- Big Idea: We have been blessed to bless others.
- Luke 16:19-31
Last week we said that we must have a radical urgency for the things of God and the two things He cares most deeply about are the lost and the poor. The Bible is jam-packed with God’s heart for the spiritual and physically needy.
I believe the primary reason why the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not taking root and flourishing in our nation is our lack of need.
Think about it.
Do we need healing? That’s what Advil and the doctor do.
Do we need daily bread? Most of us have a pantry full of food plus a refrigerator and maybe even a freezer.
Do we need education and knowledge? We have more information in our pockets than could fill a library 20 years ago.
Do we need relationships? We connect with our deepest friends at bars and on Facebook.
Friends, our world is filled with needs, and God wants us to meet them. That’s our purpose. That’s why we’re still here and not zapped up to heaven after begin to follow Jesus.
Last week we focused on urgency for the spiritually needs and today we turn to the physically poor. Today we’re talking about radical giving.
I want to begin by saying we are not in a building campaign. We are not fundraising today. In fact, we already took the offering! My hope is that at the end of our time together your heart will beat more in sync with God’s heart and recognize not only the needs around us but also how you can change the world, one life at a time.
If you have your Bible, either paper or electronic, please turn to Luke 16. Luke is one of four biographies of Jesus, written by a doctor who paid great attention to detail in his account.
- “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. (Luke 16:19-21)
- Do you identify yourself as the rich man, the beggar, or the dogs?
Quick tangent: does Jesus ever talk about Hell? How is it described? Why did the beggar go to Abraham’s side (or heaven)? Why did the rich man end up in Hell?
- I never noticed this before but the rich man wants the beggar to evangelize the rich man’s brothers. Why didn’t he ask to go himself and leave Hell?
- “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’ (Luke 16:29)
- “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ (Luke 16:30)
- This is an interesting point made by the rich man. Is it true? Has a once-dead man ever appeared to people? Jesus did! Did everyone that saw Him repent? No!
- “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’” (Luke 16:31)
- I want you to remember two things today. First, God responds to the needs of the poor with compassion.
- Listen to just a few verses about the poor. Keep in mind that many religions despise the poor.
- The poor will eat and be satisfied; they who seek the LORD will praise him — may your hearts live forever! - Psalm 22:26
My whole being will exclaim, “Who is like you, O LORD? You rescue the poor from those too strong for them, the poor and needy from those who rob them.” - Psalm 35:10
I know that the LORD secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy. - Psalm 140:12
There are so many more. Now let’s look at what Jesus said...
The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: “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 for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” - Luke 4:17-19
Jesus came for the spiritually and physically poor. He didn’t come for the religious people. His mission was not to help the rich gain greater wealth. His purpose was not to create a safe, comfortable life for Himself and His friends.
Perhaps the most famous statement ever made about the poor came in a passage known as the Beatitudes.
Looking at his disciples, he said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. - Luke 6:20-21
Notice Jesus doesn’t say wealth is bad or wrong or evil, though He did make it clear that it can become an idol. The root of all evil, after all, is not money but the LOVE of money.
We play now and pay later or pay now and play later.
I believe that God responds to the needs of the poor with compassion because they are in need, they are broken, they are humble, they are not too proud to beg, so to speak. This does not mean that every poor person gets an automatic ticket to heaven, but it does mean that God cares for them and so should we.
We hear about the poor all the time, don’t we? Politicians talk about the poor. Guilt-inducing statistics are shoved in our face through various fundraisers and infomercials.
I often judge the poor. I’m not proud of this, but I sometimes look at the exit guys—the beggars at the exit ramps—and think to myself, “Go get a job!” I look at bums downtown and think, “Quit drinking and smoking and do something with your life.” It’s easy to get callous toward the poor, especially when you hear stories about con-artists that make five or even six figures panhandling or addicts that take your cash right to a drug dealer.
There are many reasons people are poor, but globally it is rarely the result of their choices.
I thought about rattling off a barrage of statistics on poverty to help you see the needs of the poor in our world, but you’ve probably heard them already. I will share with you two.
Nearly 3 billion people live on less than $2 per day. That’s $730 per year.
Today 50,000 people will die due to poverty-related causes.
Behind every statistic is a face, a friend, a family member, a person formed in the image of God.
God responds to the needs of the poor with compassion.
The second thing I want you to know is God responds to those who neglect the poor with condemnation.
We are the rich man in the story. Yes, I’m talking to you. Most of you children have more wealth than billions of people on this planet. Billions!
We are dressed in fine linen inside a building that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to build. We will soon get into hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of cars to go to homes worth millions of dollars combined. Meanwhile, there are poor at the gate, both across the street and across the planet.
Many of you know about the evil cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. The term sodomy is derived from their behavior. Nevertheless, it was not their greatest sin.
“‘Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.
- Ezekiel 16:49
God has blessed us with great wealth...to share.
Have you ever prayed for God to bless the poor? He probably responded by saying, “Go for it!”
Have you ever prayed for God to provide for starving children? That’s our job!
Again, wealth is not bad—unless it is hoarded. Followers of Jesus should be the most radical givers. We should be known for our generosity.
The rich man was sent to hell not because he had money, but because money had him. He neglected the poor.
Are we throwing our scraps to the poor while we indulge in our pleasures. Is our giving like an extra chicken for the slaves at Christmas. This is not what the people of God do. Regardless of what we say or sing or study on Sunday morning, rich people who neglect the poor are not the people of God.
Even the world knows this.
“If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn’t help the poor, either we’ve got to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we’ve got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition, and then admit that we just don’t want to do it.” - Stephen Colbert
One of my dreams for Scio is that it if we ever closed our doors, people would miss us. They would miss the positive impact we made. They would miss the way we lived modest lives and gave abundantly.
There is good news. Even though we can’t control famines or oppressive governments or other factors that lead poverty, we can make a difference.
Are we willing to ask God if he wants us to sell everything we have and give the money to the poor? Are we willing to ask and wait for an answer instead of providing one of our own or justifying our ideas of why he would never tell us to do this? This seems a bit radical, but isn’t it normal and expected when we follow a Master who said, “…any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:33)
That means our wealth. We are not supposed to give God 10%. It ALL belongs to Him! One day we will stand before God and have to give an account for how we used our wealth. This is not only money but also our time and talents.
What is true and acceptable religion (James 1:27)? We are all so rich, which is not a bad thing. We need to be conduits of blessing to our communities...and the nations.
One man said the goal of every follower of Jesus should be to make as much money as possible and live off of as little as necessary. To whom much is given, much is required and we have all been given so much.
So what now? Here are a few suggestions:
1. Visit www.ONE.org
- 2. Sponsor a child with Compassion International
- 3. Donate and serve with Hope Clinic
- 4. Fast in solidarity with those who are hungry…and pray for them.
- 5. Skip your Starbucks for a day…a week…a month…a year!
A story is told of a starfish.
One day a man was walking along the beach when he noticed a boy picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean. Approaching the boy, he asked, “What are you doing?” The youth replied, “Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.” “Son,” the man said, “don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can’t make a difference!” After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it back into the surf. Then, smiling at the man, he said, “I made a difference for that one.”
"Don't fail to do something just because you can't do everything." - Bob Pierce, former president of World Vision
David Platt notes,
“We look back on slave-owning churchgoers of 150 years ago and ask, “How could they have treated their fellow human beings that way?” I wonder if followers of Christ 150 years from now will look back at Christians in America today and ask, “How could they live in such big houses? How could they drive such nice cars and wear such nice clothes? How could they live in such affluence while thousands of children were dying because they didn’t have food and water? How could they go on with their lives as though the billions of poor didn’t even exist?””
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. - Matthew 6:19-21
Radical giving is not rooted in guilt, but in the Gospel. It’s a part of following Jesus.
“So how do we care for the poor in a way that glorifies God? Be captivated by Christ. Long for the new creation. Set aside empty promises and earthly ideas of success, and trust that Christ will do what he has promised as we, with thankful hearts for the mercy that God has shown us, extend mercy in word and deed to those who so desperately need it, whether they're down the street or across the globe.” -Aaron Armstrong
We have been blessed to bless others.
Where is your treasure? Where is your heart?
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