Tuesday, June 12, 2012

"I Don't Do Poor"

I was at a friend's social engagement recently and found myself sitting next to two women who were discussing the best places to go on vacation. One woman mentioned that the Dominican Republic was a fantastic place to go and relax for a week. After a long pause, the other woman said, “I have heard good things about the Dominican Republic but I don't do poor.” She continued to say that she would rather not vacation around poor people because she prefers pristine resorts that feature all the latest comforts and accommodations. I must admit that her comments have been ringing through my mind for the last few weeks as I contemplated all that was behind her statement, “I don't do poor.”

My first thought was that most Americans probably feel as she does - “If I am going to spend thousands of dollars on a vacation, I don't want to be around poor people the whole week.” Perhaps the constant reminder that Americans live better than most of the world would dampen the good time or the fact that the money spent on a typical American vacation could feed a family in a third world country for years.

In the Book of Daniel chapter four, verse 27 we read the following, “Therefore, O King let my advice be acceptable to you; break off your sins by being righteous, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor.” These words were uttered by Daniel to Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon as a warning for him to repent or else God would take his kingdom. God exhorts Nebuchadnezzar to turn from his sins, practice righteousness and show mercy to the poor. One of the first warning signs that we have become corrupted by our culture is that we lose touch with the poor. We become detached and uncaring because of our own wealth.

Philip Yancey in his book “Soul Survivor” poignantly distinguishes the rich from the poor by stating that if a person has the resources to buy a book and the education to read it, he or she is part of a small privileged population. This fact stunned me. This seemingly simple act that Americans do every day – buy or borrow a book and read it separates us from the majority of the world who do not even have access to books much less the money to buy one or the education to read it.

So this begs the question of why did God tell Nebuchadnezzar to show mercy to the poor? I believe the answer is much deeper than just seeking to meet the needs of others. Isaiah 58:10-11 holds the answer, “If you extend your soul to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted soul, then your light shall dawn in the darkness, and your darkness shall be as the noonday. The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought, and strengthen your bones, you shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.”

Part of ministering to the poor is for our own healing to keep us from self-consumption. It takes the focus off of self and puts it on others which echoes the kingdom principles outlined by Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount found in the Gospel of Matthew chapters 5-7. It also creates within us a thankful heart as we come to acutely understand all of God's blessings upon our lives. In addition, it teaches us sacrificial giving which I have found in my own life to be the greatest key to sustained joy as God's presence is manifested in a life that pours itself into another.

As you go through your day, I hope and pray that you will consider the poor both overseas and in your own neighborhood. There are many Americans who are struggling these days due to the harsh economic conditions. Take the time to find out the needs of others and ask God to make you the vessel by which they are met. In the process you will grow closer to God and He will draw closer to you.
"Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lordand He will repay him for his deed." - Proverbs 19:17

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