Dt. 15:4-5 π Dt. 15:11; 2nd π Psa. 106:15 π Prov. 29:7 π Prov. 30:7-9 π Prov. 31:8-9 π Isa. 3:10-11 π Mt. 6:24 π Mt. 19:23-25 π Mt. 25:26-27 π Mt. 25:40 π Mt. 25:45 π Lk. 16:11 π Lk. 16:19-31 π Lk. 17:7-10 π Jn. 12:4-6 π Jn. 12:7 π Jn. 12:8 π Jn. 13:17 π Acts 4:33 π Acts 4:34 π 1 Cor. 4:11 π 1 Cor. 9:27 π 1 Cor. 12:29-30 π Phlp. 3:10 π Col. 1:24 π 1 Tim. 5:8 π 2 Tim. 4:3-4 π Jas. 1:22 π Jas. 2:15-17 π Jas. 5:1-6 π 1 Jn. 1:9 π 1 Jn. 3:16-18; 2nd
There is an obvious dichotomy in the world between the Haves and the Have Nots. Some years ago, someone projected that if our world were shrunk to a community of 1,000 people, 180 of us Haves would live high on a hill called the developed world - developed largely due to Christian influence in one way or another. The other 820 Have Nots would live on the rocky bottom land called the rest of the world. The Haves have 80% of the wealth of the whole town and enjoy the use of over half of all the available rooms in town, averaging two rooms per person. The Haves own 85% of all automobiles, 80% of all televisions, and 93% of all telephones. The Haves have an average income of $5,000 per person per year and are on the average 30-75% overweight.
The not-so-fortunate 820 Have Nots on the bottom get by on only $700 per person per year with many of them getting by on less than $75 per person per year. They average five persons per room and one-third of them suffer from malnutrition. The Haves, with their inordinate share of the wealth, share freely with the Have Nots, right? Wrong! As a group, they spend less than 1% of their income to aid the lower land - that would be less than a whopping $9,000 per year, an average of about $10 per year for each person who lives in the bottom land.
In addition to their economic woes, there are some 650 or more in this town that have never been presented with the true gospel of Jesus Christ - the true Have Nots. The really sad part is that the Haves, who have the resources to reach the less fortunate group, for the most part, have a "been-there, done-that" attitude toward religion and have neither intention nor desire to practice obedience to the high call of Jesus Christ - or else they have some twisted notion of who Jesus is and what He is all about and they are more than eager to spread their apostasy. The other really sad part is that our world is not limited to 1,000 people - that 600+ represents over 3 billion individuals for whom Christ died.
In more recent (and probably more accurate) statistics (those presented in Operation World, Zondervan Publications, 1993), there are now over 5.7 billion people in the world. Of these 5.7 billion people:
In an interesting twist of irony, the U.S. public debt is $14,300 per person (and growing).
This is more money than 77.38% of the world earns in a year. In plain English, that means:
In another ironic twist, the U.S. population currently represents 4.51% of the world's population. This is above 77.38% of the world's population (which earns less than we owe) only earns 25.95% of the world's income while U.S. citizens enjoy 28.02% of the world's income.
According to Operation World, there are only eight countries that have an average annual income per person greater than the U.S. These countries are:
- Faeroe Islands,
- Falkland Islands,
- Sweden, and
These countries represent 2.56% of the world's population. In real numbers, this means that 146.705 million people earn 18.17% of the world's income. The combined population of the U.S. and these eight countries represent 7.08% of the world's population and enjoy 46.19% of the world's income.
The poverty is not limited to physical poverty - spiritual hunger abounds as well. Even though some 32.8% of the world's population falls into Operation World's exceedingly loose definition of claiming to be Christian (which includes Mormons and other cultic groups which claim the Name but don't teach the truth), even the author admits that "only a small proportion of this number would actually be born-again Christians," a number which "God alone knows." There is really no way to estimate how many are true believers and how many are falsely deceived into believing that they are. Christianity, as a religion, is present nearly everywhere at least in some small proportion. Christianity, as divided and measured by Operation World, represents 32.8% of the world's population - that is, just under 1.9 billion people claim to be a Christian of one variety or another. 10.1% - 576 million - are Protestant. 16.6% - 968 million are Catholic (Roman and otherwise). 4% - 226 million are Orthodox (Russian, Greek, Eastern, etc.). And 1.5% - 87 million - are involved with cultic/fringe groups which claim to be Christian but deny basic truths held by the traditional and historical church.
What is interesting to note is that of the eight countries which enjoy the largest incomes, only Japan has only a small portion of Christians (see table below for figures) - the rest are predominantly "Christian" nations. The lowest percentage of Christian population is found in Sweden - all the other nations have higher percentages. Of the eight "Christian" nations, only Luxembourg is predominantly Roman Catholic. Switzerland and the U.S. are the only two nations with a fairly equal split between Protestants and Roman Catholics. The other five "Christian" nations - Sweden, Bermuda, Faero Islands, Falkland Islands, and Finland - are predominantly Protestant.
Person per Year
|Avg. Public Debt per|
Person per Year
|% Christian||% Protestant||% Catholic|
|United States||258 mil.||$21,100||$14,300||86.5%||51.3%||28%|
|Faero Islands||48 th.||$23,300||-||93.4%||93%||0.1%|
Of Bermuda, Operation World says, "Bermuda is a materialistic Eden, but spiritually shallow. The islands are crowded with churches, the airwaves filled with gospel broadcasts, but the message is largely ignored."
Of the Faero Islands it is reported that "Nominalism and liberal theology characterize the Lutheran church... Only about 8% of Lutherans are churchgoers. There are also growing Pentecostal and charismatic churches and groups. Yet compromise with a secular society, divisions among believers and a lack of mature leadership in many fellowships tarnish the witness. ...few congregations are mission-minded."
Of the Falkland Islands it is reported that "There are only three significant Protestant denominations among the Islanders...with a few actively witnessing Christians."
Of Finland it is noted that "The last revival occurred during the 1960s. A growing interest in spiritual things could lead to revival again. There is a steady but slow increase in the number of active Christians. Yet Finland has a serious alcohol problem, with all the social tragedies this implies. Secularization and non-Christian religiosity are on the increase - all indicators of spiritual need. About 15-20% of the population would regularly attend [autonomous fellowships, revival and prayer groups and missions'] meetings, but average Sunday Lutheran church attendance is only 4%."
Of Luxembourg it is reported that "The land is Catholic by tradition and culture; revolutionary changes in the Church elsewhere have passed it by, and few have clearly heard the gospel in their own language. Jehovah's Witnesses have had more success among the nationals than Evangelicals."
Of Sweden it is reported that "In the last century Sweden was noted for its revivals, but in this century for its permissive society and materialism with all the dire consequences for the social fabric. After Denmark, Sweden is the most secularized country in Europe and in great need of re-evangelization. Only 5% of the population regularly goes to church. Over half the population has no real knowledge of the Christian faith, which is perceived as a pleasantly impersonal cultural heritage with little practical relevance. ...most [Free Churches] are in decline, whether evangelical or Pentecostal in theology, and have lost 25% of their membership in 15 years. The fading of the welfare state dream is causing many to be open to spiritual things, but the message embraced is that of the New Age rather than the gospel. Political and religious refugees from the Middle East, Latin America and the former Communist Bloc have been given a home in Sweden. They are frequently the section of the community most open to the gospel. Many of these minorities are unevangelized. There are few workers among them."
Of Switzerland, it is reported that "The great reformers, Calvin and Zwingli, expounded the great truths of Scripture in this land, but few today have any interest or understanding of what real Christianity is. Wealth, comfort, indifference and a vague religiosity have become the norm. The socio-political upheavals of the 90s have stirred an uncertainty, fear and identity crisis in the hearts of many, but it is the occult and eastern religions that the younger generation are exploring. Many baptized as children no longer retain any link with a church, and enrolled membership has halved in 30 years. The falling away of the Swiss from the churches is gaining momentum. Lack of clergy in the Catholic Church and widespread espousal of liberal and neo-orthodox theology in many of the Cantonal Reformed Churches have sapped the spirituality of many congregations."
Of the U.S. it is reported that "The spiritual heritage of the USA is being steadily eroded - its loss would impoverish the world. The spiritual attacks are on two major fronts: a) External. An unholy alliance of minority rights groups such as humanists, homosexuals, New Age enthusiasts and pro-choice abortionists exploit the provisions of the constitution and control of the media to disparage and mock Christians and limit or remove anything Christian in public life. The aim is to replace 'intolerant' Christian values with a permissive pagan culture. b) Internal. The greater challenge is for commitment among Christians. Lack of it has had devastating consequences - a respect for the Bible without knowledge of or obedience to its contents and an interest in religion without a holiness to recommend it. The tragic fall of famous televangelists has proved this and provided ammunition for the enemies of the gospel. The word 'revival' has been debased to mean slick mass evangelism - the need of the hour is a true revival with conviction of sin, repentance and an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Oneness in the Lord among those who are committed to Him is needed. The luxury of perpetuating strong divisions over secondary issues such as church government, gifts of the Spirit, eschatology, definitions of biblical inerrancy, methods of evangelism and social issues is hampering the energetic furtherance of world evangelization. Pyramid church structures more akin to business corporations are common, yet they often enhance the pastor and diminish lay initiative. Effective Bible exposition and teaching that activates believers...is not as common as it should be: spiritual entertainment can often be a substitute. Many of the Lord's people are over-evangelized and underfed! [There is a lack of a] clear biblical stand and appropriate involvement in the burning social issues of the day such as the high rate of divorce (among Christians too), the collapse of the public education system, inner-city poverty, drug abuse, homosexuality and the failure of the health-care system."
Another ironic statistic is that America has sent out 52%, the "lion's share," of the 138.5 thousand Protestant missionaries that have gone out into the world. Yet, of the 132.5 million Americans who claim to be Protestants, this "lion's share" is only 72 thousand missionaries. That's 72 thousand Protestant missionaries coming out of a group of 132.5 million. That's only 0.00054% of the Protestant arm of the supposed body of Christ in America. A little more than 5/100ths of one percent of those who claim to be in the Protestant body of Christ have personally responded to Jesus' command to "Go." That means that for every 10,000 people who claim to be a Protestant Christian, 5 people actually go. The question still remains: "What part of 'Go' did we not understand?"
It is also interesting to note that of the 225 nations listed in Operation World:
The real encouragement about these countries with the lower percentages of Christians is that those who are there and who claim to be Christians most likely are genuine born again, obedient Christians. The same obviously cannot be said for those nations which have both a higher percentage of Christian population and a higher average personal income. Was it for nothing that Jesus said, "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon." ( Mt. 6:24; top )
As you can see, many within the Haves claim to be disciples and followers of Jesus Christ. Some falsely base this claim on the mere fact that they have some moral standards, sit in a "church" at least once a week and give money to the "church" and charitable causes. They do not realize that they are no more a Christian for doing these things than they would become a car if they sat in a garage or would become an airplane if they ran down a runway with arms outstretched. Being a Christian is much more than sitting in a certain type of building and adhering to some list of ethical behaviors.
But there are some within the Haves that are genuine born-again believers in Christ. They have received His forgiveness and shown evidences of God's genuine presence in their life. Yet to visit their homes is to realize that they have turned a neglectful blind eye toward the plight of the Have Nots. If you survey their home you can find hundreds and even thousands of dollars worth of furnishings. Their closets contain hundreds and even thousands of dollars worth of clothes many of which are rarely worn. The home itself has cost them tens of thousands of dollars and most of the space is not used for housing a human person but as storage and use space for their belongings - many of which are seldom if ever significantly used in any given year. To enable these people to move often requires several large trucks and the help of all their friends and associates.
These people love to congregate in large buildings to hear the Word of God taught but they fail to recognize the cost involved. These buildings have cost tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars to build and renovate. It is interesting to note in this context that in the New Testament there is no command to build a "church" building nor is there any instance of such a building being built. The first "church" building was built around 200 a.d. - it was not considered a necessity to the first followers of Christ who overturned the world with their Good News. "Church" buildings began to proliferate under the reign of Constantine, the man whom most believe to have brought great compromise into the church. In addition to building the modern "church" building though, more money is poured into it by having to maintain it and heat and cool it in the various seasons to keep the patrons comfortable.
In the face of the world's physical and spiritual poverty it is right to question whether such practices actually glorify God or simply serve the comforts of the people who claim to love God. Does it glorify God when one group of people is kept inordinantly comfortable while another group goes without physical and spiritual food directly into an eternal Hell? I think not!
These people have forgotten James' stern warning:
"Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you! Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have heaped up treasure in the last days. Indeed the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. You have lived on the earth in pleasure and luxury; you have fattened your hearts as in a day of slaughter. You have condemned, you have murdered the just; he does not resist you." ( Jas. 5:1-6; top )
"But when have we abused the poor?" the rich will say, "We give faithfully. Whose cries are ascending to heaven that God should hear and pass judgment on us?"
Those who die and face eternal judgment without the knowledge of Christ cry out against you - and your excessive luxurious possessions are silent and damning witnesses against you. Every dollar spent to gratify and pamper self represents a lost opportunity to lay up treasures in heaven. Every excessive piece of clothing, every excessive meal, every unnecessary furnishing, every wasted dollar could have been invested into Bibles for the lost billions or invested into supporting missionaries to go reach them. As Jesus said to the third servant, "You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. Therefore you ought to have [at least] deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have [at least] received back my own with interest." ( Mt. 25:26-27 - words in brackets are mine). Every wasted penny represents an investment in expanding hell's population. Every time we waste an opportunity to share our wonderful provision with someone else who goes without, we have demonstrated the lifelessness of our faith in Christ Jesus ( Jas. 2:15-17 ; Mt. 25:40 , 45 ; 1 Jn. 3:16-18; top )
"But what about the widows' mite? Surely those who are truly poor themselves, just barely making their payments, are not to be held responsible for the world's misery."
That's true enough - if you are truly a widow with only two half-pennies to live on. With the average income of a U.S. citizen being around $21,100 per person, it is more likely that your payments for that nice car and that well-heated and well cooled, too-large and too-expensive house all stocked with the latest home and video appliances, exacerbated by the lack of self-control in buying habits, leaves no money for the poor. We have only served ourselves and neglected the poor. But even if you are a true widow with only two half-pennies to give, do you not have time? Can you not go to the nursing homes and hold hands and listen? Can you not go to the jails and administer some motherly love to men who probably didn't get enough of that as a child? Do you not have skills such as knitting or sewing which would be a wonderful blessing to the poor? We must remember that our resources are not limited to money. And we must not let a lack of cash keep us from giving out the priceless treasure which is supposed to reside in these clay pots. If we claim to be God's children we will give because that will be our nature. If we are not giving sacrificially then we have not truly taken on the character of Christ.
There is one word that ought to be expressive of our lifestyle as Christians but completely erased from our vocabulary: that would be the word "sacrifice." Our lives should be characterized by self-sacrificial giving - the phrase "give till it hurts" is valid in one sense but carries with it so many other connotations that I might cause you to misunderstand me. Paul wrote, "That I may know Him in the fellowship of His suffering" ( Phlp. 3:10 ) and "I fill up in my body that which is lacking in the sacrifice of Christ" ( Col. 1:24 ) By this he means that he gives to meet the physical and spiritual needs of those around him until it hurts his flesh - Paul beat his own body into submission that he might win more people to Christ and after having won them he might not himself be disqualified in any way ( 1 Cor. 9:27; top ) It is in this sense that our lives should be characterized by painful, sacrificial giving. If you don't think sacrifices should be painful, consider it from the animal's perspective!
But in another sense, that word "sacrifice" should be simply erased from our vocabulary. How dare we think of it as a sacrifice when Christ has done so much for us? How can we honestly consider the acts that we do for God as any type of sacrifice when He has given us His all? The ideas are mutually exclusive - almost blasphemous in comparison. What we do in loving response to His overwhelming love can hardly be referred to as a sacrifice - it is only our reasonable duty, a duty which we perform miserably at that. We are only unprofitable servants given a tremendous privilege which we will never really live up to ( Lk. 17:7-10; top )
"But there will always be poor people," they stammer in bewilderment. "Jesus said so Himself. And our pastor never speaks out like this."
In the last days there will be people who "will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables." ( 2 Tim. 4:3-4; top ) Beware of anyone's personal opinions which divert you from the clearly revealed and rightly divided Word of God. Beware of the ability to dismiss truth because it does not fit in conveniently with your lifestyle. Beware of any teaching which pampers the flesh and increases your physical and temporal comfort at the expense of another human being. Beware of hearing a teaching that "material possessions are a blessing from God" from someone who owns a lot of stuff - it's just too convenient of a teaching for us Haves to say that we were meant to have luxurious abundance while others do without basic necessities.
Jesus did indeed say that the poor will always be with us. ( Jn. 12:8 ) He spoke those words to rebuke His disciples. (v. 7 ) They were harassing a woman who had invested her treasure in service to the Lord. He in turn rebuked them for their lack of spiritual perspective - namely that they were missing God's purpose in this woman's actions and that they were being encouraged in their blindness by a thief who wanted the money for himself. (vv. 4-6; top ) He who has ears to hear, let him hear.
In addition, these words are almost a direct quote from the book of Deuteronomy. Fourteen hundred years before Christ spoke those words, God spoke to Moses and said, "For the poor will never cease from the land." ( Dt. 15:11a; top )
"Well, there it is then," our confused rich friends say, "even God Himself recognizes the inevitability of poverty. Why are you still trying to lay this guilt at our feet?"
If we cannot objectively recognize our guilt, we have no hope of confessing our sins. To truly and Biblically confess our sins ( 1 Jn. 1:9; top ), we must say the same thing as God says about our sins. We rarely come even close to looking at our sins the way God looks at them. Were we to be ruthlessly honest with ourselves, our sins are on the level of used and bloody menstrual cloths, foul-smelling pus running out of a gangrene wound, drinking from a cess pool, or having your friend throw up in your lap. Until we come to this realization we are not really confessing our sins - we are only flippantly acknowledging that we have done something for which we feel shame and remorse - and our focus is not on God but on self.
If we look a little more closely at the passage in Deuteronomy, we will see that just before God admits to the inevitability of poverty to Moses, He also says, "However, there shall be no poor among you...if only you listen obediently to the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all this commandment which I am commanding you today." ( Dt. 15:4a,5 NIV; top) If there were going to be poor among God's people, it would be because of disobedience. If the Israelites had completely obeyed God's laws, poverty would have been eradicated in Israel. It is interesting to note in this context that, in Jesus' day, while the Pharisees prided themselves on their strict obedience to the Mosaic law, beggars were exceedingly commonplace. So commonplace were they that Jesus used one named Lazarus to illustrate the vast difference in the way men view wealth and the way God views wealth. ( Lk. 16:19-31 ) God gave a commandment to the Israelites immediately after He recognized the inevitability of poverty - "Therefore I command you, saying, 'You shall open your hand wide to your brother, to your poor and your needy, in your land.'" ( Dt. 15:11b ) That commandment was echoed some 1400 years later by John when he 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." ( 1 Jn. 3:16-18; top )
"But wealth is a sign of God's blessing," the rich retort. "Look at Abraham. He was very wealthy because God blessed him. And many of God's people in the Bible were fabulously wealthy."
True enough. Abraham was also the father of many nations through whose descendants the whole world would be blessed. That is not likely to be equally true of the Haves in today's world. There may not even be a full generation between now and the time Jesus establishes His millennial rule. What good will it do to have a whole houseful of goods if within the next year God's return or His judgments render them completely worthless or leaves them as a pile of ashes? And what if all your material goods and the high technology of our culture is truthfully robbing you of depth of character? Then your material goods could be viewed as a judgment from God which is accompanied by "leanness of soul" - a manner in which He dealt with Israel ( Psa. 106:15; top ) A stirring case can be made for such an argument in regards to how America has dealt with her wealth since the Great Depression - and how God has dealt with America in return. In addition, I find no Scripture which tells us to imitate Abraham other than in his faith in God. I see more that we are called to imitate Christ of whom it is recorded only that He owned the clothes that He wore.
However, there is an even more significant difference in these examples. First, most of them come from the Old Testament. As such, they are under a different dispensation of grace than we are now. God's primary purpose in the Old Testament was to preserve the lineage of Messiah pure and intact. No command was given to the Old Testamenteers to convert and disciple the whole world as was given in the New Testament. God's primary purpose in His New Testament people is to share the Gospel (the life, not just the words) with the whole world. It does not speak well for God when nearly a whole nation founded largely upon His Word hoards its treasures for itself while the rest of the world goes both physically and spiritually hungry. Excuse it and rationalize it all you want, but the facts remain a silent damning witness.
Interestingly enough, there is a time in the Bible when it declares that "There were no needy persons among them..." ( Acts 4:34a ). This was the time directly after the Holy Spirit had been given, Peter and the disciples were preaching in the Temple courts, and thousands had been added to their number because "much grace was upon them all." ( Acts 4:33b; top ) It didn't last long because sin quickly set in. In the very next chapter we read about Ananias and Sapphira's fatal deception and we read about gathering multitudes who wanted their diseases healed. If they were like the multitudes whom Jesus healed, they were not a very serious and committed bunch. Shortly after that, there arose a contention because the Hellenistic widows were not having their needs met. Sin had set in to stay for the most part. Never again do we read of such grace being upon the people of Christ. Nor do we read again of the eradication of poverty from their midst.
This idea that God is favorable toward the rich and disturbed with the poor is a false notion as old as Job, a contemporary of Abraham. It was a popular rabbinical teaching at the time of Jesus and this is what made His story about Lazarus and the rich man as well as His statements about the rich young ruler so astonishing to His disciples. They too thought that the rich were especially blessed by God and were completely astonished when Jesus said, "Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." When His disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, "Who then can be saved?" ( Mt. 19:23-25; top ). Good question, isn't it?
We need to pray the prayer that Agur prayed: "Two things I ask of you, O Lord; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, 'Who is the Lord?' Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God." ( Prov. 30:7-9 NIV; top) We have forgotten what it means to have only our daily bread. We have next week's bread and some for next month stockpiled in our cabinets and refrigerators and freezers. And the evidence clearly shows that we have forgotten God.
There are some other warnings against neglecting the poor in Proverbs that we would do well to remember. We are commanded to "Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy." ( Prov. 31:8-9 ) Solomon wrote, "The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern." ( Prov. 29:7 ) The facts show that those who are the Haves have not spoken up for the rights of the destitute, poor and needy. The facts clearly show that the vast majority of rich Americans give lip service to justice and give of their excesses but give no real care. This will become even more important to the rich Americans when God judges America. When God brings judgment upon a land, He distinguishes between two types of people - the righteous and the wicked. ( Isa. 3:10-11; top ) In this context, those who have sacrificed of themselves and their time, energy and resources in seeking justice for the poor, who have defended their rights, these are among those who will be considered righteous in the day of judgment. Just because you claim the name of Jesus Christ while you still continue to ignore the needy world around you is no reason to believe that God's judgment is going to pass you by. If anything, you will be due a double portion of God's judgment for your wicked hypocrisy of claiming to be something that you aren't.
Given the fact that we have turned a neglectful eye upon the needs of the world's poor, we must also in turn question our own true spirituality. Jesus said, "If therefore you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous mammon (riches), who will entrust the true riches to you?" ( Lk. 16:11; top NASB) How deep can our own relationship with Christ be if He has not yet given us the true riches of His kingdom because we have not displayed an ability to wisely and lovingly distribute our earthly riches? We must give up the idolatry of worshiping money, whether we have a lot of it or have very little, if we ever hope to worship the only true God in spirit and in truth.
"Okay. So we're guilty of what you say," some of the rich admit. "So now what are we to do? Shall we be like the monks of old and sell all we possess, give to the poor and wander around like beggars? Should we obey Jesus' injunction to the rich young ruler?"
Guilt, that objective, rational acknowledgement of our complicity in an act, should only prompt us to one - and only one - action. Guilt should only cause us to bend our knees and bow before our loving heavenly Father in humble confession of our wrongdoing. After that we must then be careful to find out what His Word teaches and what His will for our life is. Then we must be careful to do that which He has revealed.
If you intend to be an apostle who travels to places where the gospel has not been extensively preached before, then, yes, sell all you own and give to the spiritually poor. (see 1 Cor. 4:11; top ) Take along only those things which you can comfortably carry and which are absolutely necessary for the purpose of preaching God's Good News. And don't be tricked into thinking you necessarily need the newest and latest technology. The first believers didn't have it and they changed the world. Today's "church" has it all in great quantity and can't seem to always make any great and lasting impact.
But we are not all called to be apostles any more than we are all called to speak in tongues. ( 1 Cor. 12:29-30 ) If you are a family man with responsibilities, then "trim your sails" to the bare necessities of basic living. Own only those things which help you live in obedience to God's call upon your life to be a loving husband and father who meets the deepest needs of his family. (see 1 Tim. 5:8; top ) Cut out the extravagances and the excesses and send more apostles. (K.P. Yohannan's book, The Road to Reality, chapter 24 gives a list of wonderful small scale sacrifices which add up to a large investment in God's kingdom. This book is an exceptionally important book for all prosperous Americans to read this year.) Do your family a large favor and shoot your television. Don't be moved by the excesses and luxuries of your neighbors - even when your kids beg for the latest toys. Go out of your way to show them the deeper meanings of life by spending more time with them in less expensive and more natural settings than suburbanized, electronicized, perversionized America. Move to a foreign nation if you can and be a stabilizing factor in a local assembly there. Do whatever you have to do to protect your children from the emotionally crippling effects of our prosperity and our technology. Don't let yourself or your children become devastated guinea pigs of this modern experiment. God created man to live in closer harmony with rural surroundings. Why do we then flock into cities which seem only to push His creation almost entirely out of sight? Far too often our need for companionship and togetherness drives us to huddle with one another and we neglect to turn to God for these things when, in truth, He is the only one who will truly satisfy these longings. At any rate, live where you must for you are indeed free, but always lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, not on earth.
We Haves must carefully give away as much of our wealth as possible or we are not in obedience to God. Perhaps the "God" you worship desires you to be luxuriantly comfortable while the other parts of the world do without the basic necessities of physical and spiritual life, but that is neither the God I worship nor the God of the Bible. Any "God" who wishes you to be luxuriantly comfortable while others starve to death and die in their sins bound for Hell is a sick "God." Selah (pause and calmly think about that). Then stop hesitating and do that which God is prompting you to do.
Be doers of the Word and not hearers only lest you deceive your own souls. ( Jas. 1:22 ) Now that you know these things, O how happy and blessed you will be if you do them. ( Jn. 13:17; top ) Don't let these warnings go unheeded.
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