The Poverty of Wealth
by Keith Giles
When Jesus sent out the twelve disciples in Matthew 10 he gave them some instructions which would seem odd to us today. Among other things, he gave them this command, "Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts."
One thing I've learned over time is that preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom, living the life Jesus modelled for us to live, serving others and learning to love people doesn't cost anything at all. At least not in terms of money.
What it does cost you is time. It also means the possibility, and a very likely one, that you will change as a person. Counting the cost means being willing to change, and to allow God to change your heart in the way He wants. You may have to participate in the process of dying to yourself if you decide to take that step towards loving and serving others.
Some of us have to admit that we just don't care about the poor. We'd rather just write a check and be done with it. I can understand that, and I've been there before in fact. For most of my life as a Christian I was comfortable writing the checks so that someone else could step out and touch the poor and serve the lost.
Unfortunately, we are called to do more than write checks.
OUR GREATEST FEAR
What frightens many of us most is the suggestion that Jesus might be asking us to invest something more than just a check.
A check is easy. I don't have to touch anyone. I don't have to look them in the eye, or smell their breath, or become entangled with their problems.
A check is still, ultimately, about me. I even get to write it off my taxes at the end of the year.
But sharing what I have, listening to someone's story, touching another person, loving them the way I would love Jesus? That's frightening. That would take a lot of faith. It would involve trusting God like I've never trusted Him before.
And that would be exactly what Jesus was talking about when He asked us to lay down our lives for one another and take up our cross to die daily to ourselves.
IT'S NOT ABOUT MONEY
For the last five years or so we've been serving families at the Studio Inn in Santa Ana, California. During this time of service I've learned that the less program we have the more Jesus we can bring.
Our monthly motel service costs our little house church just over $100. That covers groceries for about 30 families, renting a bounce house and buying a box of popsicles for the kids. But again, it's not about money. In fact, there have been times over the years where we didn't have a bounce house, or treats, or free groceries. We just showed up, my wife and I and our two boys, and a few others, and we played games, ran relay races, made a craft and prayed for our friends. Those were honestly some of the more amazing times we ever had, actually.
Keeping it simple, and learning to love the people who are right in front of you, is all it takes. That doesn't cost anything. It doesn't take a small army of trained workers. All it takes is love.
STRENGTH IN WEAKNESS
One of the principles of the Kingdom is the power of weakness. Paul talks about boasting in our weakness because in our weakness the power of Christ is revealed (2 Cor 12:9). That's a huge lesson. I used to always believe that the power of Christ was revealed in my eloquence, or in my talent or skill or ability. Instead I've discovered that the more I come in weakness, relying on God's strength, the greater the outcome.
Living in Orange County, California I've come in contact with some very wealthy people. Many of them are paralyzed by their wealth. Because of their great supply of cash they are tempted to lean on that money to save their marriages, or to protect themselves from reality, or to insulate themselves from the poor. I wish for many of them that they were not so wealthy. If they didn't have all that money to make things easier for themselves, I wonder, would they lean more on Jesus to rescue them or challenge them or change them?
FREELY YOU HAVE RECEIVED, FREELY GIVE
So, what can you bring if you leave your money belt at home? If you have a wallet full of money to give away you'll be tempted to meet physical needs without paying attention to the spiritual poverty. If your focus is on what you can do, or give, or bring, you might just miss what God wants to do.
Jesus announced his ministry on Earth by reading from Isaiah 61 saying, "The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD's favour..."
Even though the annointing that was on Jesus involved the poor, and even though he warned us that we would be judged based on whether or not we had compassion on the poor and the outcast and the forgotten (Matt 25), we cannot miss the fact that Jesus was called to the poor in order to preach the Good News of the Kingdom to them.
We have that same calling.
I've been reminded recently that if we bring the poor free groceries and we put on a big production for them, we can't forget to bring them the Gospel of the Kingdom too.
YOUR PORTION IS SMALL
If you can't bring them money, what can you bring the poor?
"Then Peter said, 'Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk." - Acts 3:6
Maybe this is what Jesus had in mind when he sent out the twelve to preach the Good News of the Kingdom? Maybe it's why God told Gideon, "You have too many men for me to deliver my people from the Midianites"? (Judges 7:2) Because when we are strong, we have no need of God's strength. When we come bristling with our own wealth and talent and power and possibility the best we can do is the best we can do.
Perhaps if we left some of our resources at home and simply went out with nothing in our hands but worship, nothing in our hearts but faith, nothing on our lips but the Gospel of the Kingdom, we would see more of the power of God revealed in our weakness.
I'm eager to find out. Aren't you?
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