: the LORD loveth the righteous:  The LORD preserveth the strangers; he relieveth the fatherless and widow: but the way of the wicked he turneth upside down.  The LORD shall reign for ever, even thy God, O Zion, unto all generations. Praise ye the LORD."

4. Clearly, our ministry/resources/time should mirror the great priority God places on doing good to the poor. But does God have an order in His House as it relates to helping the poor? Yes He does.

1 Timothy 3:14-15 says, “These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly:  But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.”

Paul is instructing Timothy on a whole list of “things” regarding order in the church. One are of instruction is regarding widows coming under the daily care of the church. Some widows are clearly named among the “poor” and in need of daily care by the church, but not always as Paul explains in 1 Timothy 5.

Acts 6:1-3 also talk about how the early church provided daily care for widows. It was so important to the apostles that they had ten men selected to oversee the task. This task of feeding the widows involved the daily business of service, relief, running errands, and serving tables.

In Galatians 6:10 we read, “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” The word especially means: distinct, attention-getting, and unique in relation to another. Receiving daily provision and care is most definitely a distinct blessing that should be reserved for those in the “household of faith.” This is not a mean spirited exclusion; eating daily at the family table is a blessing that comes along with being a family member.  What this also means is that there is a special care afforded to ALL those who are of the household of faith – no matter what denomination or what group they belong to or don’t belong to.

1 Thessalonians 4:9-12 and II Thessalonians 3:6-15 deal with the issue of men in the church causing disorder because they are idle. The instruction is for men in the church to work with their own hands and care for their own business. Paul made it very clear to the church leadership in Thessolonica that they were not to invite these men in for dinner so that they may learn to work. However, Paul makes it clear that they were not to count them as enemies but rather admonish them as brothers.

Clearly we need discernment in these matters. God places great judgment upon children who do not take care of their aged parents (1 Timothy 5:8). And as a church we do not want to be guilty of disrupting God’s order in the family by ignoring these instructions regarding widows. Neither do we want to encourage idleness by providing daily sustenance to men who refuse to work and walk disorderly in the church. There is an order in God’s house, and this order is given so the testimony of the church can remain bright.

5. May we always “err” on the side of doing good.

Jesus says in Luke 6:30a – “Give to every man that asketh of thee;” What a bold statement!

In 1 Timothy 6:17-19, Paul instructs those of us who are rich in the world to “be ready to distribute…” He doesn’t say analyze every request and make the poor person grovel at your feet before you give. No! Be ready to give! Our attitude needs to be one that gives everyone the benefit of the doubt. Do good to every man! Yet, there is an order in God’s house and He expects us to follow the principles written down in the Scriptures. Even Jesus, after he had fed the multitudes twice, exercised discernment when he told those looking for him that they were only trying to find him in order to get another free handout. Jesus saw their heart and he didn’t do another mass feeding like that again because he knew it would not encourage the feeding of their spirits.

May we take every situation before the Lord in prayer and show grace to everyone that asks for help. And may we all stand upon God’s word and lean not upon our own understanding. Amen.

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