Remember the Poor
by Keith VenHuizen
Remember the poor. This biblical mandate makes many of us uncomfortable. All it takes is a quick tally of how many hours we spend on self-focused things (Sunday worship, Bible study, men’s ministry, women’s ministry, children’s ministry, youth ministry). Now, take a quick moment to compare that with how many hours spent actually serving the poor, or the ‘least of these’.
There is a reason we become uncomfortable when we talk about serving the poor. And it is largely because we don’t do it, and we don’t want to do it.
You can’t get very far in the New Testament before you realize that serving the poor, sick, widows, orphans, or sinners is a significant value for the follower of Christ. Yet at best, we serve our token meal at a homeless shelter. And at worst, we blame the poor for ‘getting themselves into this mess’ and claim the un-Bliblical adage ‘the Lord helps those who help themselves.’ Perhaps the most common is the middle ground. We give to our church benevolence fund, and we let them handle the poor.
When James, Cephas, and John, recognized as pillars, acknowledged the grace that had been given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to me and Barnabas, agreeing that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. They asked only that we would remember the poor, which I made every effort to do.
When reading through Galatians recently, I was struck by just how important remembering the poor must be. After all, if James, Peter and John were agreeing to send Paul and Barnabas on a missionary journey, I would have been inclined to think that there would have been many suggestions flying around. A lot of “Do this” and “Don’t do this.” However, this seems to indicate that they sent Paul out with a virtual carte blanche. Excepting, of course, that he should remember the poor.
To me, if this is the one thing they felt needed to be said before Paul was sent, it raises two points. First, is that it must be an incredibly important part of the Christian faith. Second, it must be an incredibly easy thing to neglect.
Many of us live much of our lives without seeing or experiencing true poverty. Sure, we might have a tight budget. Might have to eat Ketchup sandwiches. Might be behind on our mortgage or electric. But few of us have ever gone a night without a roof. Few of us have ever missed a meal because we didn’t have access to food, or couldn’t afford it. And even fewer of us have ever gone a day without clean, drinkable water.
We are privileged. Not good. Not bad. Just fact. We are privileged, and we live among privileged people, rarely crossing paths with the truly impoverished. This can cause us to quite literally forget that there are people who have no home, no food, no water.
But when the Bible talks about remembering, it always includes action. When God ‘remembered’ Israel, he moved on their behalf. We also must move on behalf of the poor when we remember them.
Take some time this week and find a homeless shelter to serve a meal at. Spend time talking to the people there. Learn their stories. I find it is highly likely that just learning a little bit about them will stir compassion inside you. Being in proximity of the poor is the most sure-fire way to remember the poor.
There are countless ways to serve the ‘least of these’. We have jail and prison ministries within the district. Foster care. Adoption. Hospital visits. These are all things that are in service of the ‘least of these’. Let us not forget the poor. Find a way to remember them today.
Categories: Topics in Theology
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.
For I was hungry
and you gave Me something to eat;
I was thirsty
and you gave Me something to drink;
I was a stranger and you took Me in;
I was naked and you clothed Me;
I was sick and you took care of Me;
I was in prison and you visited Me.’
Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or without clothes and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and visit You?’
And the King will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’