How Does God Care For The Poor?

Does he stop meeting needs and start seeking Shalom?

Got a verse for that?

Show me.

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20 comments

  1. It’s a hard question.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Agent X · June 5

    Anonymous comment says:

    Confirming One’s Calling in God
    His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.
    Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
    For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.
    For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
    But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.
    Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ
    I Peter 1

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Agent X · June 5

    When I first started a draft of this post, I got busy with other duties and came back to it. Then I got busy again, and came back again. Then again. I had not hardly got it off the ground when I decided to give up on it. I deleted the thoughts I started and almost shelved the post altogether when it occurred to me just to pose the pointed questions you see here.

    I notice that the nice folx at the Lupton Center offer a very well-polished course (and charge a lot of money to experience it) where they develop the notion that our service to the poor and needy should be to “stop meeting needs and start seeking Shalom”. These folx are heavily invested in this idea, and so is the church where I attend – and I imagine so are a lot of other churches around the nation.

    I also notice that none of them are answering these questions, not on my blog and not in the class when it is offered. Perhaps we should forgive them for not reading this blog, it is such a humble blog with a very small readership. But these “scholars” with their “critical analyses” should address such questions and do so “biblically”. Yet they do not.

    As I formulated the title on this post, I was initially thinking in biblical terms. “How does God care for the poor?” I think the answer is a bit surprising, actually – certainly some aspects of that answer are. I think of Jesus sending word to John who is concerned that Jesus might not really be “the One” we are waiting for (curious that he sends word asking the one he is doubting, btw), and Jesus answers saying “The blind see, the lame walk… ” which sounds to me like God is meeting needs on the one hand, and then he ends saying “The poor have the Good News proclaimed to them”.

    This is a curious development in Jesus’ response to John’s messengers. Everybody else is getting needs met. The poor, it would seem, need wealth to counteract their poverty, but the sign that Jesus is the One John can have confidence in is that the poor hear the Good News!

    Now… we can go different directions splitting hairs about what that means. But my point at the moment is that this is a surprising answer to the question the title of the post poses. It is not the whole story by any stretch, but it is surprising in its own right. And in fact, if I were defending the slogan developed and put out by the Lupton Center, I think this passage would likely be one I would try to use because the prima facie case lends it weight, I think.

    There are, as I suggest, other surprises and other answers to the question. I am sure my thoughts here, as well as my post in general (had I developed it to the fullest), would not exhaust all the relevant biblical approaches, but I think I could say enough powerful and important things to be persuasive and send us looking for alternatives to the Lupton Center offerings.

    My initial thought was to look at how God created the first humans in utter naked vulnerability. In the state in which he first created them there really is no context for wealth or poverty. Those humans are sorta both and neither at the same time. Naked vulnerability in today’s context goes with poverty, but in the Beginning, it ruled the world. Hmmm… There was no cash to be had, horded, or shared. And I suggest that the introduction of cash into the world since then has gone a long way (if not being totally responsible for) corrupting human imagination and keeping the creation in bondage to decay. But that is starting to go outside the scope of this post, so I will stop there for now. Staying with the point at hand, I think if we are asking what God DOES in regard to poverty, it is of interest to examine the condition he put the first humans in among the created order. And I find that in his economy, naked vulnerability prove important for faith and trust, but in today’s world economy they demonstrate poverty and tend to draw either pity or scorn instead of admiration. When we get to Jesus, he embraces naked vulnerability as part of his saving grace as he takes the crown, and thereby otherwise turns almost everything we think and do upside down. But more of that later…

    I also considered what God SAYS, in addition to what he does. I spend a bit of time reading Deut 14 and 15, two passages that direct God’s people to be generous to the poor by design. And I note this generosity culminates in using one tenth of the gross national income of Israel to throw a party where the poor and vulnerable are the featured guests! This is so entirely counterintuitive for “worldly wisdom”, but it is the commands of God. We see Jesus command his followers in just these terms in Luke 14, and I think we need to take this seriously – far more than I find Bible “scholars” doing anywhere I have looked, but I would love it if someone shows me otherwise.

    I note this is not a meeting-needs answer to the issues of poverty, at least not on the face of it. However, I think if we dig theologically into this kind of ministry, we will find it does meet needs. But I will save that for another time too.

    In the meantime, I notice that several other passages start bouncing sparks with these in Deut and Luke in some very curious ways that need to be explored. For one thing, I am mindful that in Matt 25, Jesus very clearly outlines how Judgment is decided based on how people meet the needs of the poor (or not) in some very specific ways (a notion I have not yet dealt with, but looms large on the horizon already). But in the same passage, Jesus identifies himself with those poor needy people, and this starts bouncing sparks with the first observation I made about the condition in which God placed the first people and the economy he orders their world in.

    But wait, there’s more!

    In identifying himself with the vulnerable and needy, he also identifies God with them, and the bit we were just exploring about partying with the poor like we find in Deut and Luke starts bouncing sparks off that passage in Hebrews 13 about being hospitable and entertaining angels unaware. (Some of you are not making the connection between being hospitable and throwing a party, but on a venn diagram there is a LOT of overlap between these notions – so much that we will surely be pardoned for using them synonymously). And this notion is supported all the more when we consider that the writer of Hebrews very likely had Genesis 18 in mind when this was written. There Abe and Sarah throw a party for God unaware! God who appears as a sojourner (think trespasser)! Hmmmm…

    I am starting to think I should have taught the Seeking Shalom class! The Lupton Center didn’t approach serving the poor with ANY of this very biblical and critical analysis.

    I am not here making a case that throwing a party for the poor is the same as meeting their needs, but I suggest that if it is not a need met, it certainly accentuates the meeting of needs. Personally, I think it is more than accentuation, but I will save making that case for another time.

    Now…

    I am aware that I have one reader who is not satisfied unless this stuff is offered in a very scholarly way. I think this does that. I am not defending a dissertation here, no. But I don’t have to either. So, if you are still unhappy with that, so be it.

    On the other hand, I am addressing people of Lubbock – well aiming to anyway, and interested people worldwide who stand to be influenced by books, seminars, and courses like those put out by the Lupton Center. I assure you their presentations are not more scholarly than this even though they use real scholars (at least one of them quite respectable too). And they certainly are not nearly as biblical. I mean when you put a production together about a lady with buckets of water and sharing them with neighbors it makes a nice 10 minute video, but it is not something out of the Bible. When you then criticize the lady for sharing her buckets with some witty and pithy statements, you are not being biblical. And when you then pepper the end of the lecture with some irrelevant bible verses, you might have become biblical in the sense that you actually used a verse, but you are far from scholarly and critical when the verse you use is merely a decoration and irrelevant to the point the video made about the lady with the buckets. And the Lupton Center operates at about that speed for well over 3/4ths of their seminar. They are not defending a dissertation either, but they are persuading churches and Christians all over America to stop meeting needs of the poor in some warped idea that this will help us find Shalom.

    So… since I am juggling other responsibilities here, this comment will have to suffice for what almost would have been my post.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. What a great comment. Nailed it for sure. Still waiting for someone to show you the verse about not taking care of the poor. I’m drawing a blank for sure.

    Be blessed.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Agent X · June 5

      Me too.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Agent X · June 5

      Yeah… I am sad that I have all this good stuff to offer (and this is only beginning, really), but I didn’t get a hearing AT ALL. My own church has no use for it or me. But this whole “stop meeting needs” business gets all the traction a fancy class you have to pay to take can get. Makes me really think there is a stinky agenda underlying it. Otherwise, how do you explain it?

      Thanx for the response.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks for standing firm and speaking the truth. God compels us to take care of the poor. Jesus wants it done now. The truth can’t be ignored without peril coming along. Much is stake. Eternity in fact.

        This comes to mind:

        So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

        You are free. Let’s keep working for others to know the truth of Jesus. I am inspired by your faithfulness.

        Be blessed. God is with you.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Agent X · June 5

        Wow!

        Thanx.

        Like

  5. I am doing a little research on Robert Lupton and the Lupton Center. This is very concerning. I see why this is upsetting. This gentleman seems to have a large megaphone and has attracted a lot of attention. People are “buying” what he has to say.

    Thanks for alerting us to what is going on.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Trying to find this in the scripture. From John Upton:

    “Oath for Compassionate Service,” a missions equivalent to the doctor’s Hippocratic Oath.
    –Never do for the poor what they have (or could have) the capacity to do for themselves.
    –Limit one-way giving to emergency situations.
    –Strive to empower the poor through employment, lending, and investing, using grants sparingly to reinforce achievements.
    –Subordinate self-interests to the needs of those being served. Listen closely to those you seek to help, especially to what is not being said—unspoken feelings may contain essential clues to effective service.
    –Above all, do no harm.

    Contrast with what Jesus thinks:

    –For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat
    –I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink
    –I was a stranger, and you invited Me in
    –naked, and you clothed Me
    –I was sick, and you visited Me
    –I was in prison, and you came to Me.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Agent X · June 5

      Yup, that’s what I’m taking about.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Agent X · June 5

      None of that oath garbage is biblical, and in fact is very misleading. It plays well for the haves, I think, who want to use reverse psychology on themselves and subtly talk themselves out of caring too much. Thus it also is misleading in God’s church. As you point out, it flies in the face of Jesus’ own words, and does so with a Judgment passage no less. Very dangerous stuff.

      Meanwhile, people freeze to death in the winter cold, while church members fork up at least $25 a head to sit around discussing this stuff – and certainly NOT giving that $25 to a needy person so that you “first do no harm…”

      I think the reason why I don’t get a hearing is not because of my tone or any of that smoke screen, it is because we just bought a lie and we are trying to enjoy it.

      Liked by 2 people

    • T. F. Thompson · June 5

      This goes along with the liberal bs of the new age people who love to tell us we are enabling everyone. Reminds me of: “To decrease the world population” bit from Scrooge. Sure, this all works well if you want a good reason NOT to do what Jesus told us to do; this is wonderful if you are not a Christian. Heck, the liberals of our society are actually very quick to come up with a program to help whatever cause they determine one needs. For Christians, thank God they have the home, the car the job and other goodies that most in the world don’t. Thank God as well, they weren’t there when Jesus was doing what HE did for they would be stopping Him, telling Him how he was doing it all wrong. Wait a minute?????????????????? Isn’t that what the Jews had to say about Jesus at the time? Sure, and they bumped Him off for He was too dangerous. If we follow, we are dangerous as well. In fact, if we are not, then surely we are doing it all wrong.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Jonathan Erdman · June 16

        There are a lot of liberal Christians helping a lot of people survive under capitalism. So while I (as a socialist) may have my own reservations about many liberal policies (as well as their refusal to seriously question capitalism), I appreciate that they’ve fought for the meager government programs that do exist. It isn’t enough, but the scant programs available have helped many people who would otherwise have been left to destitution within the global capitalist economy.

        Liked by 2 people

  7. clashofcashntrash · June 5

    He gives hand outs. Just look at him crucified there on that Roman cross with his hands out paying a debt you cannot repay even before you asked. He would ruin himself to give you freedom from sin, and he will not manipulate you into living right for him in the slightest.

    That’s Jesus.

    But its not his church. Not in America today anyway.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I believe that God takes care of the poor through the love and obedience of Believers to His greatest commandment… to love Him first…and then to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. We are to be like Jesus. We are to be His hands and feet…His heart! “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” -Matthew 22:36-40 If we truly love God, we will see things through His eyes, and the suffering of others will break our hearts and move us to compassion on those less fortunate than us! WE…true Believers should be compelled to take care of the poor! -anita

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agent X · June 6

      Thanx for this comment!

      I couldn’t say it better.

      I love how you cued in on Love God n Love Others. That actually is the church motto where I attend. It is so curious that loving the poor like Jesus somehow doesn’t cut it there though. We mean well, I think, but only sorta. When it comes to defending the idea that our love for the poor is misguided and harmful, we are just sure Jesus’ way needs improved. The arrogance is subtle enough that we kid ourselves about it.

      Like

  9. Frank Morrison · July 4

    Note: I don’t know if I’m addressing your issue. These are my (incomplete) thoughts. You may add your editorial and commentary. FM

    Food or Shalom?

    Somewhat “tongue in cheek”, I don’t know what you mean “shalom”. Any word that can mean both hello and goodbye is too confusing for me. Based on the comments I’ve read, sarcasm tells me you’re talking about “warm fuzzies”. Much of the comments focused more on what I would term theoretical issues than on whether food and housing or “warm fuzzies” is what is needed. I don’t know about the Lupton Center and their teaching; I know it takes much more than just food, clothing, housing or health services. Too many times well meaning citizens become bogged down in discussions of defining the issue rather than solving the problem. I attended a committee meeting of city-appointed citizens whose mission was to identify solutions. This was maybe the sixth or seventh meeting (nearing the end of their term) and they spent better than 45 minutes discussing the definition of homeless citizens.

    Therein lies part of the problem; too many people drive past the person standing on the corner and never give a thought to who they are or with what issues they are dealing. Granted, I’ve spent nearly 20 years working at various levels (with only a few years of experience on a first-hand basis) and don’t understand the problem very well. I just responded to one of my liberal facebook friends who was promoting the recent protest by Lubbock citizens against the “separation of families” who are here illegally. My point was that the same energy is not being put forth to prevent the problems of Lubbock citizens whose families are separated by CPS.

    Back to the issue:
    I don’t know what the “providing Shalom” approach really means; but, whether you’re providing food, clothing, shelter or psychological support, none of these will solve the problem if they applied on an independent basis. Simply put, in my opinion, no attempt at resolving homelessness will work unless it is holistic in nature and applied with all involved entities communicating with each other: a community.

    Community as I am using the term might better be termed “support network”. Those of us in the middle class, generally speaking, have a very strong, and large, support network. Just a few weeks ago an older gentleman I am close to called and said he had gotten on the floor to do something and the floor was so slick he couldn’t get traction to get up. I came to his assistance. This was a very simple act however, one that would not have happened had this gentleman not had a support network that included me. This is a simple example, but people in homelessness and poverty don’t have someone they can call to take care of a sick child or watch their belongings while they look for work.

    My point may be better stated as: the solution to homelessness can only be accomplished when an effective and stable support network is established resulting in improved decision making by those being assisted.

    I’m going to talk about Jesus for just a moment.
    Throughout the Bible, God speaks of desiring a relationship with His children. Beginning in Genesis, God simply wants His creation to be a reflection of His love. Throughout the Old Testament, God asked His children to ‘Love Me with all of your heart and soul and strength” (some places “and mind” is added). When Jesus came to the earth he preached the same, and when asked about the greatest commandment, He restated that loving God was the greatest commandment. And He added, “The second is like it; Love your neighbor as yourself.” Personally, I believe that baptism is the public manifestation of our declaration of accepting Jesus as our lord and savior and “loving our neighbor” is the physical and public manifestation of our declaration of “loving God”. In other words, saying I love God is easy, but demonstrating our love requires effort.

    Then in answer to the follow-up question, Jesus told to parable of the Good Samaritan. In this parable, the Samaritan (a lowly and second-class member of society with whom Jews would not associate) is the one tending the wounds of the fellow traveler who had fallen victim to thugs along the road. The Samaritan first cares for the man on the spot; he uses his own “tunic” and nurses the wounds of the injured man, puts the wounded man on his “animal” and carries him to an inn. And he spends the night with the injured man and, before departing the next day, gives an amount potentially equal to two-days pay with the innkeeper.

    The Samaritan further tells the innkeeper that if it costs more to take care of the injured man, he will pay when he returns. He doesn’t stipulate how much he’s willing to spend and he doesn’t give a time limit on how long to take care of him. He simply says that he will pay the difference when he returns. Again, we don’t know the ethnicity of the injured man; however, Samaritans were not strong believers and, at best, followed multiple gods. This would indicate the acts of this Samaritan were not to be expected, however such action by “a priest” and “a Levite” would be expected. Though there are many other indirect lessons on caring for those around us in the Bible, this is the most direct instruction Jesus gives us on the subject.

    From Jesus’ time forward, loving God and loving your neighbor are the only two commandments we have to guide our lives. And, just as the 10 commandments are split between our interaction with God and our interaction with others, loving God and loving our neighbor are the only two directives we have in our faith (this is my opinion). Yes, there are many more issues with which the Bible deals and directs in our lives; however, I believe every other directive can be dealt with by using these two commandments as guideposts.

    Let’s return to our contemporary situation of helping the homeless and those suffering in poverty to grow out of their circumstance, if they are interested. As established previously, in having accepted Jesus as our Lord means we accept the responsibility to help those in need. I personally lean heavily on Philippians 2:3, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others as more significant than yourselves.”

    Giving a little latitude to those who want to spend time defining the homeless, this population can be divided into several groups. I am not suggesting this is the only way to identify them or this is a comprehensive list; these categories suffice in my effort to discuss the type and amount of support they are provided.

    One group is those who have the intellectual capacity to make life decisions for themselves and choose to provide for themselves in the most minimal way possible. This group might be offered subsistence support and otherwise should be allowed to make their decisions without interference. However, in terms of food, clothing, medical support, etc., they may take abusive advantage of services they could provide for themselves and, instead, choose to live on society’s gratuity. In addition, they must not be allowed to interfere with the rights and privileges of those who agree to participate fully in society (i.e. they may not be allowed to live in a well maintained park area paid for with taxpayer dollars).

    Another group is made up of those with mental health or drug related issues and need constant, but limited, support. Enter the support network. Citizens should participate in helping these individuals cope and survive. I know a couple in which one spouse is almost completely dependent on the presence of the other. One goes to work while the other stays home and does some work around the home. However, mental illness prevents the supported spouse from being a fully functioning citizen and the supporting spouse freely sacrifices individual opportunities and recreation to provide necessary security for their mate.

    We, as a society, must be willing to make a similar sacrifice for those who need near-constant support. (This won’t require everyone’s hands-on support, but an employer must recognize the effort of their staff to physically support those in need and be a second level of support.) Whether it’s simply reinforcing the necessity of maintaining a regimen of prescribed medication, assistance with financial management or reinforcing the need to stay sober, these citizens need the physical, emotional and psychological support of others to not lose, or be pushed out of, their stability. This support likely will be necessary on a permanent basis and any gap in the support network will potentially lead to relapse or recidivism.

    Another group, those who are homeless as a result of poor decisions, or outside circumstances of a catastrophic nature. This group needs a different support structure. Individuals and families who have lived in poverty for two or more generations may desire to live a more stable and structured life; however, they may not have the environmental knowledge and capacity to make decisions to get themselves out of their situation. This support will likely be required on a semi-permanent or long intermediate-term basis. Issues and a lifestyle built over many years or multiple generations cannot be redeveloped in just a short period.

    While the groups discussed earlier are comprised primarily of adult individuals, this last group includes large numbers of families with children, Poor choices as youth led to pregnancy and independence. Parenting may have been limited in their youth and subsequently, their life-support skills are limited to non-existent. Even individuals with severely limited mental capacity are capable of developing living skills, and thus independence over time. However, without a support network to provide security and assistance, survival occupies their every thought and decisions are based on immediate need. This support will be necessary on a 24-hour basis initially and will eventually be “occasional” in nature.

    As stated earlier, this is far short of a comprehensive list and subgroups of each of these groups can be identified. In fact, as the support network is established and cooperative work is initiated I believe much clearer and more beneficial effort will achieve greater success when individuals are recognized as such and treated with individual therapies rather than attempting to force individuals and families into specific and limited categories. Imagine the comparison of children with one-on-one attention vs. children being supervised on a one-to five or ten basis.

    Homelessness cannot be addressed in a compartmental form; the solution will only come through a holistic approach where all of the needs are met in a community setting. Please don’t confuse my use of the word community with anything that goes on in our government agencies. Our current government agencies are hampered by concerns for security of information, and, thus forbid themselves from sharing pertinent information regarding their clients with other agencies or organizations interested in supporting the network. Private citizens develop an attitude and subsequent action of “I won’t help because you won’t tell me what the problem is”, and thus not participate in the process For another example of this same situation look at the education system.

    “Sunday morning” Christians need to understand that accepting Christ was a life decision not a social one. Being christian is not like joining a social organization that requires you to serve time as a “lay” person, then an elected leader and live your life as a member having “paid your dues”. Being christian is, in modern vernacular, a 24-7 job. I have seen the effects of those who “showed up, served several months and moved on”. This creates a skeptical, disillusioned population. And patting a person on the back as they make their way through the food kitchen or clothing closet is not sufficient. We have to be willing to get our hands dirty.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agent X · July 4

      I am so very honored to have your participation here, Frank. Thank you for visiting and for commenting!

      Wow!

      To my other regular readers, let me say I know Frank personally. I have known him many years. He has the credentials, the street cred and lots of sweat-equity built up in his life experience where ministry to the poor is involved. Few people, and I cant think of any I know personally, have put themselves more on the line to serve God by sharing God’s love with the needy. And he has the scars to prove it! He has risked so very much of his time, finances, reputation, – everything to love the needy, and he has quite a story to tell – if you can talk him into telling it.

      But lest I gush to the point of making him regret visiting here, I will stop with that. But I definitely sense this blog has gained legitimacy with your contribution here!

      Welcome!

      As for engaging your comment…

      You hit me with so much here that I cannot do it justice. I definitely agree that COMMUNITY is where the action of God is in this. You said so many insightful things here, but that stands out upon my first read through it all. And I find it to be deeply meaningful.

      I will read through it again, and may build on some of this for other posts as well.

      God bless you,

      And Thank you…

      Thanx

      X

      Like

  10. Anonymous · July 6

    I just looked up a verse for another purpose and said, “WOW”. James 2:14-18.
    “14 What good is it brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking daily food, and one OF YOU says to them, ‘Go in peace, and be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 18 But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works and I will show you my faith by my works.” Hence, my belief that our love for God must be manifested in acting in love toward our neighbor.

    Liked by 1 person

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