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Love for the Poor in a World of Plenty

Proverbs  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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An imagination of God's heart for the poor.

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THE INTRODUCTION

INTRODUCE MYSELF

CULTURAL PROBLEMS WE FACE

Poverty has mostly fallen under the arm of social justice, which has sadly become somewhat of a divisive word within the church.
Maybe this is because many of us have either never been taught well God’s heart towards the poor, or we have and lost sight of it.
Often this results in allowing our politics to dictate to us our posture towards the poor, which is dangerous for those of us who call ourselves Christian, which will become clearer as we move further along.
We see the poor as a problem to be fixed and not a people made in the image of God.
It is really interesting when we look at what the Bible says about the poor, it seems clear there has always been and will always be poor.
“You will always have the poor among you...”
You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.
You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.
, ,
You will always have the poor among you, and you can help them whenever you want to. But you will not always have me.
You will always have the poor among you, and you can help them whenever you want to. But you will not always have me.
You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”

27 Then Peter said to him, “We’ve given up everything to follow you. What will we get?”

28 Jesus replied, “I assure you that when the world is made new* and the Son of Man* sits upon his glorious throne, you who have been my followers will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are the greatest now will be least important then, and those who seem least important now will be the greatest then.*

Eternity even still has first and lasts...
Matthew 19:27–30 NLT
Then Peter said to him, “We’ve given up everything to follow you. What will we get?” Jesus replied, “I assure you that when the world is made new and the Son of Man sits upon his glorious throne, you who have been my followers will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life. But many who are the greatest now will be least important then, and those who seem least important now will be the greatest then.
You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”

27 Then Peter said to him, “We’ve given up everything to follow you. What will we get?”

28 Jesus replied, “I assure you that when the world is made new* and the Son of Man* sits upon his glorious throne, you who have been my followers will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are the greatest now will be least important then, and those who seem least important now will be the greatest then.*

The Bible also does not seem to ask us to solve the problem of poverty.
I am not, in the least bit, suggesting we do not work hard to address issues of poverty and the many injustices that often keep the poor in a place of stasis or worse.
I am pointing out that the Bible seems to be much more concerned with our posture towards the poor than our ability to “fix the problem.”
So, can we this morning, suspend our political bias and instinct to “fix the problem” and instead submit ourselves to one another and the Scriptures and ask the Spirit of God to transform our imaginations in regard to the poor?

SCRIPTURE

1 Better to be poor and honest

than to be dishonest and a fool.

(NLT)
Proverbs 19:1 NLT
Better to be poor and honest than to be dishonest and a fool.

4 Wealth makes many “friends”;

poverty drives them all away.

1 Better to be poor and honest
than to be dishonest and a fool.
than to be dishonest and a fool.
(NLT)
Proverbs 19:4 NLT
Wealth makes many “friends”; poverty drives them all away.
4 Wealth makes many “friends”;
poverty drives them all away.
poverty drives them all away.
(NLT)
Proverbs 19:6–7 NLT
Many seek favors from a ruler; Everyone is the friend of a person who gives gifts! The relatives of the poor despise them; how much more will their friends avoid them! Though the poor plead with them, their friends are gone.
6 Many seek favors from a ruler (privileged/generous person);
Everyone is the friend of a person who gives gifts!
Everyone is the friend of a person who gives gifts!
7 The relatives of the poor despise them;
how much more will their friends avoid them!
how much more will their friends avoid them!
Though the poor plead with them,
Though the poor plead with them,
their friends are gone.
their friends are gone.
(NLT)
Proverbs 19:17 NLT
If you help the poor, you are lending to the Lord and he will repay you!
17 If you help (favor, to show gracious kindness, NT: redemption, defend, be devoted to) the poor, you are lending (to be joined) to the Lord—
and he will repay you!
and he will repay (benefit, bless) you!

Poverty has mostly fallen under the arm of social justice, which has become a divisive word within the church.

THE PRAYER

I am convinced this is because many of us have either never been taught, or lost sight of, God’s heart towards the poor.
Then we allow our politics to dictate to us our posture towards the poor, which is dangerous for those of us who call ourselves Christian.
We see the poor as a problem to be fixed and not a people made in the image of God.
It is really interesting when we look at what the Bible says about the poor, it seems clear there has always been and will always be poor.
TEST THIS
It also does not ask us to solve the problem of poverty.
I am not, in the least bit, suggesting we do not work hard to address issues of poverty, I am just pointing out that the Bible seems to be much more concerned with our posture towards the poor than our ability to “fix the problem.”

THE TEXT

The culture of our heart

The entire purpose of the wisdom literature is to impart wisdom - to teach one how to be successful but also how to be “good,” if you will.
Scripture seems pretty clear that God cares about our actions, but even more He cares about the motives fueling our actions.
The entire purpose of the wisdom literature is to empart wisdom
Culture is an interesting thing.
There is intentional culture and there is allowed culture.
When we are not intentional about the culture we desire it will develop on its own (allowed culture) and often it does not go in the direction we hope or desire.
The culture of our hearts is very much the same, individually and more importantly collectively.

Regarding poverty and wealth:

: Poverty + Integrity > wealth + lack of integrity
Proverbs 19:1 NLT
Better to be poor and honest than to be dishonest and a fool.
Verse 1

worse than poverty is to fail to be human

The poor have greater problems than just not having money.
R.E. Murphy
Verses 4, 6-7
,: The Proverb is trying to teach someone of privilege to develop and practice what we now call cognitive empathy for those without privilege (i.e. the poor).
Proverbs 19:4 NLT
Wealth makes many “friends”; poverty drives them all away.
Proverbs 19:6–7 NLT
Many seek favors from a ruler; Everyone is the friend of a person who gives gifts! The relatives of the poor despise them; how much more will their friends avoid them! Though the poor plead with them, their friends are gone.
To recognize the poor have greater problems than just not having money.
Poverty directly impacts relationships.
While the privileged have people desiring to be friends with them because of their status (which is its own problem), the poor have people avoiding them because of their position of need.
The text is clear that even those who should be loving (e.g. family and friends) despise or hate them.
It is strong language, but it is describing the attitude towards the poor.
It is enmity, disgust, contempt, and repudiation.
This is real hatred…the kind that leads to prejudice towards the poor and the Scriptures tell us this is foul and in opposition to what is good and what is wise.
We must be aware that relationships directly impact one’s power and ability to positively impact their own poverty.
EXAMPLE OF LOSING MY JOB AND BEING OUT OF WORK
EXAMPLE OF LOSING MY JOB AND BEING OUT OF WORK
In a culture where we love to make everything so binary and reduce things down to their lowest common denominator, we must remember that everyone’s story is far more complicated and nuanced than often think. This doesn’t just happen naturally for most people.
: Generosity to the poor matters to God!
This is definitely the climax of the statements regarding the poor.

17 If you help the poor, you are lending to the LORD—

and he will repay you!

If you help the poor, you are lending to the Lord— and he will repay you!” (, NLT)
If you help (i.e. are generous to) the poor, you are lending to the Lord— and He will repay you!” (, NLT)
17 If you help the poor, you are lending to the Lord—
17 If you help the poor, you are lending to the Lord—
17 If you help the poor, you are lending to the Lord—

17 If you help the poor, you are lending to the LORD—

and he will repay you!

and he will repay you!
and he will repay you!
If you help the poor, you are lending to the Lord— and he will repay you!” (, NLT)
Proverbs 19:17 NLT
If you help the poor, you are lending to the Lord— and he will repay you!
and he will repay you!
17 If you help the poor, you are lending to the Lord—
Tyndale House Publishers, Holy Bible: New Living Translation (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2013), Pr 19:17.
Tyndale House Publishers, Holy Bible: New Living Translation (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2013), .
and he will repay you!
Tyndale House Publishers, Holy Bible: New Living Translation (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2013), .
Tyndale House Publishers, Holy Bible: New Living Translation (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2013), .
17If you help the poor, you are lending to the Lord— and he will repay you!
Text
Notice the use of economic contractual language.
The Proverb is using a metaphor of credit that places God as our debtor when we are generous and care for the poor, which is a really good place to be.
We are being educated here to esteem the powerless and poor as worthy of favor and active acceptance.
This is what sets disciples apart from the crowd on the side of the poor who would otherwise stand alone and without power.
So when we are generous to the poor we “lend” to the Lord, Who always makes good on His debts, because the Lord’s honor is tied up with the poor since He made them and they too are His image (; ; ).
Proverbs 14:31 NLT
Those who oppress the poor insult their Maker, but helping the poor honors him.
Proverbs 14:31 NLT
Those who oppress the poor insult their Maker, but helping the poor honors him.
Proverbs 17:5 NLT
Those who mock the poor insult their Maker; those who rejoice at the misfortune of others will be punished.

31 Those who oppress the poor insult their Maker,

but helping the poor honors him.

Proverbs 22:2 NLT
The rich and poor have this in common: The Lord made them both.
Proverbs 17:5 NLT
Those who mock the poor insult their Maker; those who rejoice at the misfortune of others will be punished.
Their just and gracious Creator takes it upon Himself to assume their indebtedness and so He will repay the lender in full.
Their just and gracious Creator takes it upon himself to assume their indebtedness and so he will repay the lender in full
Proverbs 22:2 NLT
The rich and poor have this in common: The Lord made them both.
If this passage sounds familiar it is most likely because you have heard of someone else famous saying it…this dude, Jesus.
Jesus paraphrases this in a parable ...
Matthew 25:31–46 NLT
31 “But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left. 34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’ 37 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? 39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’ 41 “Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. 42 For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. 43 I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’ 44 “Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’ 45 “And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’ 46 “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.”
Isn’t it interesting that fifteen times the New Testament alludes to eternity as a party, a wedding feast, a banquet, etc., and only one parable alludes to eternity as a courtroom and it is for judgement on how we treat the poor?

THE TEXT IN LIGHT OF JESUS (THE GOSPEL)

THE TEXT IN LIGHT OF JESUS

God’s heart for the poor as seen through Jesus

If Jesus was God incarnate and if we believe Jesus’ words in that those who have seen Jesus have seen the God the Father, then we can get a really accurate idea of God’s heart for the poor by seeing Jesus.

The Kingdom of God

Jesus came proclaiming and ushering in the Kingdom of God.
The Kingdom which is constantly moving towards the renewal of all things as promises.
This Kingdom of God is all about justice.
Not just justice in the sense that we often tend to think (i.e. consequence for evil and wrong), but a balancing of all things…a setting right of all things.
As far back as we see God establishing laws for the Israelites to care for the poor:
A canceling of all debts every seventh year.
To not refuse a loan as the seventh year approaches.
And then He explicitly says in verses 10 and 11.
Deuteronomy 15:10–11 NLT
Give generously to the poor, not grudgingly, for the Lord your God will bless you in everything you do. There will always be some in the land who are poor. That is why I am commanding you to share freely with the poor and with other Israelites in need.
It seems clear God wanted the Israelites to know (and now us) that we do not need to worry about the balance of things when we pour out our lives generously to those in need.
That whatever we give is somehow invested within the economy of the Kingdom of God.
It is secure and it pays out greater than any other investment we can ever make.
If Jesus was establishing a Kingdom of which He is the King, we must pay attention to the example the King has set.
Jesus spent the majority of His ministry amongst those on the margins (i.e. those without power and privilege, the lepers who were not only sick but cast out of society, the sinners, and the poor).
He fed them. He healed them. He gave them His attention even when He was tired. He talked to them. He touched them. He showed them mercy rather than judgement. He genuinely loved them. Simply put, He was present with them.

The Presence of God

The Kingdom of God is all about the presence of God.
“The kingdom of God is life with God in a space where people join together as brothers and sisters.”
Fitch, David E.. Faithful Presence: Seven Disciplines That Shape the Church for Mission (Kindle Locations 1667-1668). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.
Fitch, David E.. Faithful Presence: Seven Disciplines That Shape the Church for Mission (Kindle Locations 1667-1668). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.
Jesus says as much when He tells His disciples:
John 15:15 NLT
I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.
With a stunning sense of kinship Jesus invites us to be with Him.
He does not invite us in as His underlings but calls us to be a part of something with Him, a new politic of the Kingdom.
And a posture of being with is the signature mark of the way God has come to us in the world.
Matthew 1:23 NLT
“Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’ ”
This is what we are called to practice with the “least of these” as we just read about in .
In this posture, being with the hurting people in our churches, in our lives, in our neighborhoods, spaces are opened up among us for the in-breaking power of God in Christ. This is where miracles happen. This is his kingdom.
In this posture, being with the hurting people in our churches, in our lives, in our neighborhoods, spaces are opened up among us for the in-breaking power of God in Christ. This is where miracles happen. This is His kingdom!
~ David Fitch
Fitch, David E.. Faithful Presence: Seven Disciplines That Shape the Church for Mission (Kindle Locations 1682-1684). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.
When we offer our presence to the least of these we tend to the presence of Christ between us.
When we do this we open up space where no one is over the other and no one is a “problem to be solved.”
Gary Anderson points out that “for early Christians, encountering Christ through actively being with the poor was not just a metaphor; the church proclaimed that one actually encountered the presence of God in the poor.”
~ Gary Anderson, Charity [New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2013], 6-7).
This is not about a charity program, this is about a posture of presence and with’ness!
Fitch, David E.. Faithful Presence: Seven Disciplines That Shape the Church for Mission (Kindle Locations 3453-3455). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.
Jesus promises His disciples that when we care for “the least of these” He is present in a unique and powerful way that transforms lives.

How can we respond?

I hate to turn this now into a list of things to do…remember this is about the Spirit of God transforming our imagination, however, let us leave this place being mindful of a few things:
Ask ourselves and one another about our posture towards the poor.
Do some serious self evaluation and then invite others into it.
It is not enough to just let it sit within your own heart. Christianity is a communal faith not an individual faith despite how much evangelicalism has tried to convince us it is over the last several decades.
“I know I am a Christian because my friends tell me I am - I do not trust my own subjectivity.” ~ Stanley Hauerwas
Most likely we all need to grow in suspending judgement towards the poor.
What might happen if we all stopped asking the question, “Do they deserve it?”
Do they deserve their poverty?
Do they deserve my generosity?
We can submit ourselves to the Spirit of God and ask for a continued transforming of our minds and imaginations and watch what God does with hearts yielded to Him.

COMMUNION

1cor11:

23 For I pass on to you what I received from the Lord himself. On the night when he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread 24 and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and said, “This is my body, which is given for you.* Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, he took the cup of wine after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood. Do this in remembrance of me as often as you drink it.” 26 For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are announcing the Lord’s death until he comes again.

1 Corinthians 11:23–26 NLT
For I pass on to you what I received from the Lord himself. On the night when he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and said, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, he took the cup of wine after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood. Do this in remembrance of me as often as you drink it.” For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are announcing the Lord’s death until he comes again.
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