3. More Than Words

Poverty in the Body of Christ

Neil Girrard
Scriptures Referenced in This Article:
          (Follow the Scripture links if you want to study the Scriptures for yourself.)
Mt. 5:37 π Mt. 6:25 π Mt. 6:32-33 π Mt. 25:45-46 π Lk. 7:37-38 π Lk. 7:48 π Lk. 7:50 π Jn. 4:24 π Jn. 8:44 π 2 Cor. 10:12 π Jas. 2:15-16 π Jas. 5:12 π 2 Pet. 2:21 π 1 Jn. 1:9 π 1 Jn. 3:16 π 1 Jn. 3:17-18

One word that is key in the believer's attitude toward his possessions is "enough." There is contained in this word a sense of contentment just as the antithesis of this word, "more," contains within it a sense of striving. This word, enough, is a loose definition of what our attitude toward this world's goods is to be. Jesus said, "Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you." ( Mt. 6:25 , 32-33; top )

The standard of enough, even though somewhat ambiguous, is still sufficient to serve as a line between those who have more than enough and those who have less than enough. The spiritual man who has luxuriated himself with or relied upon his more than enough will be instantly alarmed when he realizes that he has let this world's goods stand as a barrier between himself and his brother. The carnal man who has luxuriated himself with or relied upon his more than enough will instantly rise up in defense of his "liberty in Christ." Let he who has ears hear.

But what is the point of even having this line of enough? It is so that those who have more than enough will share with those who have less than enough until everyone has enough. Any other attitude toward this world's goods is self-centeredness and represents an unsurrendered, uncrucified area of the soul. John made it very clear: "But whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth." ( 1 Jn. 3:17-18; top )

Only those who have been subjected to a period of having less than enough knows the desperation of poverty and the discouragement that is the fruit of the neglect inflicted upon them by their wealthier brothers. A poor brother, seeing a wealthier brother's growing video collection, for example, while watching his own wife repeatedly forced to cook beans over an open wood fire because their propane has run out, faces a daunting challenge to his faith God. How does he reconcile this obvious neglect with his brother's words of love?

The need for something more than words is apparent. James wrote, "If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,' but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?" ( Jas. 2:15-16 ) Those who say, "We love you" but then administer neglect upon those to whom they speak are guilty of a terrible sin - doing the work of Satan, our adversary. Twice in the New Testament we are told to let our "yes" be "yes" and our "no" be "no." The first time, Jesus says it and He adds, "...for anything else comes from the evil one." ( Mt. 5:37 ) These are not telling a little "white lie" or even suffering from immature ignorance - this saying of one thing and being something else is the work of the devil who is also called the father of lies. ( Jn. 8:44; top ) How can those who work for the enemy of God be true sons of God?

The second time we are told to be what we say comes from James. He adds, "...for anything else brings condemnation [or judgment]." ( Jas. 5:12; top ) It does not bring a reproof or a rebuke or even corrective discipline - this saying of one thing and being another brings judgment and condemnation. How can those who are due for condemnation and judgment hope for and expect the blessings of God? Any "blessings" - things that seem good at the moment - may simply be deceptions given to them by our enemy, Satan, to "confirm" them in the erroneous path they are taking. Extravagantly large "church" buildings fall squarely into this category but this is by no means the only example of Satan giving material possessions to God's people to divert their focus and activities away from pure obedience to God.

Some will read this and dismiss it because they don't like to feel guilty, ashamed or remorseful about the way they routinely live their lives. But we must go through these things if we wish to emerge into the light of repentance that leads to forgiveness. (see 1 Jn. 1:9 ) To the woman whose lifestyle caused her to wash Jesus' feet with her tears, Jesus did not say, "Stop feeling bad about your sins." No, He said, "Your sins are forgiven. Go in peace." ( Lk. 7:37-38 , 48 , 50 ) The peace that comes from honest repentance is well worth the travail of recognizing our sin and guilt - and it is far preferable to the fruits of living in denial. We must - not optionally - we must worship God in spirit and in truth ( Jn. 4:24 ) or we are not really worshiping God. Anything else is a lie that robs us of our godly inheritance and may ultimately cause us to be in a worse condition than if we had never known the truth at all. ( 2 Pet. 2:21; top )

There are those who enjoy giving to the poor in some limited or subtly self-exalting way - and these have reached a level of spirituality that, if we were to practice the foolishness of comparing ourselves with ourselves (see 2 Cor. 10:12 ), makes them stand head and shoulders above the rest of the believing crowd (or at least the mixed multitude that many falsely presume to be the believing crowd). But the rest of the believing crowd (and certainly not the mixed multitude) is not our standard of measurement - Christ is. John wrote, "By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren." ( 1 Jn. 3:16 ) Until our giving to those with less than enough goes beyond giving from our excess and actually entails our laying down our lives for our brothers, we have not attained to genuine spiritual maturity. If we think otherwise, we have succumbed to yet another of our adversary's deceitful schemes and we stand in danger of forfeiting everything Christ died to give us. (see Mt. 25:45-46; top )

2. Dealing With the Impoverished π 4. Not of the Body
Poverty in the Body of Christ

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