This is the second part of Jean-Ray’s series “No Poor Among You”, based on last week’s sermon at Westville Baptist Church:
“… There should be no poor among you, for in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, if only you fully obey the Lord your God and are careful to follow all these commands I am giving you today.”
When I look at these verses in Deuteronomy, there are three things that I notice:
First, God thinks there should be no poor people among us (or “you” in the passage). If we read it carefully we can see that “you” is the community of faith, God’s people, what we call the church … not just the church we might attend on a Sunday morning, but also rural churches, township churches, and churches in the slums. God wants us to work towards a Church where there are no poor people. Of course, since it started, the church has always looked after surrounding poor communities; most social development programmes in the world are started by Christians. Because when we read the Bible, we are struck with the conviction that poverty is not part of God’s plan. But sadly, only a small minority of Christians take this seriously.
Second, I notice that the lack of poverty is as a result of God’s blessing. God does not just have an opinion about poverty; God wants to be actively involved in obliterating poverty by giving his blessing. The answer to poverty is actually not found in our good ideas, but in God’s blessing.
Third, I notice that God’s material blessing on a community is connected to that community’s obedience to his commands. And what are those commands? He gives lots of commands, but here he is talking more specifically about the social justice commands. And isn’t it obvious that if we fight for justice—justice that means the equal opportunity to earn a decent income, justice that means freedom from systems that drag people into poverty—isn’t it obvious that there will be less poverty? Part of that blessing is just the natural consequence of putting into practice laws that are just and fair and healthy. But part of it is also the fact that God divinely steps into the lives of individuals and nations that live according to his laws. He holds back drought and famine, he causes trade and economy to excel. He blesses us in thousands of little and big ways.
If we will exercise justice in the way we treat our employees, if we’ll stand up for justice with our friends and neighbours and live to make our workplaces and the world at large a fairer place for the poor, then God will honour what we do.
In a perfect world, where everyone has equal opportunity to earn a decent living, and we all obey God’s commands, there should be no poor among us. But, this is not a perfect world and people do not obey all God’s commands, so God gives us another principle to live by as well, and that is the principle of generosity, because, he says: There will always be poor people in the land.
If you are wondering how to live by this principle of generosity, make sure to check out the blog next week!