Again and again I find myself having to say
Consider the poor and less well-off!!
I repeatedly find that so many modern western Christians just live rather insular, self-concerned lives in which they are primarily concerned for their own family, jobs or careers, leisure pursuits and .... their foreign holidays.
Yes, these folks may be in church every Sunday, they may even get to the once every two weeks prayer meeting, yet - in truth - God doesn't much figure in the rest of their time! Many such people are sometimes also completely ignorant of the real needs of their brothers and sisters in Christ, many of whom they may be rubbing shoulders with every Sunday morning!
So often our attitude seems to be, 'everything is fine with our family and thats all I need to know' Please compare our financially affluent but mostly socially unconcerned modern Christian with the example of the very first Christians which we find in Acts 2:
They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need...
(Acts 2: 42-45)
I recently attended a Bible Study where this Scripture was considered. I pointed out something which I thought self-evident, that is, that modern Christians have fallen a long way from these standards of complete and total commitment to each other and to the poor. I really did not think that anybody could realistically deny this but - to my surprise - I was challenged. I think we all tend to feel a little guilty about this and we try to find ways to explain this Scripture away by inferring that this was only intended to be a temporary measure but, of course, that is not so. We know from other sources including the 'church fathers' that the earliest Christians did indeed attempt to live up to these noble standards and were often successful.
I am not suggesting that if you are a wealthy Christian and a poor Christian lives in the same small town as yourself, then you should sell your house in order to share with them, but are you willing to share with, and assist that Christian at all???
Are you - and I - willing to reach out with love and compassion to such people at all??
Have we forgotten all of those Old Testament Scriptures which repeatedly hammer away at God's hatred of injustice and unconcern for the poor and less well off?
I know of a case where a man was the first to offer lifts to others within his congregation. Although he could ill afford to do so, this was one of the main reasons that he kept his increasingly elderly car on the road. The man and his wife lived on a small income; and yet, within the same congregation, many well-off folks never offered lifts to anybody if they could help it. Eventually, this couple's old car broke down and, this time, it was beyond repair. Within the same congregation there was a man who had his own business and he and his wife had two or three cars between them. After the first couple's old car finally broke down, this man said to the poorer man,
"Life is strange isn't it, Brian? (name altered). You can't afford to go out and buy another car while I have three"
But it never occurred to this man to offer any help.
And yet, God offers particular and special help to all those who are prepared to step in to help the poor:
He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and He will reward him for what he has done
God promises that if we are prepared to step in to help the more needy among us, He will consider that as a gift given directly to Him! And HE HIMSELF promises to repay! This promise is picked up and repeated in the New Testament:
Then the righteous will answer Him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see You a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe You? When did we see You sick or in prison and go to visit You?' The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for Me.'
I cannot speak for the US and other countries but I am reliably informed that here in the UK many large churches operate no kind of 'social fund' in order to assist and help more needy members when difficult financial circumstances arise! So often we all just tend to assume that nobody within our own congregation is struggling since we ourselves might be doing fine.
Of course, on a purely individual basis, Christians often do reach out with kindness and generosity in such cases, but frequently, the church leadership employs no particular approach and so it really is left to particular kind and generous individuals to help, but Brothers and Sisters in Christ, THIS SHOULD NOT BE SO; large Christian congregations should have a policy, approach and fund in operation in order to act quickly where needed in this very important area! The leadership within such congregations also need to be much more sensitive to needs - don't forget, most such folks will rarely ask for help; but how sensitive to needs are church leaders??
I also know of a couple with three children in Florida; when the husband lost his job, they encountered financial difficulties which eventually led to them losing their home. Despite the fact that they had contributed thousands of dollars to their very large congregation over many years, this family only received the most meagre help from their church during their huge time of crisis.
I do know that many who regularly read our articles are pastors and elders and may I, with all tact and diplomacy, urge you to think on these things.
Why not challenge yourself by reading the epistle of James after finishing this editorial!
Please let us all think about these things!!
Robin A. Brace