|Volume 25 Number 3 March 2023
God Will Hear the Poor
“This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him, and
saved him out of all his troubles” (Psalm 34:6 NKJV).
A little book of sermons, Mr. Jones Meets the Master, by Peter Marshall was edited by his wife, Catherine. One of the stories in that book, “By Invitation of Jesus,” tells of a magnificent banquet where limousines were sent to fetch the guests, while fine food was served by butlers carrying silver trays covered in white linen. People of the streets, even from the gutters and institutions, were invited, and each was perplexed about the purpose. Each received his invitation to the event with the simple little note, “By invitation of Jesus,” and each was curious what that could mean. Written for the world as well as for Christians, this account acts as a mirror for those who would despise the poor. The lesson is based on Jesus’ words in the book of Luke.
Then He also said to him who invited Him, “When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” (Luke 14:12-14)
God’s poor have little or no wealth and few if any possessions; they lack financial or other resources to make their lives bearable. Although the poor will remain a part of every society (Deuteronomy 15:11; Matthew 26:11), the Scriptures (both Old and New testaments) instruct the righteous to show concern for them. We are God’s messengers, God’s ambassadors.
Our Heavenly Father cares especially for the poor, which was demonstrated in His deliverance of Israel from Egyptian poverty and bondage (Deuteronomy 24:22). In turn, God required the Israelites to punish the oppressors of the poor and reward those who were kind to them. His inspired Word tells us God Himself is their Protector and Savior. “If you afflict them in any way, and they cry at all to Me, I will surely hear their cry; and My wrath will become hot…” (Exodus 22:23-24; see also Deuteronomy 15:9; 24:15; 1 Samuel 2:8; Job 31:16; Psalm 9:18; 12:5; Proverbs 19:17; Isaiah 25:4). Again, He says plainly, “If you see the oppression of the poor, and the violent perversion of justice and righteousness in a province, do not marvel at the matter; for high official watches over high official, and higher officials are over them” (Ecclesiastes 5:8).
God takes up the cause of the poor. The Psalms repeatedly emphasize that God helps them; “He will spare the poor and needy…” (Psalm 72:13). He promises, “…I will satisfy her poor with bread” (Psalm 132:15). The poor of the world can take comfort in the fact that God indeed cares for them.
Jesus also demonstrated compassion for the poor (Luke 6:20). Luke relates Christ’s purpose in coming to the world as prophesied in the book of Isaiah. “…The Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor…” (Isaiah 61:1); “…He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor…” (Luke 4:18). Jesus instructed the rich young ruler to sell his possessions and “to distribute to the poor” (Luke 18:22). No true disciple of Jesus can remain unconcerned about the poor of the world.
Instructions about considerate treatment of the poor are found in the Old Testament Law, the Prophets and the New Testament. The Law and the Prophets warned against oppressing the poor and crushing the needy (Deuteronomy 24:14; Proverbs 14:31; Amos 2:6; 4:1). Rich people were warned not to take advantage of the poor, especially in court. “You shall not pervert the judgment of your poor in his dispute” (Exodus 23:6; Amos 5:12). Help was to be given to the poor (Deuteronomy 15:7-8; Isaiah 58:7). The Israelites (and we) are to see God’s action of providing the underprivileged with food and clothing, following His example (Deuteronomy 10:18).
The extent to which God identifies with the poor is clear (Proverbs 19:17; Matthew 25:34-40). Jesus’ instructions that the poor should be invited when a feast is prepared (Luke 14:12-14) and Paul’s intent to remember the poor (Galatians 2:10) are very clear. James warned against discrimination against the poor (James 2:2-4; Leviticus 19:15).
Do we invite our friends and neighbors to a feast and forget the poor? God will hear their cry and answer. Will you?
Me, Myself and I: Serving
God in a Self-Serving World
The culture at large has become increasingly self-centered. This is no surprise, since from the beginning, Satan has succeeded in tempting mankind to serve self by doing what we think is best and doubting God’s Word (Genesis 3:1-7). Throughout history, Satan continued to corrupt what God had made good. At times, Israel doubted, “Will God really deliver us?” “We can just worship this golden calf as our god” (Exodus 32; Numbers 14). Just within the last few hundred years, especially with the acceptance of Darwinism, man has questioned whether the Genesis record can be trusted. “Did God really make the earth in six literal days?” Today, we live in the age of thinking, “Does God really exist?” and we are seeing the fruits of atheistic reasoning. Man is his own god (2 Timothy 3:1-5)!
Therefore, in such a humanistic culture, we see the serving of self in the world every day. The media parades the philosophy of self before our eyes every time we turn on the TV or computer. Ads are full of beautiful and handsome (but often indecently dressed) individuals persuading us that we need whatever product in our lives, and many times we think to ourselves, “I could look like that and be happy like them if I bought the product.” Technology today allows us instant self-gratification. We order things for next day delivery; we download and upload whatever we want; everything is at our fingertips. Slogans such as Cbelieve in yourself,” “do what makes you happy” and “have it your way” are common. Taking pictures of oneself has become a popular trend on social media (called selfies). What goes through our minds when we do and see these? “I’m not as pretty as she is,” “I hope so-and-so sees how beautiful/handsome I look in this picture,” “She/He is so thin; I wish I could look like that.”
The breakdown of the home is another result of the problem of selfism. Husbands and wives are so quick to divorce, not wanting to put the hard work and sacrifice into maintaining a loving marriage. Children (if they are not killed in the womb) are often left alone as parents/guardians work long hours. The list of examples could go on, but we can easily see how distracted we are with ourselves! Although some of these things are not necessarily sinful (like ordering express shipping), they do influence us, and we must ask the question whether the influence is for the better or the worse.
Some may ask, what is really wrong with such thinking? Why can’t I think about myself and let others think about themselves? The simple answer is, God’s Word teaches the opposite. We are not to always be thinking about ourselves – our feelings, our wants and even our needs. We can see this just by reading the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). As noted earlier, Satan has deceived us into believing the lie that we are most happy (and our happiness is of utmost importance) when serving ourselves. Evolution – a philosophy that teaches man arose from single-celled organisms, evolved over billions of years and has survived by being the “fittest” – has given selfism a foothold as more people accepted this lie and thus conclude “number one” must be top priority. This kind of thinking undermines Christianity, and if we are not careful, we Christians will look, walk and talk just like the world – no longer being the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13-16, 44-48; 6:30-33)!
What is to be done? How do Christians fight against the philosophy of self? We must be diligent students of His Word. Jesus said, “…If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32 NKJV). We have Truth! Not a truth but the Truth! Are we spending more time with Truth or with the distractions of this world (watching movies, playing games, hobbies, etc.)? Let us honestly evaluate ourselves where our heart is – laying up treasures on earth (serving self) or laying up treasures in Heaven (serving others). “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21). We must remind ourselves every day that self-seeking is damnable (Matthew 23:25; Romans 2:8; 2 Corinthians 12:20; Galatians 5:20; Colossians 2:23; 2 Peter 2:9-10). Study these passages in their respective contexts and spend time in prayer to God about overcoming self and serving God alone (Matthew 6:24; James 3:13-18; Romans 12:1-2). “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself” (Philippians 2:3).