Learning to Lead Like Jesus
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God's Heart for the Poor and the Needy

Poverty The prophet Isaiah challenged the people of his time that God was more interested in their works of love for the poor and needy than he was in their worship (see Isaiah 58). This is a message strongly echoed by other prophets (see Amos 5:21-24). Jesus reinforced this strongly in the parable of the sheep and the goats where he paints a picture of the nations being divided not by doctrine, personal ethics, or religious activities but by how they had treated the poor and needy (Matthew 25:31-46).

Poverty is not a 'left-wing' political issue; it is a Christian issue.

Just under half of the world's population (2.8 billion) lives on US $2 a day or less. It is hard to imagine that kind of poverty (click here for a description of what that would be like). Recently, Australia was ranked as the most prosperous nation in the world. We are the affluent minority.

How should we then live?

We should:

1. Become more aware of the issues. Why not order World Vision's latest book, World Poverty for Dummies - it's only $25.

2. Reflect on our own values and lifestyle. Spend less and give more away.

3. Get involved. There is so much that can be done.

Worship and justice must go hand in hand. Together we can really make a difference, one step at a time.

Comments

Just wanted to say that I was really blessed and challenged by this message. It fit in well with what God has been talking to me about over the past few months.

Hi Mark,

Great message on Saturday. I just have one question regarding Mark 14:7 and John 12:8 where Jesus says you will always have the poor among you. Taking Jesus's words literally means that no matter how much we try and do the poor will always be with us. So while we should aspire and actually do something to help the poor ultimately the problem will always exist. How do you deal with Jesus' statement in light of Saturday's message? Or is God just giving us plenty of opportunity and no excuse not to demonstrate love by helping the poor?

Mark,

Thank you for your message on the poor and needy as I really needed it.

My childhood was one of poverty but as the years go by, our lives became better. In fact until you spoke on that topic, I have forgotten about my past. I whinge about everything; my work, my income, my mortgage etc etc etc. Mark, thanks because I have more than enough. I thank God for that I am able to go to bed with a full tummy and a warm bed to sleep on.

I pray you will continue reminding us of how blessed we are and that we can do so much for the poor and needy. I certainly will!

Appreciate your thoughts on this, Mark. it's a timely message as more and more people will be struggling worldwide as various economies dip, although it seems some have enough to stage a mini-revival of financial fortunes in the last few hours. Nevertheless we do well in Australia and are blessed and should be reminded of the plight of those who are not so well off.

Mark, excellent message. It was such a privilege and joy to worship at City Life, on Sunday, once again. Glad that Lazarus is remembered by you and not left standing outside your gate. We need more messages preached on the poor, as well as on repentance/holiness/prayer. It's time to get more serious, as the day of the Lord's coming draws nearer.

Hey "the poor"

In answer to your question here > Or is God just giving us plenty of opportunity and no excuse not to demonstrate love by helping the poor? <

Yes, God is giving us plenty of opportunity with grace to share His love and blessings with others... JOY is spelt Jesus Others You :)

“What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” Micah 6:8.

God placed us on this earth for His special purpose to fulfill His plan, so we may learn how to love Him and others and to serve Him. Earth is our training ground before we go to our real home in Eternity. We are on this earth for a short time to learn how to love one another and to share God's blessings with others. Love IS the highest goal of a Christian that shows itself in action. ONLY out of love flows good deeds, in showing compassion for the down and out and helping the poor and needy. ie: "Rick Shaws for India"..."Water Wells for China"... "Compassion Child Sponsorship"... etc.

Those who love know God.

Hi Marija,

I agree with what you have said. Taking my question further and answering it myself I see God has provided opportunity to help the poor and we as followers of Christ are to act accordingly but this is the discouraging point - it sounds like no matter what we do (even if every Christian did something significant to help the poor) Jesus has promised we will always have the poor. So we are to act with compassion knowing we may have helped a little but that the problem will always exist. I don't know about you but that is discouraging to me. I am not discouraged to the point of not helping because I will have to stand before Jesus and give an account of what I did with what I was given so I am compelled to help. I suppose what I am really getting to (apologies for thinking about it online) is how much we do knowing it will never solve the problem in light of Jesus' promise regarding the poor. The challenge is to really do everything we can (even to our discomfort)irrespective of the impact to the world's poor. We are to do what we can and let God do the rest.

Hi The Poor,

Yes, I agree with you, as Jesus said the poor we will always have with us...but in that instance, Jesus was preparing His disciples for His death, burial and resurrection back to Heaven. So what Jesus said is true...we will ALWAYS have the poor with us but NOT Him. You might say that Jesus will always be with us, but we cannot see Him right now, apart from having Him in our heart. We await His return with eager anticipation, when we will see Him coming in a cloud. My prayer is that He will find us going about the Father's business to further the Kingdom of God by serving Him. So how do the rich rob the poor, as it is written in the Bible? The rich must realize that God has entrusted them as stewards of the poor man's goods to share them out as needed. Everything that we have belongs to God. When we come to realize that, it becomes easier for those who are well off to give out to help the poor.

The message from the weekend was so good we continued to discuss it at our Life Group this week. There are so many aspects to this message. We also discussed Mark 14:7 and someone in the group mentioned the next verse that said "she did what she could". I know it's referring to putting the oil on Jesus' feet...but we also equated that to "we do what we can". yes, the task of caring for the poor is overwhelming, and to think that we will never "complete" this task can be disheartening....but we are not called to solve it all, just to do what we can, each person with what they have. There will be opportunities in many forms to carry out the task of "caring for the poor and needy", and God just asks that we do that and not turn our heads the other way. I'm encouraged to know that I am not alone in this task, but have the help of my "brothers and sisters" in Christ....we all do it together.

Thanks for everyone's encouragement and feedback. The reference to Jesus saying "the poor will always be with you" is an often quoted verse on the poor. Unfortunately, it is also often taken out of context and misinterpreted. The context (see Mark 14) is that Jesus and his disciples are at the home of Simon who was a leper - one of the worst outcasts in society at that time. While they were eating together, a woman anointed Jesus with an expensive ointment. The disciples saw this as a waste of money on worship. Jesus accepted this extravagent act of worship from this woman but reminded the disciples that their proximity to the poor would continue, simply because they were his disciples. They had watched where he had spent his time and who he had reached out to. He affirmed that they would follow his example in this. Jesus is not saying "There is nothing we can do about poverty, and the poor will always be there, so why bother?" He assume that his followers will have a heart for the poor and needy just as he does - and that they will reach out to them with his love, just as he is doing in this scene to Simon the leper - a needy person in that culture.

Mark, very timely post. I would be interested in your (summary) view or reaction, to the post I pasted below by Chris Rosebrough who runs Pirate Christian Radio in California (http://www.piratechristianradio.com) and hosts the Extreme Theology website. If you haven’t heard of him, in a nutshell Chris is a mini-celebrity among the broadly termed ODM’s (Online Discernment Ministries). I’m only providing his background for context, NOT because I care either way about the messenger. It is the message I am interested in. His reply is part of a long blog thread (http://www.extremetheology.com/2008/10/the-huge-differ/comments/page/3/#comments) on the importance of good works for Christians.

This is not a tricky/sneaky request, I’m genuinely interested in your take on this post. I already have a view, I’m just interested in yours if it’s ok.

Thanks in advance - John

Peter,

You and I have some common ground. I agree with the Apostle James when he writes "Just as the body that is not breathing is dead so faith without works is dead."

Luther said that "Faith Alone Saves but Saving Faith is NEVER Alone."

I think that the scriptures teach that good works show our NEIGHBOR that faith is alive. But, I do not think that our good works necessarily show us as individuals that our faith is alive.

James put it this way:

"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. " - James 2:18

One of our Lutheran Hymn writers put it this way:

Faith clings to Jesus’ cross alone
And rests in him unceasing;
And by its fruits true faith is known,
With love and hope increasing.
For faith alone can justify;
Works serve our neighbor and supply
The proof that faith is living.

As for works showing an individual that he or she has faith that is a very dangerous road to walk. The reason for that is because even my VERY BEST good works are still tainted by sin.

Isaiah puts it this way:

Is. 64:6 We have all become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.

As a Christian I am painfully aware of this fact in my own life.

The other problem is that the more I study, read, mark and inward meditate on God's word and his holy and perfect law the MORE aware of my sin and unrighteousness I become. I'm sure that in my 40 years of faith I have morally improved. The problem is that my moral improvement is also set against a growing depth of understanding of what it is that God expects and demands from me in His Holy and Perfect Law. Any small moral victories I may experience from time to time do not even come close to keeping pace with the growing awareness of just how sinful and wretched I am. (and I don't think my experience in this matter is exclusive to me). Therefore, if I were to look to my fruit and moral improvement as proof that my faith is living then I would have to conclude that I am not a Christian and am not saved because my experience tells me that I am not.

This is why we need to look outside of ourselves to objective Biblical truths that are not subject to our whims and passing moods.

Ortberg, may or may not believe in Salvation by grace ALONE through faith ALONE by Christ's work ALONE. However, by pointing us inward to a standard of sanctification based upon "my intentions to obey and follow Christ", Ortberg is actually undermining people's faith because NONE OF US (me and you included) obeys Christ perfectly and none of us can say that even our best works are not tainted and stained by sin.

I believe that his intentions are good but his message doesn't actually jive with scriptures because it confuses law and gospel and has us looking inward for the answer to whether we have a faith that is alive. This will ultimately cause many to despair and 'lose faith' because their struggle with their own sin will be seen as proof in their own minds that they don't have faith.

Posted by: Chris Rosebrough | October 21, 2008 at 04:01 PM

Mark, very timely post. I would be interested in your (summary) view or reaction, to the post I pasted below by Chris Rosebrough who runs Pirate Christian Radio in California (http://www.piratechristianradio.com) and hosts the Extreme Theology website. If you haven’t heard of him, in a nutshell Chris is a mini-celebrity among the broadly termed ODM’s (Online Discernment Ministries). I’m only providing his background for context, NOT because I care either way about the messenger. It is the message I am interested in. His reply is part of a long blog thread (http://www.extremetheology.com/2008/10/the-huge-differ/comments/page/3/#comments) on the importance of good works for Christians.

This is not a tricky/sneaky request, I’m genuinely interested in your take on this post. I already have a view, I’m just interested in yours if it’s ok.

Thanks in advance - John

Peter,

You and I have some common ground. I agree with the Apostle James when he writes "Just as the body that is not breathing is dead so faith without works is dead."

Luther said that "Faith Alone Saves but Saving Faith is NEVER Alone."

I think that the scriptures teach that good works show our NEIGHBOR that faith is alive. But, I do not think that our good works necessarily show us as individuals that our faith is alive.

James put it this way:

"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. " - James 2:18

One of our Lutheran Hymn writers put it this way:

Faith clings to Jesus’ cross alone
And rests in him unceasing;
And by its fruits true faith is known,
With love and hope increasing.
For faith alone can justify;
Works serve our neighbor and supply
The proof that faith is living.

As for works showing an individual that he or she has faith that is a very dangerous road to walk. The reason for that is because even my VERY BEST good works are still tainted by sin.

Isaiah puts it this way:

Is. 64:6 We have all become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.

As a Christian I am painfully aware of this fact in my own life.

The other problem is that the more I study, read, mark and inward meditate on God's word and his holy and perfect law the MORE aware of my sin and unrighteousness I become. I'm sure that in my 40 years of faith I have morally improved. The problem is that my moral improvement is also set against a growing depth of understanding of what it is that God expects and demands from me in His Holy and Perfect Law. Any small moral victories I may experience from time to time do not even come close to keeping pace with the growing awareness of just how sinful and wretched I am. (and I don't think my experience in this matter is exclusive to me). Therefore, if I were to look to my fruit and moral improvement as proof that my faith is living then I would have to conclude that I am not a Christian and am not saved because my experience tells me that I am not.

This is why we need to look outside of ourselves to objective Biblical truths that are not subject to our whims and passing moods.

Ortberg, may or may not believe in Salvation by grace ALONE through faith ALONE by Christ's work ALONE. However, by pointing us inward to a standard of sanctification based upon "my intentions to obey and follow Christ", Ortberg is actually undermining people's faith because NONE OF US (me and you included) obeys Christ perfectly and none of us can say that even our best works are not tainted and stained by sin.

I believe that his intentions are good but his message doesn't actually jive with scriptures because it confuses law and gospel and has us looking inward for the answer to whether we have a faith that is alive. This will ultimately cause many to despair and 'lose faith' because their struggle with their own sin will be seen as proof in their own minds that they don't have faith.

Posted by: Chris Rosebrough | October 21, 2008 at 04:01 PM

Mark, very timely post. I would be interested in your (summary) view or reaction, to the post I pasted below by Chris Rosebrough who runs Pirate Christian Radio in California (http://www.piratechristianradio.com) and hosts the Extreme Theology website. If you haven’t heard of him, in a nutshell Chris is a mini-celebrity among the broadly termed ODM’s (Online Discernment Ministries). I’m only providing his background for context, NOT because I care either way about the messenger. It is the message I am interested in. His reply is part of a long blog thread (http://www.extremetheology.com/2008/10/the-huge-differ/comments/page/3/#comments) on the importance of good works for Christians.

This is not a tricky/sneaky request, I’m genuinely interested in your take on this post. I already have a view, I’m just interested in yours if it’s ok.

Thanks in advance - John

Peter,

You and I have some common ground. I agree with the Apostle James when he writes "Just as the body that is not breathing is dead so faith without works is dead."

Luther said that "Faith Alone Saves but Saving Faith is NEVER Alone."

I think that the scriptures teach that good works show our NEIGHBOR that faith is alive. But, I do not think that our good works necessarily show us as individuals that our faith is alive.

James put it this way:

"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. " - James 2:18

One of our Lutheran Hymn writers put it this way:

Faith clings to Jesus’ cross alone
And rests in him unceasing;
And by its fruits true faith is known,
With love and hope increasing.
For faith alone can justify;
Works serve our neighbor and supply
The proof that faith is living.

As for works showing an individual that he or she has faith that is a very dangerous road to walk. The reason for that is because even my VERY BEST good works are still tainted by sin.

Isaiah puts it this way:

Is. 64:6 We have all become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.

As a Christian I am painfully aware of this fact in my own life.

The other problem is that the more I study, read, mark and inward meditate on God's word and his holy and perfect law the MORE aware of my sin and unrighteousness I become. I'm sure that in my 40 years of faith I have morally improved. The problem is that my moral improvement is also set against a growing depth of understanding of what it is that God expects and demands from me in His Holy and Perfect Law. Any small moral victories I may experience from time to time do not even come close to keeping pace with the growing awareness of just how sinful and wretched I am. (and I don't think my experience in this matter is exclusive to me). Therefore, if I were to look to my fruit and moral improvement as proof that my faith is living then I would have to conclude that I am not a Christian and am not saved because my experience tells me that I am not.

This is why we need to look outside of ourselves to objective Biblical truths that are not subject to our whims and passing moods.

Ortberg, may or may not believe in Salvation by grace ALONE through faith ALONE by Christ's work ALONE. However, by pointing us inward to a standard of sanctification based upon "my intentions to obey and follow Christ", Ortberg is actually undermining people's faith because NONE OF US (me and you included) obeys Christ perfectly and none of us can say that even our best works are not tainted and stained by sin.

I believe that his intentions are good but his message doesn't actually jive with scriptures because it confuses law and gospel and has us looking inward for the answer to whether we have a faith that is alive. This will ultimately cause many to despair and 'lose faith' because their struggle with their own sin will be seen as proof in their own minds that they don't have faith.

Posted by: Chris Rosebrough | October 21, 2008 at 04:01 PM

SORRY about the triplicate post but when I submitted it, it shut down on me and I had to resubmit!

Hi Mark,

Thank you for your clarification with regards to Mark 14:7 and its intrepretation. Perhapes this mis-intrepretation could form basis of a message or series of messages on commonly misunderstood scriptures?

UN launches biggest aid appeal in history.
Amid concerns that the global financial crisis may curb the generosity of developed nations, the United Nations this week launched its biggest appeal for humanitarian aid in history, with the aim of raising $US7 billion next year.

The appeal comes in response to rising food prices and continued conflicts from Sudan to Iraq – resulting in millions of people being in need.

Meanwhile, Australia’s Federal Agriculture Minister Tony Burke told a United Nations meeting in Rome on Wednesday night that genetically modified (GM) crops were part of a solution to world food shortages.

Record-breaking UN aid appeal launched...

The United Nations is launching its biggest appeal for humanitarian aid in history, with the aim of raising $US7 billion next year.

The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon says donor states cannot let the global financial crisis affect their generosity.

Rising food prices and continued conflicts from Sudan to Iraq mean millions are in need.

But it is coming in the middle of the worst global financial crisis since the 1930s and the fear among UN aid agencies is that donor countries will cut back on funding for humanitarian relief....

Ban Ki Moon says that must not happen.

The victims of conflict and natural disasters, he says, need stable and sustainable help.

A full quarter of the requested $US7 billion ($10.9 billion) is destined for Sudan but the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Zimbabwe, Iraq and the Palestinian territories can also expect to be beneficiaries.


Mr Burke thinks that Australia should respond to the global food crisis in three ways: aid, technology transfer and increasing our productivity. There is an article on this in the Sydney Morning Herald, (Thurs. Nov. 20th. 2008).

How can the church help?

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