“THE HAVE AND THE HAVE NOT” By Pastor YAU
Text: Deuteronomy 15:7-11 August 29, 2010.
1) A family tradition: In the storybook, Crazy Love, Francis Chan recorded about a Christian family, the Robinson’s who has a special Christmas tradition. On Christmas morning, this family doesn’t focus on opening gifts under the Christmas tree. Instead, they make pancakes and coffee and serve breakfast to the homeless. This is a small but creative and meaningful way to show God’s love and generosity to the poor.
2) A divine commandment: Thousands of years ago, God expected this kind of generosity from his people to the poor. The passage we have today is a commandment God gave to the Israelis on their responsibility to the poor and the needy among them. God emphasized the reality of poverty and how the affluent must respond with it. Thousands of years later, we face the same situation everyday. It is God’s command that those who have need to help those who have not.
FACETS ABOUT THE POOR:
1) You find them everywhere: “The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me.” (Matthew 26:11) To answer the criticism on the woman, who anointed Jesus with a jar of expensive perfume, Jesus told us an eternal truth: we always have poor people with us. Poverty is not a modern day phenomenon. As long as history has records, there always have poor people among us. Jesus didn’t dig into the reasons why some become poor, He just told us the facts: we always have the poor anywhere, anytime.
2) God always cares for the poor: Throughout the Bible, especially in the Old Testament, God has instructed His people to be kind and generous to the poor. He set up laws on fair lending to the poor. God asked that His people should not take advantage of the aliens and the poor. They should not take away the last piece of garment of the poor. (Ex. 22:21-27) God also set up laws on forgiving debts to the poor in the Year of Canceling debts and of the Jubilee. (Deut. 15:1-3; Lev. 25:13-17) He also instructed landlords to leave behind crops in the field for the poor, the orphans and widows. (Deut. 24:19-21)
3) Jesus brings the gospel to the poor: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, to release the oppressed, and to proclaim the Year of the Jubilee.” (Luke 4:18-19) The Jewish people mistakenly believed that only the elite and the privileged were the recipients of God’s blessing, the gospel. But Jesus made it very clear that the first group of people to receive God’s blessings of the gospel were the poor, the imprisoned, the blind and the oppressed. In the opening sentence of his first sermon, he said: “Blessed are the poor in heart.” ( Matthew 5:3)
4) The early Christians set good example: The rich believers in the first church in Jerusalem sold their properties and shared the proceeds with those who had needs. (Acts 4:32-37) The first groups of servants were chosen to take care of the needs of the widows. (Acts 6:1-6) Paul was fervent in raising funds among the richer Gentiles for the needs of the poor saints in Jerusalem. (1 Corinthians 16:1-4)James encouraged the early saints to care for the poor in practical ways to show their true faith. (2:14-17) He also told us that true godliness is “to look after orphans and widows in their distress.” (1:27)
WAYS TO BE GENEROUS TO THE POOR: (Deut. 15:7-11)
1) We need to know it’s God’s gift: “If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the Lord of God is giving you.” (15:7a) Before asking his people to do anything, God wants his people to know that all the land, the town and all they have are gifts of their God, not their own properties. This is a very important mindset when we talk about giving and caring for the poor. When we give, we are just sharing the gifts of God, not anything of our own. All the opportunities, strength and possession are of God and from God, without Him, we have nothing. The idea of stewardship is very important in the management and distribution of material possessions. We need to do it according to God’s principles.
2) We need to have a soft heart: “Do not be hardhearted.” (15:7b) A hardened heart is a heart that can not be moved affected or touched by the desperate needs of the poor. This is the starting point so we can see, feel and have mercy on the needs of the poor and the needy. Keeping our heart soft is very important.
3) We need to have loosened hands: “Do not be ...tightfisted.” (15:7c) It is not enough just to have the feelings toward the poor, we also need to have loosened hands that will open the wallets and checkbooks to actually give. Too often we will forget what we see and how we feel just in a little while and give nothing to help those who have needs. So, when you see and feel the need to give, open your hands and give.
4) We shouldn’t make any excuse: “Be careful not to harbor this wicked thought: The seventh year, the year of canceling debts, is near so you do not show ill will to your needy brother and give him nothing.” (15:9) God has set laws, the Year of Canceling Debts, in Deut. 15:1-3, in which all debts will be forgiven. God warned the Israelis not to make that excuse and not to help a poor brother. We may make other excuses too for not to give to help the poor. There are endless supplies of excuses we all can make and not to help someone in need. But making excuses is one thing God warns us not to do.
WE ALL CAN DO SOMETHING:
1) We can start first at home: “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Timothy 5: 8) We need to pay attention to the needs of our own family from top to bottom or the other way around. Needs in finance, attention, love, caring and time. So many families are broken on the inside where members in the family just don’t care each other, much less to do anything to meet their needs. Before anyone can help others, they need to help their loved ones first. Paul said if we don't care our own family, we are worse than the unbelievers.
2) We can extend to the church: As the first century church did to care and meet the needs of the people in the church, we can do something for the people God brings to our church, our spiritual family of God. Let me encourage all parts of our church family: Open up your hearts, breaking the small circles you have built, invite and include others into your circles, build bridges across to other people and groups, especially the new ones, those who have no friends at church. They may not need material support, but they certain need emotional support. I am proud of those who walk the extra mile to reach out to the needy.
3) We can serve the community: The number of volunteers from our church who joined the SOS ministry this past summer is a great example of meeting the needs of the poor and the needy. If others can travel hundreds of miles to Memphis, we certainly can drive 15 miles to serve them. There are many community organizations that need our help. We may meet their needs by donating time, talents, money and other resources to support their ministry. Through out the years, our service at Union Mission, Baptist Children’s Home and Miracle Church are some of the ways we can continue to meet the needs of the poor. If you haven’t got involved, it’s time to join the team.
4) We can meet the needs of souls: The highest goal of Christian service ministries is to meet the needs of the thirsty souls, to lead the lost to Christ so they may be saved and have eternal life. Through meeting physical needs, we bring the love of God and salvation in Jesus to the poor and the needy their ultimate need. Jesus extends an invitation to all “Who are weary and are heavily laden” to come to him so they will find rest. We are the agents of God. We are the arms and legs of Jesus. We can and need to give whatever we can to meet the needs of the poor and by doing this, we are fulfilling the Great Commission.
1) Open your eyes: You will see needs of the poor are everywhere: the poor in material needs, the poor in emotional needs and the poor in spiritual needs. God places these people around us for a purpose: we can be agents of God to meet their needs. Look beyond your home to the church, to the community and to all around the world. The fields are white and ready. They are waiting for us to do something.
2) Open your hearts: Don’t just feel the needs, or the urge to do something. Open your heart and put into action the move God places in you. Be moved, be sympathetic and be generous to give. It is well said that: Better to give than to receive.
3) Open your purse: God never sets an amount we must give to be counted. But God does call us to give, to share what we have to meet the needs of someone, near and far. Don’t tighten your hands on the strings to your purse. Be generous to the needs of the poor and God will be generous to the needs of your.