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Caring for the Poor: Evidence of Faith

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If you want people to know that Jesus is alive, God suggests one great way to do it: Care for the poor.

The poor are close to God’s heart, and He intends for His people to be His representatives in caring for them. Throughout history, the church has made a lot of strides in caring for the poor; in recent times, though, our track record has been spotty. Maybe that’s one of the reasons why public confidence in Christianity is at an all-time low. People don’t believe what we say about our faith because they don’t see us living out one of its most important tenets.

The Bible certainly makes it clear how important caring for the poor is to God. In the Old Testament, God set up the system of gleaning as a way for the wealthy to provide for the poor. In the New Testament, Jesus gave His followers a mandate — sell your possessions, give to the poor and store up treasures in heaven. And later New Testament writers went even further, suggesting that the way that we care for the poor is a testament to the vitality of our faith.

Faith and Works

Our text for today comes from James 2:14-17, where James is explaining that a healthy Christian life will include both faith and good works. He specifically mentions caring for the poor as evidence of a living faith:

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

Of all of the analogies that he could have used in this teaching, James chose the example of caring for the poor. Faith without works is dead. And since James gave the example of feeding and clothing the poor, we know that an active life of charity is evidence of a faith that is alive.

I’ll go one step further than that: Given so much scriptural encouragement to take care of the poor, I believe that any person of faith who does not actively engage in giving and charity is missing a vital component of their faith walk.

That’s a powerful statement, and I don’t mean to judge anyone’s salvation. But we do know that the poor are close to God’s heart, and we have commandments over and over to care for them as part of our worship of Him. If we make a habit of ignoring something that matters so much to God, how healthy can our faith really be?

What are You Selling?

There are a lot of things that we’re “selling” in the Western church right now. Depending on the tradition that you come from, your church may be selling exciting worship music, engaging sermons, deep Bible study, spiritual gifts, healing, family support or a sense of community. And many of those things are great. Some are important mandates of the church. But in the midst of selling all of those things, we should never lose sight of our responsibility to care for the poor.

Can you imagine what would happen if all of our churches really took up the cause of the poor in our communities? What if we put as much emphasis on caring for the poor as we do our sound systems and our seeker-friendly services? What kind of a difference could we make in the lives of those people in our communities who are the most desperate? And how powerful a testimony would that be to the rest of the world?

Caring for the poor is evidence of a living faith. The unsaved people that we’re trying so hard to reach have grown tired of the typical Christian lifestyle that we have promoted for so long. They’re not impressed by our music, our media and our clever sermon titles. What they want to see is evidence that our faith is more than a fairy tale.

A Living Faith

I’m not here to condemn anyone. I’ve been as guilty of ignoring the poor as the next guy. This is a problem that we’ve all contributed to. We’ve all been the ones to say “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed.” And that is a failure on our part.

If we really want to do God’s will, we must care for the poor. If we really want to praise the name of Jesus, we must care for the poor. If we really want to reach a world that is lost, hurt, desperate and dying, we must care for the poor.

Taking care of the poor is evidence of a living faith. The question is, what will it take to spark that faith alive in you?

——

Photo by Greg Westfall. Used under Creative Commons License.

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Comments

  1. Ssebunya Steven (Uganda East Africa) says:

    thanx for these wonderful teaching may God bless u more and more.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Taking care of the needy in our world is one of the highest callings of Christians. The poor are close to the heart of God, and He has commanded His people to look out for them since the days of the Old Testament. In the New Testament, Jesus gave His followers a mandate: It is our responsibility to care for the world’s poor. And later on, James told the church that caring for the poor is evidence of a living faith. […]

  2. […] by a mandate from Christ. And charity is an important part of our role in the world. It’s evidence that our faith is alive, and that the love of God lives in […]

  3. […] I say “no” because, according to the model that comes from scripture, caring for the poor is the responsibility of God’s people, not society at large. It is the ills of society at large, after all, that cause poverty. So it seems unreasonable to expect society to offer effective solutions to the problems that it has caused. The Church, on the other hand, is commissioned by God to solve the problems that the world cannot. God is very clear in scripture that He wants His people to be taking care of the poor. It’s the mark of a vibrant, living faith. […]

  4. […] care of them. There are all sorts of reasons to do this: It was mandated by Christ, and it is evidence of a living faith. If the love of God lives inside us, it compels us to […]

  5. […] Caring for the poor is a mandate from Christ that is meant to exhibit the love of God. Giving is evidence of a living faith. It gets God’s attention, and it causes other people to thank and praise […]

  6. […] For the past few weeks, we’ve been discussing the many different lessons that the Bible teaches us about the importance of giving to the poor. Jesus commanded us to do it, and the New Testament writers explained that caring for the needy is an expression of God’s love and evidence of a living faith. […]

  7. […] For a couple of months, we’ve been studying all of the biblical reasons for Christians to be about the business of caring for the poor, and specifically giving to meet their financial needs. The list of reasons is stacking up pretty high: Giving is a mandate from Christ, motivated by God’s love in us. It gets God’s attention, and is evidence to the world that our faith is real. […]

  8. […] His people to give to take care of them. Caring for the poor demonstrates the love of God and the power of our faith, It is the purest practice of religion; it is the most powerful of Christian rituals; it gets Gods […]

  9. […] us to take care of the poor. He mentions its importance in scripture over and over and over and over and over again. But He wants us to do so with the right […]

  10. […] especially in the context of caring for the poor. Giving is a mandate from Christ and a deed that demonstrates the authenticity of our faith. It gets God’s attention, and causes people here on earth to glorify […]

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