Monday, November 5, 2012

"Is it the rich versus the poor?"

One day until the election!  Here in the States we are all growing weary of the political commercials and the constant "stretching" of the truth by ALL sides.  The sad part is that integrity in politics seems hard to find.  Thankfully, there are some trustworthy politicians, but the political system that gives us many of the freedoms we enjoy is also susceptible to corruption.  Lies and twisting what the opposition has said to give yourself an advantage is a disgrace to yourself and those to whom you are speaking.  Freedom of speech should not mean "freedom to lie."

There have been and are many issues in the election this year, but one of the biggest is the idea that one side doesn't care about those in need, while the other party does.  This is not the first election where this issue has been brought up, but it has been said repeatedly that one side just cares about the rich and cares nothing for the poor.  I just received an email from another pastor who did everything but tell people which party to vote for because they cared about the poor.

There are obviously people who are so self-centered that they care only about themselves, but these people are from all levels of our society, whether the working poor, the middle-class or the top five percent.  There are some very wealthy people who give much of their income to help those who are in need. People from both political parties and those in other parties give generously to those in need in our nation and around the world.  To say one party cares more about the poor than the other, because they have a different approach to producing jobs and helping people out of poverty, is not only inaccurate, but slanderous.  My question though is this:  Did Jesus favor one "class" of people over another?  Was Jesus REALLY more concerned about the poor than He was about the rich?  Or was it people's spiritual welfare that concerned Jesus?

One incident in Jesus' ministry comes to mind.  Jesus was at the home of a man named Simon the Leper.  Jesus was like that, hanging out with people that the rest of society left behind.  While Jesus was reclining at the table with His hosts and the disciples, a woman came to Him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on His head.  When the disciples saw what she had done they asked, "Why this waste?  This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor!" (Matthew 26:8-9).

Jesus' answer may have surprised them.  Jesus said, "Why are you bothering this woman?  She has done a beautiful thing to me.  The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me"  (Matthew 26:10-11).  Obviously, Jesus was not advocating waste.  He taught good stewardship of one's resources.  Jesus also taught showing mercy and compassion to those in need.  When Jesus said, "The poor you will always have with you," He was stating a fact:  there will always be poor people ... and on the other end of the spectrum, there will always be rich people ... and in the middle will be most people.  So, is God the God of the poor and not the rich, or the rich and not the poor?  Is there "class warfare" in the spiritual realm?

The clear answer of Scripture is, "NO!" While God warns the rich not to oppress the poor, men like Abraham and David were perhaps in the top 1% regarding wealth, yet they were men who followed after God and from whom the Savior was born.  In James 2, believers are warned not to show favoritism to the rich.  Any such favoritism is sin.  James rightly declares that it is the rich who often use power and influence to oppress others.  No one should argue about the fact that there is an extreme amount of corruption in high places when it comes to material wealth and greed and power.  But God is NOT the God of the poor any more than He is the God of the rich!

What God IS concerned about is the HEART!  Paul writes to Timothy that "the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil" (I Timothy 6:10).  And in verses 17-19, he writes, "Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.  Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.  In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life."

Being rich will not get you to heaven!  But neither will being poor, or middle-class for that matter.  There is one way to receive God's gift of eternal life and that is through faith in Jesus Christ.  God receives all who come to Him through Jesus, whether rich or poor or in between.  As Jesus said, there will always be poor in this world, and God calls those who are His people to care for the poor and not to oppress them, abuse them in any way, or look down on them.  Those who have material wealth are called by Jesus to share with others so that there is no need among those who are God's people.  Greed is sin, materialism is sin, coveting what others have is also sin.  God calls His people to be content, to be satisfied with food, clothing and shelter.  We do well to listen to what God says about money and the use of it.  But to claim that one political party is the party of the wealthy and the other is more concerned about the poor is bad politics.  And when pastors or others say that God is the God of the poor, and not the rich, that is bad theology!  God calls ALL people to Himself, and those who come are then called to obey His commands.

Once again, however the election turns out tomorrow, Jesus is on His throne and the angels are singing!  It's not about how much you have or don't have, but whether you know Jesus and have His Spirit living within you.  If you do, you will show His love to your brothers and sisters, caring for those in need, and sharing what God has given you with others.  It's about Jesus!  Knowing Him, loving Him and serving Him is the highest of all callings.  May those who are His be about HIS business, whether here in the United States or around the world!!

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