Weekly Teachings by Erik Momsen
You will always have the poor with you
by Erik Momsen
Next to worship the church has always held ministry to the poor as vital. In comparison to serving the poor, "worship", or more accurately the singing of songs and the offering of prayers, is easy. This form of religious activity does not really require such a great sacrifice. Most people who regard themselves as worshipers are probably people who like music and intimate public gatherings in any case. Worship that requires no sacrifice is no worship at all. Worship that does not bring with it a heart that longs for the broken, poor and marginalized is no worship at all.
The Bible has at least 177 references to the poor and the Old Testament’s basic message is justice and kindness to the poor.
- "Do not deny justice to your poor people in their lawsuits." (Exodus 23:6)
- "During the seventh year let the land lie unplowed and unused. Then the poor among your people may get food from it." (Exodus 23:11)
- "If one of your countrymen becomes poor among you and sells himself to you, do not make him work as a slave." (Leviticus 25:39)
More than this, our relationship with the poor determines our relationship with God.
- "He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God." (Proverbs 14:31)
- "He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward him for what he has done." (Proverbs 19:17).
- "If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered." (21:13).
- "He who gives to the poor will lack nothing, but he who closes his eyes to them receives many curses." (28:27)
God is attracted to love, mercy and justice and those who exercises these qualities will have His favor.
JESUS PREACHED GOOD NEWS TO THE POOR
The church at it's beginning and still today is more attractive to the poor than the rich. One group has much to gain. The other much to lose. The church is also always at risk of becoming a ritual and not a relevant organization because we do gather to focus on an invisible God. This invisible God however calls us to live a very visible life.
"When Jesus had finished speaking, a Pharisee invited him to eat with him; so he went in and reclined at the table. But the Pharisee, noticing that Jesus did not first wash before the meal, was surprised. Then the Lord said to him, "Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? But give what is inside the dish to the poor, and everything will be clean for you. "Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone." (Luke 11:37 ff)
The issue here is again the contrast between outward religious observance and inner compassion, mercy and justice. Jesus is willing to associate with anyone, but will speak the truth. The Pharisee notes that Jesus skips the ritual cleansing. Jesus notes the greed and wickedness in the Pharisee's heart. Jesus' remedy for these deadly sins is two fold:
- The heart attitude is more important and must motivate action.
- The antidote to wickedness and greed is giving to the poor.
The summary of our faith is "justice and the love of God" i.e. the inner & the outer must be clean - but it is the heart that leads to righteous acts of the hands. The justice that Jesus is talking about here is that of Micah 6:6-8
"With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."
Worship might be a spiritual act, but it must be accompanied by a heart that loves mercy, truth and justice. The mouth that praises the Lord must also praise others. The hands that are lifted to the Lord must also be stretched out to the needy.
Date Added: 2010-12-14
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