Sunday, February 19
1 Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23
Teach me, O LORD, the way of Your statutes,
and I will observe it to the end.
Give me understanding,
that I may keep Your law
and observe it with my whole heart.
-Psalm 119: 33 – 35
In recent months, I have found myself in numerous conversations about poor people and how best to help them. Have you ?
It is easy to get into these conversations: all we have to do is look around at our neighbors who are “struggling,” in one way or another, and begin to ask questions.
One local conversation piece is the line for food boxes at the EAUS Food Pantry on Third Fridays. Who are these people, and why is it that they are they getting food for free ?
Another conversation piece is folks who are receiving “disability” income. Who are these people, and why do they get a check when they are not working jobs ? And what about other women and men who can be seen around town, seemingly having no job, just hanging around ?
Or, have you been in the grocery checkout line when someone is using a “food stamps” (SNAP/WIC) card? Do you watch and listen, to try to figure out what items they are getting without using ‘their own’ money ?
Here are some other interesting conversation pieces.
Jesus said, “Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.” (Matthew 5:42) Really, Jesus? Can we discuss this ? Really ?
The LORD said through Moses, “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. You shall not strip your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the alien [foreigner]: I am the LORD your God.
You shall not defraud your neighbor; you shall not steal; and you shall not keep for yourself the wages of a laborer until morning.
(Leviticus 19:9-10, 13)
Part of that, we wouldn’t argue, but ....
For any of you who are still hanging in with this topic... I know that these conversations can be exhausting and disgusting— not to mention, likely to make people get mad at each other as they tell stories and express their feelings.
I said that it is easy to get into these conversations. At some point in our lives, many of us become skillful at AVOIDING these conversations, because it is hard to get OUT of them without having to ask ourselves difficult questions and confront the different judgments that we and our neighbors have developed.
In this space, I won’t try to settle these big conversations. However, as a pastor I will set before you some biblical, spiritual principles that you might want to keep in mind as you wrestle with them.
Many of you know that Jesus uttered the words, “you always have the poor with you....” Some people take this to mean that Jesus does not expect his followers to erase poverty.
For one thing, notice that Jesus said those words to his disciples when they were being judgmental toward the woman who “wasted” precious perfume by pouring it on him: in their profound ignorance, the guys failed to see that she was worshiping Jesus as God’s perfect sacrifice for all of our sins and failings. In their narrow-mindedness, they misjudged her— while thumping their chests about how charitable they would have been toward “the poor.”
Second, when Jesus said those words (Matthew 26:11), he wasn’t just making up a memorable quotation on the spot: rather, Jesus was harking back to the Law of Moses: “Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I therefore command you, Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor in your land.” (Deuteronomy 15:11) And, at that very same time, Jesus was building on the lesson which he had recently taught his disciples: “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” Matthew 25:40
Finally, two basic principles to guide us:
The wisdom of this world
is foolishness with God. (1 Corinthians 3:19)
You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Leviticus 19:18)