A blog about everything about teaching the Bible. "And still I will show you a more excellent way..." (1 Corinthians 12:31).

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Thinking on Things (Part 6)

Time to finally wrap up the series about money and stuff. There are just two areas I mentioned in the first post in this series I don't think I've really touched on at all, so time to address them. The tougher question first.

If the church is called to help the poor, who qualifies as poor? I might add, how do we define help? Jesus put things in perspective when he said, "For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me." (Mark 14:7). Serving Christ as Lord is the highest calling. My walk of faith with Christ comes before the good work of caring for the poor as it is but one aspect of the Christian way of life. But the Lord's words do show his concern with the plight of the poor, and he expects his disciples will share that concern. Many passages show how important it is to care for the poor. Consider these: Psalm 41:1, Matthew 25:34-46Luke 7:22, James 2:5-7, and 14-16

Who is poor then? There are certain ones we cannot help. "If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat" (2Thessalonians 3:10). I'm convinced this commandment primarily has to do with brothers and sisters in Christ who all ought to be godly enough to do their best to take care of their own needs and those of their dependents. In other words they ought to know better. "But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever" (1Timothy 5:8). If someone is able to do his fair share, but won't, particularly a Christian who ought to know better, the right thing to do is to let him suffer the consequences. Otherwise we become enablers, and share his guilt. But, it's not that this command is entirely punitive in nature. It's redemptive! The point is hunger will motivate the slothful to amend his ways, and he, and all of us will be the better for it. This redemptive purpose is what I think is the most important thing to keep in mind when thinking about how to help the poor. 

In other words, if someone is trying, but struggling, or perhaps physically or mentally unable to take care of things good people ought to pitch in and help however we can. Beyond that, even if someone isn't pulling his fair share we ought to give openhandedly when the purpose is redemptive, for instance with an unbeliever who might come to faith if shown some mercy and thus learn to be productive. These examples aren't intended to be exhaustive, but hopefully represent an application of the redemptive principle. 

Again, who is poor? Well, the answer is subjective. Poor in the "Western World" is different from the "Third World." This doesn't mean poor Americans aren't struggling. If my children are having to go without some of the things they need, it hardly solves anything to be told there are others who are going without even more of those things. Christians in "the West" ought to do what we can to redemptively help those among us as well as in the deeply poor places of the world. Poor means having less than what is adequate of something. Even those who are poor ought to do what they can to show mercy toward those who are in abject poverty. Remember, Jesus didn't help every poor family in Israel while he walked this earth any more than he healed every sick person. Helping the poor is an important ministry of the church, but it is a means to an end of pursuing the redemptive goals of the kingdom of God, not an end in and of itself. 

As for parents' responsibility to teach children about good stewardship of money and possessions, I'd like to say a lot, but I've already said about as much as I want to in a single post, so I'll just sum it up with two principles. 1) Parents must teach these things to their children. 2) Parents ought to give their children opportunities to go without things they want and to observe the lives of those who have less so they can understand how to appreciate what they have.

May God richly bless us all!


Fortune said...

When the Lord teaches, we need to learn and be able to do the right things . Thanks for your wonderful presentation on this thought.

Joshua Pappas said...

Right! you're welcome, and thanks for reading and commenting!

Jenny said...

I agree that those in better off countries should make an effort to help the poor abroad. However, I've often seen Christians channel so much time, money, and energy to foreign lands, while neglecting those right in their own neighborhood who also have needs that can be quickly and more efficiently met.

Joshua Pappas said...

True Jenny. I'm in full support of the global mission, but it starts next door. It also seems to me if we do a better job of meeting the legitimate needs of the people closer to home, in time, it will increase our overall ability to help those farther away.