Rich and Poor

Read: The One Year Bible daily reading link is here.

Believers who are poor have something to boast about, for God has honored them. And those who are rich should boast that God has humbled them. They will fade away like a little flower in the field. The hot sun rises and the grass withers; the little flower droops and falls, and its beauty fades away. In the same way, the rich will fade away with all of their achievements.
James 1:9-11

Relate: Two times in the gospels Jesus is asked the question, what must I do to have eternal life. He gives a slightly different answer each time. On one of these occasions (Luke 10), Jesus first responds, “What does the Bible say?” The questioner responds “Love God with all you’ve got and love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus answers, “Bingo.” But the questioner wants a little clarification, “Who exactly is my neighbor?” Jesus answers with the parable of the Good Samaritan. At the end of this story, Jesus tells the man, “Now you go and do the same.” If we want to inherit eternal life then we must demonstrate love to the hurting, the needy, the outcast and despised.

On the other occasion (Matthew 19) a rich young ruler comes to visit Jesus. It starts out the same. “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answers, “If you want eternal life, keep the commandments.” The RYR asks, “Which ones?” Jesus replies, “Don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t lie, honor mom and dad, love your neighbor.” The RYR breaks the fourth one in this list right then and there by answering, “I’ve kept these all since I was a kid. What else?” Jesus says, “There is one more thing. Give away everything you’ve got, then come follow me.”

React: My answer to this question often seems very different than Jesus’. It isn’t that I am wrong or unbiblical, it is just that I am… incomplete. I will look at Paul’s response to the Philippine jailer, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” or his letter to the church of Rome, “Confess and believe”. Neither of these is wrong, but all too often I gloss over the fact that true belief requires action. Over and over again, when Jesus is talking about those that go to heaven or hell, the reason for going is all about how they treated the poor. I am tempted to say it is the only reason he ever gives, but without checking, the best I can say is it is his primary or most common reason. Jesus doesn’t build a wall against the poor and tell them to keep out. He opens a door and says come in.

So what about the rich? James says that riches don’t last. The rich man should boast in the fact that God has humbled them. This is true for individuals, businesses, and governments. We should applaud and censure our government officials when they do things that benefit or hurt the poor. Not on social media but through letters or calls to our representatives or through public petitions. We should also shop at or solicit businesses that are doing socially responsible things for the poor (like Starbuck’s initiative to hire 10,000 refugees and 25,000 veterans) and then let them know that is why we have done so. According to the US Census Bureau, there are 43 million people in poverty in the US. Even still, the average income of a poor family is better than 83% of the rest of the world. When you also factor in things like: accessible clean water, reliable electricity, access to public transportation, support programs like Medicare, food stamps, etc, a roof over their head (for most, not all of those 43 million) and even the average poor are doing far, far better than the average middle class in much of the world. Even if the average poor in the US were to donate 10% of their income to the truly poor in their communities and around the world they would still be far better off than more than 80% of the world. If that is true for America’s poor…

Riches will not last. This is especially true when we use our riches simply to get richer or to spend them on our own fleeting pleasures. If however, we were to invest our riches to care for the poor… they just might have an eternal impact.

Respond: 

Dear God,
Thank You so much for all that You have blessed me with. You have given me so much, even materially and even though I might not consider myself wealthy, I recognize that I am so much better off than so many around me and across the world. Help me to be more intentional in using Your blessings to in turn bless others. I recognize that wealth is fleeting and have learned firsthand how quickly it can all fade away. Before it might do so again, help me to invest it towards those for whom You have a special heart,
Amen

 

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5 thoughts on “Rich and Poor

  1. “Jesus doesn’t build a wall against the poor and tell them to keep out. He opens a door and says come in.” Thank-you. We all need to be reminded – over and over and over again – that faith requires action.
    Also, you made me think of another verse: “The rich and poor have this in common, the Lord is the maker of them all.” – Proverbs 22:2 NRSV

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