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God loves the poor – so should we

“Share your food with the hungry and provide the poor wanderer with shelter – when you see the naked, to clothe him.” Isaiah 58:7 God not only loves the underdog, he loves an entire class of underdogs: the poor.  Over and over again in Scripture he asks us to take up their case.  …
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes
“Share your food with the hungry and provide the poor wanderer with shelter – when you see the naked, to clothe him.” Isaiah 58:7

God not only loves the underdog, he loves an entire class of underdogs: the poor.  Over and over again in Scripture he asks us to take up their case. 
 
He tells us in the book of James that true religion is to help the widow and the orphan.  In that same book, he talks down the rich telling them to “weep and wail for the misery that is coming” to them.  He begins the beatitudes by calling those who are poor in spirit blessed. 

Shalom, relational peace, is a community-wide issue.  In Is. 58, God addresses the sins of omission – the opportunities to give that we ignored.  All of us who have food or shelter have something to offer the hungry or homeless.  Those with clothes need to share them.  And, perhaps most importantly, we can posture ourselves with hearts of warmth and openness. 
 
Our reaction to the needy may be to want to avoid them, but we are told to not turn away; we are connected to these people.  We share our humanity; we both have blood flowing in our veins.  To turn away from them is to deny our best selves.  To fail to respect that is to break the shalom that God has instituted for our benefit.

I’m tired tonight.  But it occurs to me, this is how the poor feel all the time.  They just never seem to catch a break.  A friend was telling me about his visit to an AIDS hospital in South Africa.  A doctor in charge there estimates that 95% of those they test have got the HIV virus.
 
Babies die sad, isolated deaths there.  The nurses themselves die at an alarming rate.  A nation is being orphaned. And God’s heart beats for them.  He allowed me to feel what He felt a couple of days ago and I thought it would crush me.  The Lord showed me that I don’t have a right to “my own stuff” – I must open up my home to orphans.

It’s a messy ministry, but it’s the one that Jesus wants us to embrace.  Note that we are not called to assess the motives of the homeless, hungry, and naked.  The fact is, they very likely may be trying to scam us; but no matter.  They are broken just like we are.  When we lay eyes on them, we are told to respond.  We are told elsewhere that it’s God’s job to judge the heart.  It’s our job to make the compassion that He feels tangible – to put legs on it.

How many times do we drive by the homeless man with the sign proclaiming his need?  Do we think to ourselves, “He’ll just use money on booze”?  If so, we’re missing the point!  We are that man’s divine safety net!  We are God’s plan for his care. How are you caring for them this week?

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Program notewe have 14 people signed up for our three listening prayer groups with room for a few more of you. Some of you need to do this. If you want to grow in your ability to hear God’s voice, this is for you. Read yesterday’s post or just email me.

Comments (8)

  • About 7 months ago, a man carrying a sign which said, “Father of 2, no job, hungry” was walking along a sidewalk in our small town of 24000. One of our members felt compassion upon him and gave him some money and heard his story. The next Sunday, another member shared during testimony time that her heart broke for the man and wondered what we could do for him. Within a week, not only had the church ministered to him, but one lady picked him up and brought him to church where he was showered with love and more food. He has since rededicated his life to Christ, and now he and his two children come regularly to church and serve. He shared recently that before Theresa stopped to help him and convince him to oome to church, he was down to 95 lbs. He was literally starving to death. He is back up to 135 now. He is still in process, but God used His people to be the safety net for this man. God knew his name and his need.

  • “We are that man’s divine safety net.” Love that statement!

    So true and such a new way to think about how our things again are not really ever our own, but rather God’s that he gives us stewardship of.

  • Seth, I’m shaking my head as my heart sees and feels what you (and the others here) are saying.

    Please keep this stuff coming. I’m praying for my friends to get it (and some are!).

    Bless you man.

  • Thanks, Kenny. The prayers will make all the difference. That and taking them w/ you to the Philippines. They’ll get it.

  • “Our reaction to the needy may be to want to avoid them, but we are told to not turn away; we are connected to these people. To turn away from them is to deny our best selves.
    When we lay eyes on them, we are told to respond.
    It’s our job to make the compassion that He feels tangible – to put legs on it. He allowed me to feel what He felt a couple of days ago and I thought it would crush me. The Lord showed me that I don’t have a right to “my own stuff” – I must open up my home to orphans.”

    This is my heartbeat. You’re speaking my language. In fact, when I taught a semester-long course on this at a Bible College in New Zealand, I told the one who hired me that I was willing to teach it, but only if the school allowed me to LIVE it too- and take others along. I understood the importance of ‘awareness education’ but I knew it meant little unless it was translated into action. The following story from Mother Teresa illustrates why:

    “If you are preoccupied with people who are talking about the poor, you scarcely have time to talk to the poor. Some people talk about hunger but they don’t come and say ‘Mother, here is five Rupees, buy food for these people.’ But they can give a beautiful lecture on hunger.”

    “I had the most extraordinary experience once in Bombay. There was a big conference about hunger. I was supposed to go to that meeting and I lost the way. Suddenly I came to that place, and right in front of the door to where hundreds of people were talking about food and hunger, I found a dying man. I took him out and I took him home. He died there. He died of hunger.”

    “And the people inside were talking about how in 15 years we will have so much food, so much this, so much that, and that man died.”

    “See the difference?”

  • “He allowed me to feel what He felt a couple of days ago and I thought it would crush me.”

    Feeling God’s heartbreak and burden for this world has crushed me, too.
    It is another step in breaking out of our egocentric shells.
    To become extensions of His heart and hands in this world.

    Some of the most graced moments of my life have been when I was vulnerable and unguarded with the poor, as I was with a woman who pulled into my driveway one day, desperate, hungry and strung out, running from the police (I found out later). I invited her into my house where she took a shower. I never regretted it; I treated her like a child of God. Her gratitude was overwhelming. I handed her a small amount of cash as she was leaving and she asked, “Why are you doing this?” “Because God is in my life…”

    Beautiful post, Seth.
    Thank you,
    Judith

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.



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