The Poor Among Us
I. Poverty is an existing problem. It has always been this way and it will continue until the world ends.
A. Jesus said “You will always have the poor among you.” - John 12:8
B. Poverty comes from a variety of sources: Circumstances, incapacity, and sometimes even by choice.
1. These things will continue to happen, so poverty will continue to exist.
II. The question is what should be done?
A. In an editorial published on 12/23/1996, Cal Thomas, worried that the government’s capacity to care for the poor is exceeding its limits argues that the church should take up the responsibility.
1. He urges a return to the time “when religious people were on the front lines in the war on poverty.”
2. “According to the Maryland secretary of state’s office, there are 53,253 families or 185,083 individuals, receiving welfare payments in that state. There are more than 5,000 places of worship in Maryland. So if every place of worship became responsible for just 10 families, or 37 individuals, the welfare rolls in Maryland could be wiped clean.” Failure to do so would just be churches “rejecting one of their fundamental mandates and opportunities.”
a. Note that if each family is supported at $20,000 per year, Mr. Thomas is suggesting that each church would be adding $200,000 per year to its budget.
3. “Clergy should begin preaching messages about the privilege of helping the poor out of their poverty. The state grants certain tax breaks to religious bodies, expecting them to perform work that the state can’t or shouldn’t do. It has a right to expect a return from the tax exempt. If church leaders think government ought to be the primary provider for the poor, perhaps the state ought to be asking the churches to help foot the bill.”
B. President Clinton has stated something similar. In a message to church leaders, he said, “If every church in America just hired one family [off the welfare rolls] the welfare problem would go way down.”
C. We see how deeply ingrained in American’s thought is the idea that the church is a welfare organization.
D. The only problem is that such is not taught in the Scriptures.
1. No where does God instruct the church to eliminate poverty (such would not be possible according to Jesus).
2. No where is the church commanded to support the poor in general, though it does aid members who are needy
III. The care of the poor is place on each individual Christian’s shoulders
A. James 1:27 - We are to visit (oversee) widows and orphans in their affliction.
B. Gal. 6:9-10 - Do good to all as you have opportunity.
C. It is the idea of having compassion for your fellow man - Luke 10:25-37
D. Compassion means action, not just sympathy - James 2:15-17
E. Compassion is what separates the sheep from the goats - Matt 25:31-46
F. God wants a sacrifice of doing good - Heb. 13:16
1. Isa 58:6-12 - By these services, we have a chance to undo the consequences of sinful men.
2. I John 3:17 - To love God we must show love to our fellow men
G. The care for others does not depend on convenience
1. Even if we are forced, we must give generous help - Matt 5:38-42
2. Pr. 25:21-22 - Help your enemies
H. Willing to share God’s blessings
1. Be willing to give up what you have - Luke 12:33-34
2. Share from your abundance - Luke 3:11
3. I Tim 6:18 - The rich should be willing to share
I. God encourages our generosity
1. Luke 6:38 - God returns blessing in proportions of our generosity
2. Prov 28:27 - If we give, God will help us
3. Prov 21:13 - If we ignore the poor, then we will face similar situations
4. Eccl 11:1-2 - Helping others is investing in our own future
IV. But all of this is commanded of the Christian, not the church
A. Look at Jesus. He was a poor man from a poor family. The common people gladly accepted him as one of their own - Mark 12:37
1. Jesus’ purpose was to teach the truth - John 18:37
2. His service to the poor was to teach the Gospel - Luke 7:22
3. When people followed him because he feed the 5,000, Jesus turned them away, because that was not his purpose - John 6:26-27
4. Jesus came into a world dominated by an oppressive government, filled with slavery, poverty was wide spread through much of the population; yet, he did not seek to change the people’s political, social, or economic status.
B. As with the Christ, the church’s purpose is in the spread of the gospel
1. It is the pillar and foundation of truth - I Tim 3:15
2. From each congregation, God’s word is sent forth - I Thess 1:8
3. Congregations, at times, did give aid to needy members, but it cannot be described as a primary purpose. Nor was it ever given to world in general.
4. “Go to the American Lung Association with a toe problem and ask for help. What would happen? Chances are good that those folks would be unable to assist you. Their area of expertise begins at the top of your chest and ends about the middle of your stomach. They aren’t the American Toe Association. They do lungs, and anything associated with your lungs and breathing.”
“Does this mean they aren’t compassionate? If you are turned away and told to have your toe looked at elsewhere does that mean the American Lung Association does not care? Is the American Lung Association “anti”toes, or horror of horrors, actually guilty of hating toes? No, they are not. When the ALA tells you to go elsewhere for toe care, it simply means they have a mission, a focused objective, and they have to “stay on target.” They do lungs, period. If they start scattering themselves all over everywhere doing everything for everyone, who will take care of lung and breathing problems?” - Mark Roberts
5. The church’s focus is teaching God’s word - Matthew 28:18-20. Everything it does revolves around this duty. The church is not an employment agency, recreation center, political action committee, or welfare aid society.
V. Our deepest poverty is not material wealth, but our soul’s great need for salvation.