THE POOR, POLITICS & “GOD’S BIG SIX”

There are countless texts in the Word of God (Bible) that reveal the heart of Jesus and His call for His people to care for the poor. Jesus indeed said “You shall have the poor with you always, and you can do good to them whenever you want to”. The sad fact is many of us do not want to or believe we lack any means to help. Crosses are never convenient.In that there are those poor who have made foolish choices and landed themselves in their needy state, many otherwise loving Christian people figure many if not most are largely “reaping what they’ve sown”. I won’t argue about the reality of this for in some cases it’s true. Yet it seems to me in terms of voting and laws either being enacted or decided upon that a great many Christians are less biblical than cultural, less gracious than Pharisee-like. Remember that “grace” means unmerited favor, of the sort Jesus gives us for our own sin and ultimate salvation. How is it we demand others EARN -our- grace?!Recently someone asked me about “the poor” and how I could take the political position I’ve taken in the past several years. What you are about to read is the foundation of my answer. It is the core decider for me, the “where”, “why” and “what” as I’ve considered a multiplicity of issues.Matthew 25 31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be assembled before him, and he will separate people one from another like a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 34 Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or naked and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the king will answer them, ‘I tell you the truth, just as you did it for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of mine, you did it for me.’ 41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire that has been prepared for the devil and his angels! 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink. 43 I was a stranger and you did not receive me as a guest, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they too will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not give you whatever you needed?’ 45 Then he will answer them, ‘I tell you the truth, just as you did not do it for one of the least of these, you did not do it for me.’ 46 And these will depart into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”The following are notes from a sermon I have been preaching from time to time for a number of years. They include what I refer to as “God’s Big Six” and a simple breakdown of what the majority of us can and should be doing about practical, human need.In Matthew 25 Jesus calls us to serve: The HUNGRY- food The THIRSTY- drink (clean water?) The STRANGER- lodging (“strange” to you and I -foreigner?)… the homeless- housing The NAKED- clothing The SICK- healthcare/medicine/clinic (or hospital) The PRISONER- guilty or not, justice and visitation/compassionate careMany Christians focus almost solely on the issues of abortion and what they (I) believe the Bible says about wrong sexual practice- specifically homosexuality. May I inform or remind the reader I was right on the edge of a full-on bisexual lifestyle when I began to follow Jesus in my 18th year. I have had a number of gay or lesbian friends, still do, and have seen the love and power of Jesus bring real and lasting change in their lives, just as I have among heterosexual people with unbiblical habits. My wife and I fostered and adopted children. My adopted daughter would have been aborted had we not done so. I spent time in jail twice with Operation Rescue, blocking abortion clinics, praying and begging God for mercy for the mothers, children, staff, the church, my country and myself. I have been involved in a number of pro-life rallies and demonstrations.I am not holier-than-anyone!! Yet I beg the reader to consider what they have actually done beyond voting and talking about these issues.While most of the six issues Jesus raised may on various levels relate to the pre-born and to homosexual, lesbian, bisexual or transgender people ALL of them relate to the poor, to poverty and not only to those who have encountered injustice or misfortune but who are very possibly guilty of choices that put them in such a state where they are without adequate food, drink, friends/shelter, clothing, are physically ill and/or are in prison. This does not mean- nor is Jesus implying- tacit agreement with people who may have done or not done things to place themselves in a position of need. Neither Jesus nor God the Holy Spirit Who breathed this text, nor Matthew as he writes his gospel clarify HOW or WHY a person or group ended up in such a state.Here, Jesus simply calls all who follow Him to face the ultimate truth: you are treating ME (Jesus) exactly as you are treating “them”.I work and serve in a local congregation that daily reaches out to the poor. To say that I personally live out such relational love in each of these areas toward every one I meet on a daily basis would be untrue. To say that I take them very seriously, try to apply them and believe I should apply them daily is absolutely true. I cannot in good conscience be part of a local congregation who do not seek to have such heart and serve people in these ways.May God help us move deeper into a truly biblical Christian life where the love, grace and compassion of God motivates us more than does fear, self-protection and suspicion of those unlike us. So many are less fortunate than we are. To whom more is given, more shall be required. God has given us so much. Certainly He does so in part… that we might learn to share.I know many individual believers and entire local churches and congregations are doing a lot of good in these areas. Absolutely so! None the less- If the church (and by that I mean all congregations of true Christ-followers) shared as we should and could, there would be little if any poverty in our nation and a great deal less in the world.I understand those who work hard and are hit by economic hardship do not want any government taxing them more to help those who seem lazy and simply by choice, “living off the state”. I understand serious Christians disagreeing with politicians who take other than biblical stands on everything from what seem like “Christian freedoms” to abortion and sexuality. I fully realize the anger, frustration and shame experienced when a government spends my/our tax dollars on things we find fully ungodly and reprehensible. I get it and even agree with some of the feelings and certainly some of the conclusions.I further support (always have and continue to) friends and others in the military who are by the way, not deploying themselves… whether I agree with their deployment, the particular war or tactics or not- I pray for, directly thank and owe a debt to each of them. I get it. I get it more than many reading this will ever believe I get it! But I first and foremost “get” basic human need- and I cannot deny Jesus in what He says in the above text.For me, He and His words trump all personal pain, sacrifice and political position.Meanwhile we agree with or castigate political leaders for doing (or not) what the church ought to consistently do. When these practical needs are great and the bulk of the church does not sufficiently work to meet these six basic areas of need, I suggest a government (regardless of political party) has not only the right but responsibility to step up and help.Does any government do it sufficiently, or to all of our liking? Apparently not. When has any American citizen truly enjoyed (God loves a cheerful giver) paying taxes… even paying them for what we DO like and agree with often seems a pain to most of us!So I ask the reader what I ask myself: what are -you- doing about these six areas? Study His words, then your own heart and actions. Rhetoric never fed, gave drink, clothed, housed, healed or visited prisoners or anyone else with God’s love or justice.

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5 thoughts on “THE POOR, POLITICS & “GOD’S BIG SIX”

  1. Great post Glenn. I have been feeling the Lord convict me about visiting people in prison, and I always liked the idea of building a shelter to take in strangers. With the safety of our boys being a vital issue to my wife and I, I plan to work with ministries like JPUSA and others that serve needs of the BIG six as you call them. What are your thoughts on how hands-on we are to be as Christians? For example, if you can earn a large income and give 50% of it to charities that meet the 6 needs is that good stewardship of your time/talents? I’ve thought of tithing my time by giving the first 4 hours of each week to work for Christian ministries for free as a way to serve others as well.I know we’re under grace and not under legalism, and I am very interested to hear your thoughts on the individual application of serving "the big 6" as well as the congregation corporate application.God bless and it was great meeting you at your concert 2 weekends ago! May the Lord use us mightily to serve others in 2010 and beyond.

  2. Thank you for your kind and thoughtful reply David.First, you are both biblical and sensible to take care of your spouse and kids regardless what you do in ministry to others. She/they are your first ministry.After that I would say it’s certainly best to link with existing ministries that do the things you believe the Spirit calling you to get involved with as well in terms of both learning and service opportunities. Starting from the ground up -may- be God’s will for you or me, but at times it is not. Working with existing, solid, biblical, fruitful people in outreach is in my view the safe and sane way to begin. It may well be later on He calls and confirms you to do the fresh planting… but learning gardening from experienced gardeners is just good sense for both present and future service.Some would say God only calls for a 10 percent tithe, and I cannot debate the foundation of such a view. Would 50 be better? Maybe, maybe not… there are many details in making such a decision and sacrifice. What I am most concerned about is how many spectators rather than active servants there seem to be in a Church, local churches and world of deep need. God must speak to you and your wife about how much to give where. Stewardship details for each and every Christian is not as absolute and detailed in the Word as we might like to see… so it really is a matter of prayer, careful consideration and finally, loving action as to how, where and when we give our time, money and share spiritual gifts and natural talents in ministry.Just as God calls us as individuals, He calls us to work with others in service. It really does come down to prayer, Scripture study, careful decision-making re. God’s gifting and calling to you the individual. Heh, besides, as a wise leader once taught us: "If I can talk you into something, someone down the street can talk you out of it!" Point being, one must hear God for ones self and obey Him in love as He directs. It’s the core of what we must do re. "the Big Six" and all other issues of life.God Bless you and yours David, thanks for a good and seeking heart!Jesus, please guide,-Glenn

  3. What would "tacit agreement" look like?Those who have need — need. What do I have? Depends what they need and if I can give it, but if it is water, then water. If it is love, then love. If water and love, then both should pour until each font is empty. This is unrelated to why they be lacking either. But I wonder, day-to-day, what "tacit agreement" looks like. That is, explicit agreement is easy to resolve, as is explicit disagreement. Far too much of that going on (thanks in part to mongering of vitriole on all sides of political media, creating a sense of wretched despise towards any in disagreement with X, Y and/or Z). Like you, I know plenty of people living in a variety of lifestyle contexts, not all of which concur with God’s Word. Opportunity to love, hate, ignore, overfocus on that inconcruity is abound. That word ‘tacit’ grabs me because I agree, yet, don’t think I know best how this is shaped.

  4. Hi, Thanks for your deep and thoughtful reply!You likely know this, but the basic dictionary def. of tacit= "understood without being openly expressed; implied: tacit approval. Silent; saying nothing: a tacit partner. Unvoiced or unspoken: a tacit prayer."I suppose I mean that many Christ-follower (like others) just walk on by. We pass by the person(s), issues, we don’t talk openly about things we don’t want to get involved with- lack of time, lack of knowledge how to help, overwhelmed by trying to keep ourselves sane, fit, family intact, our jobs, our hobbies, our own cares all blind us, or we think allow us to just not talk and do something about loving neighbors in need.It is lack of conversation (in my view an EXcellent word emgergent/emerging folks use a great deal) that I see as part of the problem. We figure a vote absolves us of personal involvement.At times, perhaps often, we don’t make or take the time to form deeper relationships or sometimes we avoid doing so with those who seem to be in need around us, in our neighborhood, in our town. No, not everyone, but we can help them "one at a time" as Mother T. said.We all fall into making assumptions and judgments about people- not discernment based on fact and wisdom and love mind you- but "judging according to the flesh", simple, dry, human (not Spirit-led) sizing up of others.If we do so in the churches (we do, regardless of the form, style or lack of either…) how much more those in the street or among a tribe, sub-tribe, ethnic or people group we are afraid of, ignorant about, or plain prejudiced/bigoted about?They smell bad, they’re lazy, their not like US, they mess up our property values, on and on and on. We are righteous, they are reaping what they’ve sown, I don’t HAVE to do anything about them… THEY are under God’s judgment while I/WE are God’s beloved children, holy and just and good. It’s absolute rubbish, but that’s the stuff I’m hacking away at- in my own life as much as other’s.This is human history, well, to be accurate, a large slice of it anyhow.And so -again, in my view- instead of listening, studying, thinking, asking questions and getting into a person or people groups life/soul/history/actual needs and doing what we can to either meet them or link them to those who can help meet the need… we do nothing, little, on occasion "slum it" a bit (commute and then get out of there…) or worse, wag our tongues, vote in what we see as THE way to vote on a related issue, and then wash our hands much like Pilate.I am convinced ignorance, fear and plain self-seeking security (whatever that looks like to you or me) are key ingredients for deciding we are at times free to NOT love our neighbor as ourself. This, is a core sin.Voting for "the right party" or simply demanding (or not) this or that government in power to do OUR job of noticing, caring, loving, yes sacrificing for those in need around us is certainly part of the solution as I see it.And I do see the good stuff, the loving stuff happening in places here and there around the world. I don’t believe there is any one perfect way to accomplish loving and serving the poor… but the implications (lots!) of the good Samaritan Jesus told us about are certainly do-able for any of us.God help us! -Glenn

  5. There is no doubt Gods heart is full of grace and compassion. And as a Christian, His Heart should be our heart if God be in us. However, to mandate by law that people have compassion is not compassion at all. It is easy to pass a law and be generous with others money. Also, it has been proven by history, that when you offer free (which isn’t free, it was taken from others) housing, food, health care etc, you create people who are weak and dependent. It seems to ultimately not help. The same government that wants to say they care, doesn’t want us to tell these same people about Jesus or else they will take away the money (they took from others) As Christians we should take responsibility for the hurting. AMEN Glenn to personal involvement! Faith with out works is dead!

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