7. Going To the Source

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. 5:21-22 π Mt. 5:27-28 π Mt. 5:48 π Jn. 1:4 π Jn. 4:24 π Jn. 5:26 π Jn. 6:35 π Jn. 6:48 π Jn. 8:12 π Jn. 9:5 π Jn. 11:25 π Jn. 12:46 π Jn. 14:6; 2nd π Acts 3:15 π 1 Cor. 13:1-3 π 1 Cor. 13:3 π 2 Cor. 3:17 π 1 Jn. 3:16-19 π 1 Jn. 3:17 π 1 Jn. 3:19 π 1 Jn. 4:8

Though God sees the entire spectrum of light and color far beyond the ability of the human eye, He does not see in gray. That is, He sees things as they truly are - light or dark, truth or error, spirit or flesh, life or death, love or selfishness. One reason He has no trouble distinguishing between these things is that He is the one and He is not the other. He is Light. ( Jn. 8:12 ; 9:5 ; 12:46 ) He is Truth. ( Jn. 14:6 ) He is Spirit. ( Jn. 4:24 ; 2 Cor. 3:17 ) He is Life. ( Jn. 1:4 ; 5:26 ; 6:35 , 48 ; 11:25 ; 14:6 ; Acts 3:15 ) He is Love. ( 1 Jn. 4:8; top ) And, unlike humans, God does not suffer from a lack of self understanding nor is He deluded in any way as to His own nature.

Though humans (because the first human ate from the wrong tree) traffics almost solely in the gray areas of moral dilemmas, God's perception of good and evil, right and wrong, is vastly different from our own usual conception. It is true that God commands us to do good and to do right under all circumstances. But good and right actions, when done from pure motives, are only the outward visible expressions that His life is at work in our hearts. They are not the standard by which we independently determine what is an appropriate course of action.

Under the Law, a man could look lustfully after a woman all day long every day of his life. But so long as he did not physically touch her in an adulterous manner, he had not violated the Law. In the same way, someone could fantasize routinely about every possible method of murdering someone else. But so long as that other person remained alive and healthy, the Law had not been violated.

Jesus said, "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder,' and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment. But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, 'Raca!' shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be in danger of hell fire... You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart." ( Mt. 5:21-22 , 27-28; top )

This is a vastly different standard - and it is one that only the Spirit of God truly living through us can attain to. Humanity, because it has chosen to live and act independently of God, cannot by itself attain to the level of perfection and completeness that Christ demands of His followers. (see Mt. 5:48; top ) Neither mere religiosity nor self-righteous morality will ever produce something of God.

Thus while religion and morality are stuck in the endless conundrums of moral issues, the real standard for the true follower of Christ is very simple indeed: Is it God or not? If it is of God, He is to be obeyed at any and all personal cost. If it is not God, then the follower of Christ is not obligated to participate in any manner whatsoever.

The simplicity of this standard seems lost in this generation of "theological giants" and so many "great, spiritually enlightened" teachers, preachers and so-called "leaders" in the Body of Christ who are more hungry for a following than for the truth. For example, 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. 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. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him." ( 1 Jn. 3:16-19; top )

Let's review some important details here: Whoever has this world's goods and does not meet the urgent needs of his brother or sister does not have the love of God in him (v. 17 ) and is not of the truth (v. 19; top ) Humans, steeped in religious tradition, love to make some fuzzy, nebulous concept called "salvation" the standard of being a genuine Christian. That is, one who is "saved" will not go to hell and will instead spend eternity in heaven, that realm of spiritual bliss forever in the presence of God. Thus, one who is "saved" can blithely ignore the needs of others around him and still expect to experience all of God's rewards. And even where this is not taught, it is nonetheless unconsciously practiced in too many "Christian" circles. And this concept is simply nonexistent in the New Testament.

Paul wrote, "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become as sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have no love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing." ( 1 Cor. 13:1-3; top )

Let's review some important details here: One who speaks in tongues, gives prophecies, understands spiritual mysteries, is able to move mountains by faith, gives away all his possessions and/or is even martyred - if this one does not have the love of God within him, he is nothing in the kingdom of God. When we combine what these two passages are teaching, it becomes quite clear that most people claiming to be Christians fail this acid test for they are quite able to ignore the needs of the poor, the orphans, the widows and the suffering "leasts" as they continue to attend to their own favorite "bless me, God" religious social club. Even many of those who recognize the inadequacies and evils of "church" still seem incapable of simply and selflessly loving their brother and sister with the love of Christ. Though they may have escaped the outward snares of the "church" system, in their exodus they have brought with them some of the deeper sins of selfish individuality and impersonal indifference which are some of the pillars and mainstays of the worldly "church" system.

It is not merely a question of actions as Paul states so clearly in verse 3 ("...though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor..."; top) - it is a question of source. Any worldly philanthropist desires to feed the poor and often does so. Any religious zealot wants to "rescue" people from the consequence of sin and will gladly devote his life to this cause. And even the worst of pagans are capable of loving their own children and families (though the limitations of "how far will I go for them?" are almost always set in terms of self-preservation, too often their quality of love is greater than that of those who claim to belong to Christ). But only God loves the whole world and was willing to sacrifice Himself on their (our) behalf. Those who follow Christ must do the same (as He leads) or they simply are not His.

It's really that simple. If the source of your religious activities is your self, you are your own "God" and you are in high gear on the road that leads to destruction and death. But if it is His leading, His guiding and His power that accomplishes an inner transformation into the mature character of Christ, then Christ truly is your God and you are on the narrowing path that leads to life.

6. Do What They Need π Conclusion
Poverty in the Body of Christ

I'd love to hear comments and/or questions from you! Email me!

Site Panel π Home π MNQs π New Posts π Books π Series π Articles
Authors π Subjects π Titles π Top 50 Writings π Twisted Scriptures π Bible Bullets
Scriptures π Top 25 Scriptures π Needs π Links π Donations π Correspondence