Lesson 11 -- first quarter 2006
August 13, 2006
© Copyright 2006
What about the needy?
We cannot go out to solve the world's social and economic problems through direct intervention. We are not called to social and political activism. I question whether we are called to solve those problems by any means. Let the world mess around with their economic and social problems. Let them march under the banner of democracy, Marxism or fascism. Let them trumpet the utopias of capitalism or redistribution of wealth. Political empires, economic systems and social philosophies will surge and wane...and through it all, the poor will always be among us (Deuteronomy 15:11; Mark 14:7). God calls His people to avoid getting caught in temporary tinkering on the world's systems. God wants His people to be instruments in His hands for effecting eternal changes in people.
The economic and social principles which God laid down for His people in the Old Testament ought still be applicable in the lives of His people in our era. Our personal and corporate financial dealings ought to be entirely just, equitable and generous. God expects us to lift that kind of righteous standard before people, but He has not commissioned us to change state or national economic policies and systems. Though most of us don't entertain such worldly ambitions, we are much too susceptible to emotional and verbal agitation against the oppression and injustices which we see. My friend, God would have us to be at peace, free from even that kind of response. It is time to get above the fray and do what we can to address needs with the resources which God has given us and which the government has allowed us to keep!
What are my responsibilities to the needy in the church? What does God want me to do about the hungry, sick, disabled or unemployed in the church? I believe the answers which follow underscore two basic facts concerning the church as a body: (1) to help a member of the body is to help the Head of the body, and (2) to help a member of the body is to benefit the body as a whole (thus, helping another is helping myself).
According to James 2:15 and 16, God expects the Christian with food and clothing to feed and warm the brother or sister who has neither. The issue does not seem to be the amount of surplus the "have" believer has; rather, the issue is that he has at least something while the "have not" has nothing. Astoundingly, therein lies the proof of God's love in His people:
"But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?" (1 John 3:17).
Isaiah 58:6-12 is a powerful passage detailing how God expects those who go by His name to live in a caring brotherhood. I believe that verse six refers primarily to a fast which assures success in the spiritual battles that rage about us. Verse seven addresses the fast which is brought about by the very practical desire to give to someone else that which I had planned to eat. Or perhaps using my own food money to buy clothing for some destitute person. Then verses 8-12 raise up the rich blessings God pours out on those who care that way.
Proverbs 22:7 alerts us to the perils of extreme economic strata in the church. I am not sure whether this verse says that I should not borrow; I am sure it says I should not lend to the needy. God calls on me to give to the poor (Proverbs 19:17; 22:9; 28:27).
The Bible commands balanced responsibility one for another:
"For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened: But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality: As it is written, He that had gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack" (2 Corinthians 8:13-15).
Is it possible that we have failed to truly believe Matthew 25:37-40?!
"Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."
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