Deuteronomy 15-16, Psalm 58
Mother Teresa said, "When a poor person dies of hunger, it has not happened because God did not take care of him or her. It has happened because neither you nor I wanted to give that person what he or she needed." The problem with poverty lies within the condition of the human heart. Socialism was supposedly created to end poverty and eliminate wealth distinctions. Due to the condition of the human heart, we have witnessed the worsening of conditions at the hands of greedy dictators. Though capitalism is much better, in our nation we have set up government poverty programs, which removes the individual from the system. This lack of accountability has enabled those taking from the system to learn how to manipulate and game the system. For those in charge of the system, we have witnessed disgraceful corruption. The problem again is not the system, seeking ways to improve it. The problem lies within the condition of the human heart.
God gave the Israelites the prescription for poverty. If it was faithfully obeyed, poverty would have been eliminated. We read in Deuteronomy 15:7-8,11, " If there is among you a poor man of your brethren, within any of the gates in your land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart nor shut your hand from your poor brother, but you shall open your hand wide to him and willingly lend him sufficient for his need, whatever he needs...For the poor will never cease from the land; therefore I command you, saying, 'You shall open your hand wide to your brother, to your poor and your needy, in your land.' " This was not a problem while in the wilderness journey since God was providentially supplying all with their needs in the way of manna from heaven. In Proverbs 19:17, we read, "He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord, and He will pay back what he has given." Jesus discussed His thoughts on shunning those in need in Matthew 25:41-43, "Then He will also say to those on the left hand, 'Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.' " He concluded these comments by telling them in 25:45, "...'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.' " James wrote in James 2:15-16, "If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled," but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?"
Walking in the streets of Manhatten we are surrounded by the poor and the outcasts. Are we hardened to them? Do we justify our hardening because of their lifestyles which landed them there? Many of them are addicted to various substances of abuse such as drugs and alcohol. Others are psychiatrically ill. Though they will not be cured by giving them a small amount of money, they might be if you give them the money along with a gospel tract. Either way, we are simply to plant seeds for Christ, not guarantee the results. Either way, you can't go wrong showing the love of Christ. If you are concerned they will use the money for wrongful behavior, i.e purchasing alcohol, then give them a small meal, a snack or a cup of coffee. There are individuals suffering throughout the streets and our neighborhoods and individually we can't reach them all. But if we Christians simply touched one each, think of the impact we could have for the Name of Christ. About 15-20 years ago I spent much more time in NYC. I befriended two homeless men, Jimmy and Mr. Jones. I had the privilege of providing meals for them on a fairly regular basis. I got to know them, and they got to know me and more importantly got to hear about Christ. These poor are people with names and stories, not just poverty. They and we will be blessed as we get to know them.
Messages from Pastor Lloyd Pulley: