Lately, there have been some scriptures that have shaken me to the core. Literally life change changing stuff. I'll share a few of them over the course of the next few days.
The first one I'll share with you is Gal. 2:6-10. Check it out:
6 And the leaders of the church had nothing to add to what I was preaching. (By the way, their reputation as great leaders made no difference to me, for God has no favorites.) 7 Instead, they saw that God had given me the responsibility of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, just as he had given Peter the responsibility of preaching to the Jews. 8 For the same God who worked through Peter as the apostle to the Jews also worked through me as the apostle to the Gentiles.
9 In fact, James, Peter and John, who were known as pillars of the church, recognized the gift God had given me, and they accepted Barnabas and me as their co-workers. They encouraged us to keep preaching to the Gentiles, while they continued their work with the Jews. 10 Their only suggestion was that we keep on helping the poor, which I have always been eager to do.
The only suggestion the pillars of the church could give was to keep helping the poor. Not to make sure you take an offering, not to make sure you baptize in the name of the Father, Son and Spirit and not Jesus name only. Not to make sure you stay seeker sensitive. Not to make sure you are relevant. Not to make sure you use the right font on your business cards. Not to make sure you use the right small group materials. Not to make sure your worship isn't too traditional. One can only come to the conclusion that the pillars of the church wanted to share something essential to bringing the message to the Gentiles. The only advice was to keep helping the poor. Not to make sure you target the rich people so that you can have the money to fund your ministry. But to make sure you help the poor.
That was life changing for me because its not something I make a focus. I do it occassionally, but its not at the core of my Christian expression. In fact, I will never forget when I heard a pastor say "don't give to the poor. Its a bad investment." He supported this foolishness and falsehood by using the scripture where it says something to the effect of if you give to the poor, God will return what you give. So if you give a dollar, you'll get a dollar. But if you give to people who are blessed you'll get blessed. Sow it into good ground and receive 30, 60 and 100 fold. I'm blessed so give to me! WHAT A CROCK OF GOOSE CRAP! I never accepted that, but I still never made it a priority to help the poor. if I did it, I did it. If I didn't, I didn't. If I made it to the nursing home or the food bank or the soup kitchen - then give me a pat on the back. If I didn't, well, get off my back. I didn't make it a priority to help them. This scripture (along with many others, but this one as the plainest scripture to make the point) changed my focus. Based on this scripture, its easy to draw the conclusion that helping the poor isn't an additive or elective of the faith but rather is essential to the life of faith. It became even more clear for me when I pair this scripture with "love God and your neighbor as you love yourself." Then, I was even more wowed - and convicted and humbled - when Jesus began His public ministry by addressing what group of people first? THE POOR! "He has anointed me...preach the good news to the poor..." WOW! It was the first section of society Jesus addressed. Not the lost, but the poor! Not the hurting, but the poor! Not the sinner, but the poor! I'm not saying Jesus doesn't put SENSATIONAL emphasis on those groups - He did say "I came to seek and save that which was lost." Don't get me wrong, God wants extraordinary amounts of emphasis on those groups. But I viewed it like this:
The lost, the hurting, those who need to be discipled. And oh yeah, the poor too...whenever that is convenient. But as I live the gospel message and I share the gospel message, helping the poor should be HIGH on my priority list.
But I admit, the poor has not been a priority. People in dire financial straits have not been a priority for me. Maybe its because I don't feel like like I'm rich. Andy Stanley's message "How to be rich" helped me dispell that idea. Maybe its because I felt like many people who were poor were that way because its their own fault. But isn't that being incredibly prejudice and judgemental? Even if it is their fault, are they beyond my help? Sin was my fault but Jesus still died for me. Aren't I supposed to "love like Jesus?"
So now, my priority is to help the poor. I believe its an essential part of living our my faith. Not just an additive, but an essential.