Rich in Poverty

It was the day I was meant to celebrate my upcoming 14th birthday. Friends and relatives were due to arrive at my house for dinner and birthday cake. I was looking forward to the evening but first, I was set to serve at a food bank in downtown Los Angeles with the Missions Club from my school. The day was both dark and wet. A handful of my peers and I sat in a van driving along with a couple of teachers into the filthy streets of the slum area.

I wish I could remember what work we did there that day but the only memory I have is of row upon row of cardboard boxes burning in the rain-makeshift fireplaces for men with long scruffy beards and skinny dogs. The image burned-still does. It was a surreal experience to see such need and then go home to gifts to celebrate my birthday. Our fireplace was lit, we ate a meal of my choosing, and then I opened gift upon gift, all things I did not even need.

I used to feel really good about myself for always offering to buy food for the homeless when I was out and about. I would even give them a blanket or item of clothing if I had one handy. I was sincerely doing enough to feel like I was being generous when really, it was a false sense of doing good. My paltry “good deeds” weren’t making a dent in the world.

What would it really take for the world to see the way we love and be drawn to the Lord?

Does it look like helping at a mission and then returning to plenty? Is it buying a meal now and then for someone holding a dingy sign? Or does it look more like taking someone who has no place to live into your guest room? Does it look more like selling your luxury car and flying to Argentina to work with a church helping them meet the needs of their village through supplying tools and training to grow food for many people in poverty?

Christian, how are we different?

There is so much at stake. It absolutely involves risk and sacrifice but if you have seen the love of God and truly want to obey Him then we must be compelled to live a life that is not the American Dream. It’s a life of discomfort externally, and consuming peace and joy internally. Please don’t think I am saying we have to take a vow of poverty, but consider how little we suffer for the Lord here in our wealthy nations, and as the season of celebrating and giving ensues in the coming months, consider others’ needs first. May our lives reveal people who are committed to loving others in practical ways so that our lights shine in a dark and needy world.

Acts 4:32-35. All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.

Mt. 5:42. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.

Luke 14:12-14. "When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return, and repayment come to you. But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."

Deut. 15:7. If there is a poor man among you, one of your brothers, in any of the towns of the land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand to your poor brother; but you shall freely open your hand to him, and generously lend him sufficient for his need in whatever he lacks.

Luke 12:33. "Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves purses which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near, nor moth destroys."

Luke 3:11. And [John the Baptist] would answer and say to them, "Let the man with two tunics share with him who has none, and let him who has food do likewise."

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