Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Poor

For a summary of my post yesterday, look at my last comment (#14).
It takes a lot to bring the wrath-of-J-Ross out of me, but if you want to see it, come up to me and quote Mark 14:7 as a reason that we shouldn't invest in the poor of our communities. Jesus said, "For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me." I've been in circles in which people basically say, "The poor aren't going anywhere...They are here to stay...Let's help them when we can...we can't solve the issue of poverty...blah...blah...blah..."

Hear these words from the context Jesus was referring too:
If there is among you anyone in need, a member of your community in any of your towns within your land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted toward your needy neighbor. You should rather open your hand, willingly lending enough to meet the need, whatever it may be. Be careful that you do not entertain a mean thought, thinking, 'The 7th year, the year of remission, is near,' and therefore view your needy neighbor with hostility and give nothing; your neighbor mighty cry to the Lord against you, and you would incur guilt. Give liberally and be ungrudging when you do so, for on this account the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I therefore command you, 'Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor in your land.'"

Now, let's get past our first inclination, which is to say, "That is the OT. We are NT people." :)

Shane Claiborne hits the nail on the head when he says, "The problem isn't that people don't care for the poor; it is that they don't know the poor." (paraphrase)

Here is what I have discovered, I often walk into places of poverty thinking that I have what they need--for example: words of hope, resources, contacts, the good news of Jesus, etc.
However, I leave these places convinced that many times God uses the poor to teach me about theology, the Bible, and life.

Here is why I enjoy hanging out with "the poor": (no particular order)
1) In them, I discover my own hopelessness.
2) God teaches me about simplicity.
3) 1 out of every 10 verses in Scripture deals with the poor and oppressed. With the poor, my eyes are opened to new meanings in Scripture.
4) Poverty is not about issues; it is about people who have been created in the image of God.
5) I find God at work.
6) I receive dreams for liberation, deliverance, and justice.

Feel free to add to the list.


Rick Ross said...

I loved your summary thoughts on yesterday's blog. Also, thanks for your boldness in holding our feet to the fire when it comes to the poor.

Justin said...

Having just returned from Africa, I am in the process of working out my feelings in regards to poverty. This seems like a decent forum to think out loud. Maybe get some feedback.

I find it interesting that we are able to list off ways we enjoy being around the poor. I wonder if they list off ways they enjoy being poor? Do they see how they are so blessed to be in this simple lifestyle? Or ways they appreciate the rich coming to visit them. I wonder if they feel good about giving us reasons to be thankful for our air conditioning, to appreciate our belongings more? Do they feel good about giving us theological thoughts? "Glad I can help you put things in perspective, be sure and wave from your new car as you leave."

I hear many times that experiencing a mission to the poor does more for the person "serving" than the one being served. Is something wrong about that? Did Jesus want us to "help" the poor in a way that would make us feel good about ourselves? Are we really helping if we are getting more than them?

In Africa I noticed myself liking my white man status. I had a natural feeling of, "yes look at the white man serving the poor." "Look at all these stares, I am so good to these people".

I am learning how to treat the poor. I obviously do not have it figured out. I do know that we must have been doing something right when a man getting glasses told me that "Christ was being resurrected from the dead through us because we were there". "He was dead, but he has risen in you people today", he said. Talk about giving us theological thoughts! I am glad you are at Sycamore View. Look forward to meeting you.

Anonymous said...

Today when I read your blog and Justin's response, see me scratching my chin saying, "Hmmmmm!"

Josh Ross said...

If I had just returned from 3 weeks in Zambia, I would probably be asking the same questions.
As for me, I write from my own experiences and contexts which have mainly been inner-city America.

I don't see ministry/service/kingdom work as who is receiving or giving more; but rather I see it as God inviting us into his world where he is doing things. He is working. If this is true, life becomes about iron sharpening iron...or people created in his image sharpening other people who have been created in his image.

For me, I need the poor, and for many reasons that I can't even describe.

Justin, I'm never going to have the poor figured out either, but I know that I'm grateful to be on a journey with people like you who are asking such questions.

Kim Chapman said...

From my recent trip to Honduras, I have learned alot, but these come to mind:

1. To be content and thankful in all things.
2. To slow down and watch God at work.
3. To count my blessings everyday!

kcox said...

Already sent you my thoughts. This is to see if I am setup to reply. Keep us thinking!