Serving the Poor - WHY?

Why are Christians called to serve the poor?

If you are a Christian and have faithfully attended church you have probably heard that part of a Christian’s responsibility is to serve the poor. Maybe you think about Jesus’ sermon on the mount and particularly Matthew 5:7, or 1 John 3:16-18 where John equates giving to someone in need with understanding God’s love, maybe James 1:27 and the equation of true religion with helping orphans and widows, possibly Micah 6:8 that shows the requirements of God to be doing justice (a favorite buzzword for our culture), loving kindness, and humbly walking before God, or Mathew 22:35-40 and the Great Commandment to love God and neighbor.  Maybe for some it just the example of the life of Jesus. Eating with tax collectors and sinners, healing the sick, and caring for the poor.  The call to the poor for the Christian is sure.

Homeless on benchBut why? Why should Christians serve the poor? It is easy to get caught up in the hype of mercy ministry, to see the need to fight for social justice, and to feel compassion for the homeless man sleeping on the street on a cold winter night with no jacket. But why does the Gospel call us to serve the poor?

As I was preaching from Psalm 41 and thinking about why David opens this Psalm by saying, “Blessed is the one who considers the poor!” I was reminded of a core Gospel truth. It is this truth that gives us the basis for serving the poor as Christians.

David was a man who loved God and loved his instruction as it is found in the Torah. It is in the Torah that we find our answer to the question of why a Christian is to serve the poor. Both Leviticus 25 and Deuteronomy 15 have laws concerning the poor for God’s people. In Deuteronomy 15:7-11 we see that God commands his people to give to the poor in their midst and to do it with joy. But it is Deuteronomy 24:19-22 that gives the Gospel truth that should drive Christians to serve the poor.  After rehearsing how at different harvest times crops are to be left in the field for orphans and widows, God’s request for the provision of the poor is grounded in this statement in Deuteronomy 24:22, “You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I command you to do this.” God is saying that his people should provide for the poor in their land because Israel was once enslaved in Egypt and God heard their cry for help, remembered them, and saved them.

Do you hear the Gospel in there? God saw the affliction of his people and came down to save them. God’s saving attention and action is then repeated in the person of Christ. God seeing our affliction came down in the person of Christ and released us from our bondage. In the place of our spiritual poverty he gave us spiritual riches (think Ephesians 1). In return, we are to picture God’s saving work in our life by seeing the affliction of others and offering them help. When you take care of the poor you are enacting a physical picture of the salvation you have received in Christ. And while you are enacting that physical picture go ahead and share the Gospel with words as well.

Brothers and Sisters, if we are not considering the poor in our city and in the world then it is possible we have misunderstood the Gospel.

Why are Christians called to serve the poor?

Because at one time we were slaves in Egypt…


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