You have seen their faces on the television. You have heard their pleas come through the voice of a spokesperson pleading with you that for just around a dollar a day you can make a difference for a child in a third world country. You see them standing in the major intersections of the city, holding their signs up and their hands out. You may even have members of your own family who come by for financial help and assistance from time to time. They are fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, and they are the poor. This week we will be exploring the issue of poverty and the gospel.
The ancient Israelites were fully informed by Old Testament law on how to deal with poverty. Special instructions were given to make sure the widow, orphans and aliens who lacked economic power were to have their needs met with their dignity intact (Deuteronomy 14:29). Property laws were established in such a way that would ensure a families economic viability from generation to generation via a special lease program (Leviticus 25:18-55). Farmers were to leave the corners of their field un-harvested so the community’s poor could glean enough food to fill their empty stomachs (Leviticus 19:9-10; 23:22).
In a similar way the New Testament contains many teachings of Jesus and direct application from the Apostles on how to deal with poverty. Jesus indicated that the poor, lame and crippled were to be the honored guests in the homes of his followers (Luke 14:12-13). Jesus spent considerable time healing those with handicaps that would have by nature been economically disadvantaged (Matthew 11:4-5). The Apostle Paul unashamedly laid out the measures by which an offering was to be taken to help the poor saints in the Jerusalem church (1 Corinthians 8-9). The epistle writer James was especially stringent on noting that no partiality was to be given to the rich over the poor (James 2:1-9) and proclaimed a dead faith to anyone who saw his brother in need and turned him away (James 2:14-17).
While the culture has changed one thing remains clear, God has a heart for the poor. The task left before us is to discern how the American church both as an institution and as individuals should set about to alleviate poverty. Join us as for the next few days as we explore the issue of poverty and the gospel.
What are your thoughts on the gospel and alleviating poverty? Are they related? Are they unrelated but both are necessary? Who is responsible to alleviate poverty? The Church, individual Christians, the government? Feel free to weigh in and share your thoughts and opinions in the comment section below.
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