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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Ministering to the Spiritually Poor

Surely, we as Christians are called to serve those in material poverty but how are we to minister to the materially rich, spiritually poor? (Not that the two necessarily go together, but the reality is, they often do.) Is it just a cop-out to say, “well I serve the spiritually poor” as if that releases us from any obligation to help those who are in physical need? Is it just another excuse to abandon the radical way of life that Christ has called us to so that we can stay in our comfortable suburban neighborhoods and continue living in the ways of the world, steeped in materialism and self-centeredness?

That certainly is possible. But nonetheless, I feel there is a need to serve both the physically and spiritually poor. I know that for myself, I would love to just go away to some Latin American or African country and serve in some small village away from the (north) American rat race of life. To be among people who value human relationships more than profits and who really know what it means to have faith and hope in the Lord, despite their hardships would be so refreshing! This sort of work is very important and I think that we all should have some experiences like these. Still, I can’t bring myself to escape from this terribly misled and delusional U.S. culture (as much as I would like to) when there is so much work to do right here.

For one thing, our American way of life has contributed to keep many around the world in poverty so if we can begin to change the culture here, we will be helping many of the poor in other countries. Secondly, we must be careful not to ignore (or even despise) people because they have money. Jesus came to save ALL people. Many Christians seem to focus their attention and energies on the non-poor, to the exclusion of the needy. This is indeed a tragedy but we must be careful not to do the opposite. We are called love everyone, the rich and the poor alike.

So how do we minister to those who have all their needs and most of their wants satisfied? (Keep in mind, for most of us, we fit in this category ourselves.) What do you guys think? Is it a cop-out to focus on ministering to the rich? How do we help them discover the Gospel of Christ in its fullness, rather than just focusing on the parts of the Bible that support their current views and lifestyles?

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