Rich and Poor

Today, I had to face something with which I struggle, in the world of ministry.  First of all, I want to say that the group of people who meet to worship together at New Life, has a heart for reaching the community, a heart of praying for people and for Kingdom growth, not our local church’s growth.  We scheduled our prayer walk for today.  The goal was to go into the community around our church to let them know our church was praying for them and about this new fellowship in their community.

Prayer walking and talking to strangers about Christ is not something new for me.  I can easily open up and talk to people I don’t know and even give testimony as to what Christ has done in my life.  I have been so blessed meeting people over the years in this kind of ministry.  Now, for a little background and where the struggle comes in.

I was raised and lived in and taught in a small, rural community with a high rate of poverty.  It was not hard to see where these people needed ministry, where they had needs.  If I was not able to help them in their needs, I knew those who could.  Being in a small town, I knew most of these people.  I have been involved in Bible Studies with these families, the elderly, the children, the parents.  I have helped in home repairs, clothes drives, food service or food pantry.  We had cell groups in the community and would invite and involve these people.  I felt called to help point them to Christ.  I relied on scripture about missions and helping those less fortunate than ourselves.  We ARE called, as Christians to reach out to those around us, no matter their situation.

Proverbs 19:17 

One who is gracious to a poor man lends to the Lord,
And He will repay him for his good deed.

Hebrews 13:16

 And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

Deuteronomy 15:7-11

“If there is a poor man with you, one of your brothers, in any of your towns in your land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand from your poor brother;  but you shall freely open your hand to him, and shall generously lend him sufficient for his need in whatever he lacks. Beware that there is no base thought in your heart, saying, ‘The seventh year, the year of remission, is near,’ and your eye is hostile toward your poor brother, and you give him nothing; then he may cry to theLord against you, and it will be a sin in you.  You shall generously give to him, and your heart shall not be grieved when you give to him, because for this thing the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all your undertakings.  For the poor will never cease to be in the land; therefore I command you, saying, ‘You shall freely open your hand to your brother, to your needy and poor in your land.”

Acts 20:35

In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.

Luke 12:33

Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys.

Acts 4:32-35

And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them.  And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all. For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales  and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need.

Luke 3:11

And he would answer and say to them, “The man who has two tunics is to share with him who has none; and he who has food is to do likewise.”

So, I was always prepared and more than glad to minister to those who had need, without hesitation.

A couple of years ago, God blessed me with a wonderful husband and I moved to the town  where he and his children lived.  This community was completely the opposite of where I came from.  I suddenly found myself in an affluent, suburb with no government housing and houses worth more than I could ever imagine actually having money to pay.  Our first experience with prayer walking was in the church we were attending when I first moved here.  Our local denomination affiliate was having a prayer walk campaign.  We were assigned a neighborhood and drove/walked through praying for this community and leaving information about our church and about coming to Christ.  We were to be a ministry to those who may be in need. As we pulled into this extremely wealthy, new neighborhood to pray over these people, I noticed a sign that said, “Houses starting in the low $600’s.”  These homes were huge.  While on this drive, I began crying.  I found myself crying because the more I thought about it, the more I realized this was the saddest thing I had seen in a long time.  All I could see was the waste of resources and wealth.  I thought about all of those families “back home” and how SO MANY could be helped.  How the money spent on just building 5 of these homes could help my former community in so many ways.  As God lead me to pray, I began praying for abuse, for families who needed Christ, for families with neglect, with drug abuse, with idolatry. Praying for these families to be good stewards of what God had given them.  I saw that I was praying about some of the very same things I had prayed with those poverty stricken families.

Move ahead two years.  The small church we are now attending is in a more rural neighborhood, but still quite affluent.  We were told the neighborhoods we would be praying for and my husband and I drove through last week to prepare our hearts and to pray that God would prepare the hearts of those we would be visiting this week.  This is NOT something I wanted to do.  My heart was not in this and became less and less “in this” as we drove by these huge homes that seemed to say, “stay away!”  Today, was the day of the prayer walk.  Those participating met and divided up the neighborhoods.  Our family went with another family to our assigned neighborhood.  The weather had turned to rain and was even more of an excuse not to do this.  We went to our first house and the lady met us at the end of her drive.  We introduced ourselves and asked if there was anything we could pray for concerning her or her family.  She replied, “We are VERY active in our church!”  My husband encouraged her to remain so and we moved to the next house.  I could hear the dog barking inside and as we were going to the front door, a huge chocolate lab was let out the garage door.  She came running up barking and I greeted her.  She, like most retriever breeds, was quite friendly.  As I turned around, a lady met us and asked how she could be of help.  We again explained our purpose to pray for the community.  She told us she was a member of a church and we could keep the information about ours.  We asked if there was anything we could pray for and she said, “I guess just blessings for everyone.”  My husband was more than willing to oblige and began praying.  She seemed shocked that he would pray right then and there, rather than waiting until we left her to pray for her request.  As we were walking down the drive, the rain became a little heavier.  We decided to continue on.  The next several houses we went to never answered the door.  We left information about our fellowship and the meaning of resurrection.  The next encounter we had with someone was a man who didn’t answer the door and as we were walking off the porch, he knocked on the window and motioned us back. We told him we were praying for the community and in a very harsh voice he says, “NO, NOT HERE!” and slams the door.  We prayed for this man and his anger all the way off the property.  We made our way around to a few more houses that never came to the door.

We gathered back at the church to share our experiences, prayer requests, and encouragement.  I shared that this was very uncomfortable for me and where I had “come from.”  We watched a video about a missional community in Washington State. (If you are interested in Missional communities, see the video here.) While watching this video, I was reminded of the cell groups/home groups/missional community of which I had been a part. I began thinking about the families to whom we ministered and a thought came to mind: The families in my past community thought of themselves as not worthy of Christ, or having lost hope that God would love them.  Many of the families in this community think they don’t need God.  They see themselves as “self-made.”  I have to see that there is still an opportunity to minister to the people in this community, just as it was in my poverty-striken community.  I wanted to take a look at what God’s Word says about the wealthy to help reinforce the idea of ministry, in this way.

Luke 21:1-4

And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury.  And He saw a poor widow putting in two small copper coins. And He said, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on.”

James 5:1-6

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you.  Your riches have rotted and your garments have become moth-eaten. Your gold and your silver have rusted; and their rust will be a witness against you and will consume your flesh like fire. It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure! Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, and which has been withheld by you, cries out against you; and the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. You have lived luxuriously on the earth and led a life of wanton pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and \put to death the righteousman; he does not resist you.

1 Timothy 6:10

For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

Matthew 6:24

 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.

I do realize that there are many very wealthy families who love the Lord and give to ministry in sacrificial ways.  I know that God has blessed those families and it is amazing that they can do the work they do, for others.

I have come to realize that whether I am working with drug addicts, alcoholics, those in poverty, who may feel they do not deserve God or are not worthy to be loved or if I am working with wealthy people who feel they don’t need God, that they are “self-made”, one thing is for sure, all of these ideas are missing one thing: God!  Every person created has a few things in common: We all need Christ and we are all bound for the same hell without Christ.  No matter how rich, how poor, how old, how young.

I have absolutely no idea how God is going to work in this situation. I pray that He will show me how to minister where He has me.  I pray that He gives me peace and comfort and confidence in what He has planned for me.

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