Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger

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19.  To summarize the summary: If I serve, love, and am devoted to God, I will hate and despise Money.  As a citizen of God's Kingdom living as a stranger in the world, I can convert Money into treasure stored in heaven for myself and I can bring thanksgiving and glory to God by giving Money generously.

Near the beginning of Jesus' ministry, Jesus read from prophet Isaiah:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim freedom to the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, and to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord. (Luke 4:18-19)

After reading these words, Jesus told the audience that He was the fulfillment of this Scripture.  This is alive with concern for the poor, imprisoned and oppressed.

Jesus' actual ministry corresponded precisely with these words.  As C.S. Lewis said, our main goal in life is to become "little Christs" to be and do what Jesus was and did.  This is the central reason for Christian concern for the poor.

Some have tried to blunt Jesus' concern by spiritualizing it.  I think you'll see in a moment that that only increases our responsibility as ones who have been delivered from slavery to sin into the freedom and joy of living as full blown citizens of the kingdom of God.

Jesus spent His entire public life doing two things: healing the sick, and standing up for the oppressed and marginalized.  He instructed His disciples to follow Him and do the same.

Two proverbs identify God's concern for the poor:

He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but he who is kind to the needy honors God. (Pro 14:31)

He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and He will reward him for what he has done. (Pro 19:17)

When I oppress the poor, I am thereby showing contempt to God who made them.  On the other hand, when I proactively respond with kindness and generosity to a person who is in need, I am honoring, glorifying and respecting God.  To glorify and honor God is my highest calling.  I can accomplish my highest calling by proactively helping poor people.

It is hard to imagine that I have enough resources to figuratively lend them to the Lord.  What can this mean?  Paul says in Romans 11:35: Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him.  For from Him, and through Him, and to Him, and for Him are all things.  How can you reconcile this?  While God is the source, means, and purpose of all things, by proactively responding with kindness and generosity to a person who is in need, I am in some real way lending to the Lord, and the Lord will not only repay me but He will also reward me for being kind to the poor.  This is partially explained by the following parable that Jesus told.

Jesus not only came to free and release the poor and oppressed; but in some mysterious way we can only partly imagine, He identifies Himself intimately with the poor in this parable:

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory.  All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it for me.'

"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'

"They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?"

"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'

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