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.