Missions in our Backyards|
Q. There are so many poor people in the world - and many seem to have come into hard times through no fault of their own - like tsunamis, earthquakes, or even the hurricane which struck New Orleans. Does God even care about the poor or the homeless? What do you think Christians and churches should do to help?
The Bible is filled with comments about the poor and our responsibility to them. God has a special place in His heart for the poor. Psalm 72:12 says,
"For He will deliver the needy
when he cries,
The poor also, and him who
Has no helper" (NKJV).
"He lifts the poor from the dust and the needy from the garbage dump. He sets them among princes!" (Psalm 113: 7-8, NLT).
Focus of Missions
The Lord tells us that one of the most important things we can do is to help the poor. This is why the focus of most charities and missions worldwide has been to assist those less fortunate.
Isaiah 58:10 says, "Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon" (NLT).
Proverbs 29:7 says, "The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern" (NIV).
The prophet Zechariah proclaims…"Administer true justice, show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor" (Zech. 7:9, NIV).
In case many Christians and churches rationalize that this is just for charities and missions overseas, the apostle John reminds us of the following:
"If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth" (1 John 3:17-18, NIV).
The apostle James continues the same theme by reminding us,
"If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,' and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?" (James 2:15-16, NASB).
Send it on Ahead
In our culture we tell people, "You can't take it with you." We usually mean that whatever we store up here on earth will not accompany us to the grave.
But, Jesus teaches us that we CAN take things with us by doing things now in order to send it ahead. He says,
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matthew 6:19-21).
Sharing our Wealth
Paul tells us to do good things, "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" (1 Timothy 6:18-19, NIV).
Giving is a Blessing
Paul also reminds us that "Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver" (2 Cor. 9:6-7).
True Religion is helping Orphans&Widows
God has a special, loving place in His heart for orphans and widows. In fact, James tells us that to care for widows and orphans is "true" religion. "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world" (James 1:27, NIV).
I have listed all of these verses to emphasize the fact that true charity, missions, and helping the poor is one of God's primary concerns. In fact, true biblical hospitality means that we are to help the poor and to assist strangers. Jesus underscored this point when He said,
"When you give a lunch or a dinner, don't invite your friends, your brothers, your relatives, or your rich neighbors, because they might invite you back, and you would be repaid. On the contrary, when you host a banquet, invite those who are poor, maimed, lame, or blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you - for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous" (Luke 14:12-14, HCSB).
Webster's Definition of Hospitality
Noah Webster defines the word "hospitality" as "the act or practice of receiving and entertaining strangers or guests without a reward"… (American Dictionary of the English Language, Webster, 1830).
Hospitality Key to Survival
In the ancient Near East hospitality played a distinctly important role in tribal and domestic life. Existence and survival in the desert made hospitality - kindness to strangers and travelers - a necessity. By this type of hospitality the stranger or weary traveler found rest, food and shelter, and asylum.
Jesus extended this type of hospitality to the poor, too, and insisted that the godly follow his example. Jesus Himself practiced hospitality when he fed the multitudes (Mark 6:30-44).
Furthermore, God extended hospitality to us when we were "no longer strangers and aliens, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God" (Eph. 2:19, ESV).
We are Family (Like it or Not)
This means that all Christians are "family" (like it or not). Christians must reach out to their poor in their churches and neighborhoods and assist them as we might assist our own mothers, brothers and sisters. In God's eyes we are relatives. All Christians are related to one another.
In fact, even if we don't "feel" like it here on earth, God says we are of "His household" (Eph. 2:19). Jesus explained, "whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother" (Matthew 12:50, NASB).
I can't emphasize this point strongly enough…
Missions in the Backyard
This means that "missions" are not just those we support in remote places like islands off of New Zealand or India anymore. It means that our "missions" exist in our own backyards!
Indeed, doors appear to be closing to missionaries overseas. Hostilities against Christianity are rising in many Moslem, Hindu, and Communist countries.
Because of this many Christians are turning to organizations like "Campus Crusade" who evangelize foreign students attending our own universities. Many of these students have been filled with the love of Christ. They return home to their own countries with missionary zeal. They are better able to witness because they know their own culture and customs and do not receive the hostility that many United States missionaries are enduring today.
Gospel Rescue Missions
Therefore, due to this trend we may now wish to focus our attention upon our local gospel rescue missions and battered women's shelters. These are wonderful organizations that take care of our "neighbors" in our local communities.
Remember that many Americans are losing their homes and are suffering marriage break-ups because of the stressors that come from strained finances and job losses. Many have turned to drugs and have ruined their lives. But, God loves them dearly.
"But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8, NASB).
We suggest to all our readers that believers become involved in their own communities and assist the poor among us. It is a godly work that God has promised to reward.
"One who is gracious to a
poor man lends to the
And He will repay him for
his good deed."
(Proverbs 19:17, NASB)
Campus Crusade for Christ International - ccci.org.
Gospel Rescue Mission - Check the needs of your local rescue mission. Call them. Take a tour of the facility. Get involved. Help out as you can.
Hayes, John B. 2006. Sub-merge: Living deep in a shallow world: service, justice and contemplation among the world's poor. Ventura, CA: Regal.
Sider, Ronald. 2005. Rich Christians in an age of hunger: Moving from affluence to generosity. Nashville, TN: Nelson.
Simon, Arthur. 2003. How much is enough: Hungering for God in an affluent culture. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.