The Scripture, The Candidates, The Church and the Poor

Thursday is for Discipleship

Yesterday, I posted a simple comment on Facebook about an observation I made of related to the Presidential debate. Two hours later I checked back in to see a comment stream between some of my more politically conservative friends and some (actually, one) of my more liberal friends. I’m not sure, but I think my more liberal friend believes that government has a formative role protecting and providing for the poor and that it should use the power to tax to garner the resources to accomplish that task.

My more politically conservative friends, (I know this is not true because I know them personally, and I know each of them to be compassionate, loving and generous people) sound like they don’t care about the poor and just want the government to let them decide how to use their resources and see a much more limited role for government in terms of directly providing for and protection and support of the poor. I am going to bring over the comment thread from Facebook and place it as the first comment on this blog post so that the whole discussion is in one place. I would love to encourage my conservative commenters to read over their comments and analyze them not for whether or not they communicate their political perspective clearly but for the tone and the unintentional consequence of focusing more on political outcomes rather than kingdom outcomes.

With that as a backdrop, let me turn to the Scripture, the Church and the Poor. 

As Tim Keller has written, “Churches grow best not when they aim at church growth as much as when they serve the peace/shalom of the whole city.[1] Why? Two reasons:

One, it is the biblical model of ministry.

Jesus, Paul and the early church all seemed to give significant attention to the poor and the downcast of the culture. Luke 4:18-19 gives us Jesus’ own summary of his ministry:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

The apostle Paul gave the Corinthians his analysis of where the early converts of Corinth had come from in 1 Corinthians 1:26-28:

“For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are.”

Earlier, Paul wrote to the Galatian Christians that the one thing the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:1-35) asked him to impress upon all the Gentile churches was that they remember the poor (Galatians 2:10). Likewise, the New Testament writer, James, gives his summary of how the gospel has gone forth in the first-century world. In James 2:1-7 he exhorted the church not to dishonor the poor by preferring the rich:

My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?  (ESV)

Shocking Pictures of Before and After Drug Abuse

A second reason: The New Testament model of ministry seemed to thrive in the good soil of poverty and oppression.

One commentator translates Proverbs 4:19 as “the way of the wicked is hard.”[2] People who have found the hard end of wickedness are often most receptive to the gospel story. The New Testament model seems to focus on the unclean, the unrighteous, the broken, and despised. This should not be surprising when we look at what Jesus taught in the “Parable of the Sower” (Mark 4:1-20). While there is no mention of the poor per se in the parable it is clear from the description of the “thorny soil” that it is the “deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things [that] enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful” (Mark 4:19).[3]

This is a theme that is echoed in much of Jesus’ teaching. The beaten (think of parable of the Good Samaritan), the oppressed (think of the women who had suffered much at the hands of physicians), the poor (think of the widow’s mite), the broken (think of the paralytic), the despised (think of the Pharisee and the tax collector in the Temple and the lepers and the woman caught in adultery) are held up in a sympathetic light.[4] One could make a good case that Jesus concentrated his most personal and hands-on ministry to the least, most despised, and poorest of the land. We who call him Lord, who are eager to “have Christ formed in us” (Galatians 4:19) ought to follow in his footsteps.

How can we not care for the poor and oppressed and still call him “our Lord?” Is it not a mockery of Christ to abandon the poor?

The Church needs to step up big time, no matter who gets elected in November, to live a radically focused and sacrificial lifestyle and to enter into the lives of those who have the least among us. We need to be a people who bridge the political divide between the political right and the left, while maintaining a firm and yet a “lovingkindness-infused” compassion for those who are in many ways trapped in a cycle of poverty and lack. Many simply can’t escape that cycle without someone from outside becoming a rescuer in some way. The liberal left thinks that should be the government. I don’t know exactly what the conservative right thinks that should be.

But the Christian, the follower of Christ, the blood-bought slave of a risen Savior knows that his greater citizenship is in heaven and his treasures are best stored in heaven. The richest treasures there are gained when he lives for the sake of others here. That’s why we pray that “his will would be done on earth as it is in heaven.”


[1] Timothy J. Keller and J. Allen Thompson, Church Planter Manual, (New York, N.Y.: Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 2002), 3. [2] Jay Adams, in Godliness Through Discipline, (Phillipsburg, N.J.: Puritan and Reformed Press, 1999), 6. [3] This “desire for other things” of course is not only a temptation of the rich but of everyone else as well. [4] Respectively the references are: Luke 10:25-37; Mark 5:25-34; Mark 12:41-44; Luke 18:9-14.


6 thoughts on “The Scripture, The Candidates, The Church and the Poor

  1. Here’s my original comment on Facebook.
    “The President did much better in the debate last night but I don’t think he scored many hard blows on Romney. Neither did Romney score many hard blows. As I was reflecting on what I saw, the over all atmosphere, this thought came to me,

    “My lasting impression is that President Obama cried out for help from the moderator a number of times, but I couldn’t remember Mr. Romney doing the same. Is this a picture of both men’s political philosophy? One man looks for help from others when he is in a pickle and the other man seeks to gut it out on his own?”

    Not sure my memory is correct, but it was my impression. What do you think?”

    Ruth Pinciotti Shegda, Ed Morehouse, Kelsey Pope, Jim Hallman and 2 others like this.

    Ed Morehouse
    marty,from what i’ve heard there were ground rules that romney violated first such as interrupting and directly asking the other guy questions.i think barack was trying to follow the rules whereas romney thinks he’s above the rules.
    6 hours ago ·

    Dolly Cruz
    HE looked more engaged but he had no substance, I didnt hear a plan from him other than he was going to continue to do what he has been doing and that clearly isnt working. So he needs to come out with something new and different if he wants a second term.
    6 hours ago ·

    Ed Morehouse
    i disagree dolly. barack came into office at the worst time in our lives and things are looking up,albeit slowly. it’s gonna take time to fix this mess but i don’t think romney has any answers. his thing is…trust me i’ll fix it but i won’t tell you how. that scares me.
    6 hours ago ·

    Ed Morehouse
    romney will say anything he thinks people want to hear, i don’t think he stands for anything. i do think he meant what he said about 47% of americans viewing themselves as victims.
    6 hours ago ·

    Ed Newberry
    from one Ed to another what were you watching?The rules were changed prior to the debate to accommodate Miss Candy
    6 hours ago · Like · 1

    Ed Morehouse
    marty, i think barack has the right temperament for a president. romney has made some many blunders in this campaign that its almost embarrassing.romney has repeatedly lied about this presidents record. not a good trait for a president.
    6 hours ago ·

    Ed Morehouse
    i watched the same debate you did.
    6 hours ago ·

    Dolly Cruz
    do your fact checking ppl. Romney did not lie, even the pundits and Candy had to admit that today. do your research. He was right on oil production, he was right on the economy. The results speak for themselves.
    6 hours ago ·

    Ed Morehouse
    okay dolly whatever you say
    6 hours ago ·

    Ed Morehouse
    and keep voting against your own self-interest,real bright.
    6 hours ago · Like

    Ed Newberry
    I vote for the country’ s interest and what the constitution says is the job of the gov’t
    6 hours ago ·

    Ed Morehouse
    sorry to break it to you ed but romney does not have the best interest at heart for the whole country, he is in it for his own ego and for rich people.remember he wrote off 47% of the country as victims, trying to mooch off the government. people like soldiers and your and my parents. that’s how i see it. nothing i say here will change your mind nor will you change mine. just remember when you are in that voting booth, which will better take care of the middle class. that answer to me is clear,and it isn’t romney and ryan.
    6 hours ago · Like · 1

    Daniel Newton
    I thought I couldn’t be embarrassed more than I already was by the performance of VP Joe Biden…then the President showed me that he too can interrupt, talk longer than he was supposed to, and artfully avoid the questions put to him.
    5 hours ago ·

    Ed Morehouse
    dan,sounds like you are talking about romney
    5 hours ago ·

    Daniel P Capps
    Generally we saw both candidates clashing over answers with which they disagree; both were interrupting; both were working the moderator.
    The President looked better, but realistically that’s like saying he went from flat line to a coma. Let’s raise the roof!
    The President continued to paint a false narrative of Gov. Romney and had the moderator’s help this time in the questioning and cutting off. His attacks were personal and generally false like the war on women, taxes, liar with pants on fire and the 47%. Give kudos to Romney for not falling into their traps.
    He may have scored points with a base that if they show up will vote for him anyway. But, continues to drive a wedge with independents that care about jobs, economy, energy and social issues.
    Romney continued to work the body with consistent blows about economy, jobs, energy. He even got to do some fresh damage on immigration which ultimately may play a huge role.
    One more lasting impression is that an NFL Replacement ref got to find new work, but the results are the same. Everyone in the country knows Romney was right about Libya and the entire administration’s response. Heck, she even had the transcript on hand (nothing strange there) to check like the replay in Seattle and still got it wrong.
    5 hours ago · Like · 1

    Ed Morehouse “everybody in the country knows”… i don’t think so
    5 hours ago ·

    Daniel P Capps
    Ed. Ed. Check the transcript. I did not say “Everybody in the country knows.” Someone help me out here.
    5 hours ago · Like · 1

    Ed Morehouse
    yoo dan, you are sounding like romney too. i’ll repost your entire sentence here. “everybody in the country knows romney was right about libya and the entire administration’s response”. your post is in black and white right above mine. hope that helps, dan. and yes you did type “eveybody knows”…
    5 hours ago ·

    Ed Morehouse
    there is no reasoning with you folks. keep voting AGAINST your own self-interest if it makes you feel better. geez.
    5 hours ago ·

    Ed Newberry
    Just the opposite,I pay more taxes,more ins. and lost 5000.00 in income annually I really glad some one was looking out for me not.The govt should not be doing most of the stuff they do,the states should do them.That is not a new idea it is in the constitution.Ed, good luck with that hope and change thing.
    5 hours ago ·

    Ed Morehouse
    thanks ed, just a note , we both pay more as a percentage in taxes than romney does… and he thinks that’s fair. and yes he really did say that.
    5 hours ago ·

    Daniel P Capps
    Oh Ed, look again at the transcript that is right above your post and you may find that I sound more like the President.
    5 hours ago ·

    Ed Newberry
    Not true,Romney pays 15% on dividend income ,he has already paid the rate on the principle/investments .Don’t believe the Buffet rule it is a sham/lie
    4 hours ago ·

    Ed Morehouse
    funny how they have you guys drinking the kool-aid. ed there is now defending a multi-millionaire who is paying a lower percentage on income than any of us here. how is the buffett rule a sham? the rule states that no household making more than a million dollars a year should pay a smaller percent of their income than a middle class family pays. the rule isn’t in effect because congress won’t pass it. if you are alright with that then fine. i don’t think its fair.
    4 hours ago ·

    Ed Newberry
    I don’t want to trade places with a millionaire,too many goof balls including Obama who think you owe it or some part of it to them that is not fair . You could take all their money and the gov,t could run for approx. a month .Just a ploy to divide and conquer.Ed ,have you ever been given a job by a poor person I think not.
    4 hours ago ·

    Ed Morehouse
    ed,let me get this straight. you are saying that multi-millionaires should pay less in taxes than you or me? does that sound logical? i’m not saying they should pay more,just their fair share. sound logical? does to me.
    4 hours ago · Edited ·

    Marty Schoenleber Jr
    Wow. Quite a long thread. I posted a simple thought and you guys really took off. The interesting thing is that no one except Ed offered an opinion on my original question. How easily we all get distracted from the the question at hand! I’m sorry I didn’t check back in sooner.
    4 hours ago ·

    Ed Newberry
    percentages,who determines fair? the govt ? they already pay more 15% of a million is more than my salary, is that fair I thinks only in a socialist country Say france ,greece, playing real well there
    4 hours ago ·

    Ed Morehouse
    marty, you troublemaker,you lol
    4 hours ago · Edited ·

    Dolly Cruz
    What’s is wrong for rich people? God loves them too, if they are greedy and not charitable with their money its not the govenrments right to say ok Im going to take it and give to this group over here. that’s between them and God. my own interest is no…See More
    4 hours ago · Like

    Ed Morehouse
    the repubs have their followers believing that they know what is good for us and that is that they pay a smaller percentage on their income than we do and the middle class keep getting screwed. dolly, rich peoples taxes would go the same place your taxes go to, not to another group of americans. what’s the matter with a government that thinks people who can’t afford health SHOULD have a chance to get coverage. repubs would not allow the whole law to take effect until 2014, therefore insurance companies could raise rates until then. i give up. there is no reasoning here.
    4 hours ago · Like

    Dolly Cruz
    His whole premise is to take from the rich and give to the poor Ed, that doesn’t work and the way he going to do it is thru this healthcare act. I know that their taxes go to where mine go, They can tax the rich 100% and it would not be enough to pay for this law so guess who else has to pay more, the middle class and some of those “poor” people will have to pay as well.
    3 hours ago ·

    Daniel P Capps
    @Marty, so were we supposed to comment on your impression specifically?
    2 hours ago · Like · 1

    Marty Schoenleber Jr
    You can comment on anything you want. But it did start somewhere. It’s fine to comment on what people are talking about but the only one who voiced an opinion on the question at the start was Ed M.
    about an hour ago · Like

    Daniel P Capps
    Sure that makes sense, but did you want folks to comment on your impression or their own…”What do you think?” lends ambiguity in this case.
    about an hour ago ·

    Ed Morehouse
    I understood.
    about an hour ago via mobile ·

    W Myron Remington
    The part that disgusted me the most was near the end when Obama exhausted his time, then launched into an overtime tirade of personal attack on Romney having no connection to the question he was supposed to be answering. Nauseating is my best description — this scene in particular, but the whole 97 minutes in general. Romney could have been sharper, but I was generally pleased with his balance of fact and attack. He is by far the better man.
    about an hour ago ·

    Cathy Davis Askeland
    In all of the debates we should listen for information and truth, rather than score points on a self – made rubric designed to favor the delivery of your candidate. Do some fact-checking and listen to Ed Morehouse. Oh, and Ask yourself, if the rich need to keep their present lower tax rates because they are the job creators…..where are the jobs? Logic. Ed M. rocks.
    54 minutes ago via mobile ·

    Daniel P Capps
    Cathy is making good points about what to listen for. But how do the many “I think”s of ED=truth or logic?
    34 minutes ago ·

    Marty Schoenleber Jr
    I am preparing a post for my BLOG tomorrow that I think might be of some help and challenge to all of us.
    23 minutes ago ·

    Bill Hannaford
    Your impression is correct, in my view. I heard the same from several commentators.
    23 minutes ago ·

    Tki Ranch
    Each candidate took shots at each other, but President Obama has to contend with the last 4 years and the poor economy. The both brought up the big tax issue, some people pay les than others. Everyone should pay the same percentage of their income. Fair and equitable. Health insurance for the poor??? We have had it for a long time. I am looking for the candidate who will let keep my rights and not give in to immoral groups.
    26 minutes ago via mobile ·

    Cathy Davis Askeland
    Thanks, Dan. My last statement is truth. By logic I meant that the Bush tax cuts did not create jobs or we would have them now. Why would we continue with that. I guess I should say that that would be illogical….doesn’t seem to make sense to me.

    Shawn Wade voting
    Libertarian…but watched both debates, my impression last night was Mitt would be a hard/intimidating man to win an argument with with even if he was dead wrong, stubborn in a way…think he maybe a little upity to after he talked to some of the regular folks…Obama did seem to be more comfortable talking to the everyday folks…doesn’t mean his policies are good, just more down to earth…Bush was out of touch with regular folks to I think…look were we wound up…..
    7 hours ago ·

    Daniel P Capps
    You probably do rock Edward. Cathy is a pretty good judge, but why insinuate that others don’t think just because they have a different point of view. Why is Dolly not so bright because she has a different take on things? Why do you speak of Ed2 in third person as if to mock him when you disagree with him? Repubs. Koolaid. Heck you even called Marty a troublemaker…Perhaps you think of yourself more highly than you ought.
    6 hours ago ·

    Marty Schoenleber Jr
    Dan, I think Ed M. was joking with his comment about me.

    Ed Morehouse
    I was definitely joking regarding marty and i stand by everything else i’ve posted here.
    5 hours ago ·

    Marty Schoenleber
    Jr Did anyone read the post I put up? Curious.
    5 hours ago ·

    France Delanoue-Kramer ·
    Friends with Ed Morehouse
    Romney proved that he is a pompous, obnoxious , disrespectful twit. oh and wouldn’t know the truth if it bit him on the nose….
    4 hours ago · Edited ·

    Ed Morehouse
    yes marty i have. Well thought out. funny that the commentary by people other than me, the so-called good christians sound very heartless and anti who are unlike them and me, the non religious person sounds more christian. i am not including marty in my assessment here. And marty you pose an interesting point. “Many simply can’t escape that cycle without someone from outside becoming a rescuer in some way. The liberal left thinks that should be the government. I don’t know exactly what the conservative right thinks that should be”. I do think government has a role to help the people at the low end and it seems to me that the conservative right thinks that “hey we’ve got ours through hard work and sacrifice so screw the rest of you lazy bums”. Shades of Romney’s 47% comment. That to me is very presumptive,arrogant and flat out wrong. there is much you can learn from a country about how it treats its most vulnerable. Would hope that America would be a leader in this and not a follower.
    3 hours ago ·

    Ed Morehouse
    dear bob, i can’t seriously debate the pros and cons of a presidential election with someone who lives in a parallel universe. your salary is literally half of what it was before, for the same work? sounds like you need union representation.
    3 hours ago · Like

    Mary R Schneider
    Hi Marty, just wanted to tell you that I am reading your book as is my book club. your our discussion book this month. hope your well. love to the family.
    3 hours ago via mobile ·

    Marty Schoenleber Jr
    That’s great. Would love to hear what they think. Miss you but it is good to see periodic updates on Facebook of the you and family. say hello to Eric for me. How is Charlie doing?
    3 hours ago ·

    Bob Fuzak
    Wow – to answer your question Marty, I thought Obama pleaded with the moderator more and appeared “weak” in doing so… Romney did approach the moderator however it was only to clarify proper rules of engagement in the debate not make a point. That said, I am deeply concerned with where we are today as a nation. Our President was elected on the promise of hope and change, not experience and resume of success in running, well anything. The national debt has nearly doubled, we are 0/4 on a balanced budget, more Americans are out of work and on government programs, energy prices are through the roof, and things overall are not getting better for the middle class, at all . What frustrates me is when asked why there is no improvement and to state the plan for a turnaround the present administration blames the previous administration and asks for more time. Hey, prior to 2008 let’s not forget there was a democratic majority during some of that. Still, America still eeked out 53 months of consecutive job growth during the previous administration. So I look at the resumes of the two candidates… with one I see “community organizer”, followed by 4 years on the job with things getting worse… With the other I see a very successful businessman and Governor who was able to balance the budget 5 years running, and take his state to #1 in education. All this done WITH the help of his fellow Democrats in office. Romney has a plan, it’s in writing and available online… You may agree, or disagree with it but it is a plan, and he has the experience and success record to implement it. I can’t afford (literally) another 4 years… I’ll end with this… This has been THE MOST emotionally charged election in my lifetime… What happens after the election honestly scares me because of the polarity in people’s opinions. Pray now, pray often to the ONE who is in charge of it all that His name will be made known throughout this great nation and to the ends of the earth… I see “rough pavement ahead…”
    2 hours ago ·

    Bill Bauer
    Vote for competence. You will likely get better results.
    2 hours ago ·

    Bob Fuzak
    Ed – It is what companies are doing across the nation. Lose your current gig, and you will find out first hand. As for unions, they are getting it too… They call it “variable pay”. Meaning, the company does well, and you will be paid well, if the co. hits the skids so do you It gives new meaning to the word performance metrics.
    2 hours ago ·

    Like

  2. “The church needs to step up big time no matter who wins” Amen!
    On reading the thread I thought of this John Wesley quote:
    “I met those of our society who had votes in the ensuing election, and advised them,
    1. To vote, without fee or reward, for the person they judged most worthy;
    2. To speak no evil of the person they voted against; and
    3. To take care their spirits were not sharpened against those that voted on the other side.”
    October 6, 1774 and still good counsel!

    Like

  3. Just read http://www.jenhatmaker.com on this subject and have been deeply considering this truth from her call to be independents for the gospel… “Full allegiance silences our prophetic voice in favor of touting party lines and demands we turn our fellow citizens into enemies…” I would take it further and say that allegiance to a party or approach can cloud our ability to view what Scripture really says for what fits our viewpoint.

    Like

    1. Don’t always find Jen Hatmaker compelling but on this point, I ABSOLUTELY agree. I think it is a mistake to identify with either of the major parties or with any party in particular. Read the Bible, develop your convictions, pray over your decisions, and vote your conscience. All political entities need the prophetic voice of the church.

      Like

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