Posted tagged ‘Poor’

Tim Keller on Helping the Poor

November 21, 2010

I have not read Tim Keller’s new book Generous Justice yet, so I’m guessing that he addresses the question of helping the poor in greater detail than in his article, “The Gospel and the Poor.”  In any case, I have found his article to be really helpful, and I want to highlight what he calls “levels of wholistic ministry” (to the poor). This is a little follow up on last week’s post on how NOT to help the poor.  The three levels:

Relief

This is direct aid to meet physical/material/social needs. Common relief ministries are temporary shelter for the homeless, food and clothing services for people in dire need, medical services, crisis counseling, and so on. A more active form of relief is “advocacy,” in which people in need are given active assistance to get legal aid, help them find housing, and find other kinds of aid. Relief programs alone can create patterns of dependency.

Development

This is what is needed is to bring a person or community to self-sufficiency. In the OT, when a slave’s debt was erased and he was released, God directed that his former master send him out with grain, tools, and resources for a new, self-sufficient economic life (Deut 15:13–14). “Development” for an individual includes education, job creation, and training. But development for a neighborhood or community means reinvesting social and financial capital into a social system–housing development and home ownership, other capital investments, and so on.

Reform

Social reform moves beyond relief of immediate needs and dependency and seeks to change social conditions and structures that aggravate or cause that dependency. Job tells us that he not only clothed the naked, but he “broke the fangs of the wicked and made them drop their victims” (Job 29:17). The prophets denounced unfair wages (Jer 22:13), corrupt business practices (Amos 8:2, 6), legal systems weighted in favor of the rich and influential (Lev 19:15; Deut 24:17), and a system of lending capital that gouges the person of modest means (Exod 22:25–27; Lev 19:35–37; 25:37). Daniel calls a pagan government to account for its lack of mercy to the poor (Dan 4:27). This means that Christians should also work for a particular community to get better police protection, more just and fair banking practices, zoning practices, and better laws.

Keller goes on to make a very important distinction in the areas where the church should and should not be responsible.  He argues that the church should be involved in relief but not seeing development and social reform as part of the mission of the church.  Instead, organizations or associations of Christians should carry out this work.  I think this careful distinction is important to consider, especially in areas where development and reform is so badly needed, such as in Haiti.  But simply because they are not the mission of the church does not mean that Christians should not be involved in development and social reform(!).  They should help the poor in this manner, understanding however that this mission is carried out on an individual level primarily and in a corporate level through entities other than the local church.

Gospel and Poor: Some Personal Reflections

March 17, 2010

Over the past couple of weeks, I have taught on the relationship of the gospel and the poor which apparently is a hot topic in some evangelical circles.  I initially intended this to be a short addendum to the 20-week teaching on “The Gospel Centered Life” from last year, but when I asked our adult members if any of them had done an in-depth study on what the Bible says about the poor, no one raised their hands.  Well, that was a month ago, and since then there has been dozens and dozens of hands raised with questions abounding.

While I have not completed our study on this subject, I thought I’d post some blogposts on this subject from our church blog.  Perhaps some of this may be of some interest to you.

* Gospel and Poor: Implications
> From the Life of Christ
> From the Death of Christ
> From the Resurrection of Christ

* Additional Thoughts
> 12 Observations About the Poor from the New Testament
> Two Ways to Live – Regarding the Poor

Tim Keller has done a lot of thinking on this topic as well, and I encourage you to read this article and/or watch the video below.

Kingdom Words, Kingdom Deeds

March 1, 2010

A lesser known evangelical declaration, the Manila Manifesto (1989) was adopted by the Second International Congress on World Evangelization  in Manila, Philippines.  Regarding the gospel and our social responsibility, I would like to post an excerpt:

The authentic gospel must become visible in the transformed lives of men and women. As we proclaim the love of God we must be involved in loving service, as we preach the Kingdom of God we must be committed to its demands of justice and peace.

Evangelism is primary because our chief concern is with the gospel, that all people may have the opportunity to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. Yet Jesus not only proclaimed the Kingdom of God, he also demonstrated its arrival by works of mercy and power. We are called today to a similar integration of words and deeds. In a spirit of humility we are to preach and teach, minister to the sick, feed the hungry, care for prisoners, help the disadvantaged and handicapped, and deliver the oppressed. While we acknowledge the diversity of spiritual gifts, callings and contexts, we also affirm that good news and good works are inseparable.

Margin for the Marginalized

February 25, 2010

From Tim Chester and Steve Timmis:

Jesus’ eating with sinners is a wonderful declaration of the riches of God’s grace. But notice how this grace plays out in practice. It results in Jesus spending time with the despised and marginalized.  It means Jesus has time for the needy.  They are his priority. He does not focus on the professional classes, the lawyers, the doctors, the respectable middle classes. Such people are welcomed if they will associate with the ragtag group who makes up the community of Jesus–after all, Luke himself is a doctor. But Jesus goes out of his way to welcome the poor, the marginalized, and the needy.  (emphasis mine)

Have you ever thought about Christ-likeness in this way?  If the goal of the Christian life is to be transformed into His image, to become more like Christ, then shouldn’t our lives display margin for the marginalized, making the poor and needy our priority?  Does our community of believers look anything like the community of Jesus?  Are we demonstrating the grace which we have received vertically from God in a horizontal way to others in our city?

The Gospel and Hearts for the Poor

February 22, 2010

Here’s an excerpt from A Gospel Primer for Christians on a much discussed topic among evangelicals today: the relationship of the gospel to the poor.  Check it.

Like nothing else could ever do, the gospel instills in me a heart for the downcast, the poverty-stricken, and those in need of physical mercies, especially when such persons are of the household of faith.

When I see persons who are materially poor, I instantly feel a kinship with them, for they are physically what I was spiritually when my heart was closed to Christ.  Perhaps some of them are in their condition because of sin, but so was I.  Perhaps they are unkind when I try to help them; but I, too, have been spiteful to God when He has sought to help me.  Perhaps they are thankless and even abuse the kindness I show them, but how many times have I been thankless and used what God has given me to serve selfish ends?

Perhaps a poverty-stricken person will be blessed and changed as a result of some kindness I show them.  If so, God be praised for His grace through me.  But if the person walks away unchanged by my kindness, then I still rejoice over the opportunity to love as God loves.  Perhaps the person will repent in time; but for now, my heart is chastened and made wiser by the tangible depiction of what I myself have done to God on numerous occasions.

The gospel reminds me daily of the spiritual poverty into which I was born and also of the staggering generosity of Christ towards me.  Such reminders instill in me both a felt connection to the poor and a desire to show them the same generosity that has been lavished on me.  When ministering to the poor with these motivations, I not only preach the gospel to them through word and deed, but I reenact the gospel to my own benefit as well.

Milton Vincent, A Gospel Primer for Christians: Learning to See the Glories of God’s Love (Bemidji, MN: Focus, 2008), 38-39.

David Platt at 20/20 Collegiate Conference

February 6, 2010

David Platt begins his message with this video clip.  Give is a look.

Below is a summary of the key points Platt made in his message this morning.  When first personal pronouns are used, they are quotes of David speaking . . .

The last few years have been a crisis of belief in my own life, and it has revolved around the Bible. “Do I believe that it is true?”  Not if I believe it is accurate or authentic, but if I believe it to be true.  If it is, then the implications of our lives are staggering.

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