Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Poor Among Us 130127PM@TBC

This sermon is available online.


Two weeks ago we celebrate the Sanctity of Human Life Sunday as it relates to the Pro-life political debate.
This week I would like for us to consider another aspect of the Sanctity of Human Life — our attitudes and thinking about the poor.
I would like to briefly answer five questions about “The Poor Among Us” and how our the poor can reveal what our real theological foundation is.

Big Idea: My purpose tonight is not to communicate a succinct truth, but to make you a little uncomfortable and thoughtful about your relationship with the poor.
This has been convicting for me as I have prayed and thought about it, and misery loves company.

1.  Who are the poor?
Two things we know about the poor:
There are poor people.  We may not be sure about how to define them or who they are, but we know they are there.
The make us feel uncomfortable.  Most have a strong sense that something is wrong somewhere when people are digging in the trash for their supper.

Let’s look at four Hebrews words / word families that will give us some framework to think about the poor.

1. ānâ is actually a root word for a family of  related Hebrews words.
The verb is used in several ways. It is used of what one does to his enemy. It describes the discomfort Sarah inflicted upon Hagar (Gen 16:6) and what the lawless do to the defenseless (Ex 22:22 [H 21]).   —TWOT
 Proverbs 14:21
He who despises his neighbor sins;
But he who has mercy on the poor, happy is he.
Note the idea of despising in this verse.
Proverbs 22.22 Many versions translate this word “afflicted” (on “needy”)

2. dal :
One who is low
Unlike ʿānî, dal does not emphasize pain or oppression; unlike ʾebyôn, it does not primarily emphasize need, and unlike rāš, it represents those who lack rather than the destitute. We might consider dāl as referring to one of the lower classes in Israel (cf. II Kgs 24:14; 25:12). In dāl the idea of physical (material) deprivation predominates.   —TWOT

Proverbs 19:4
Wealth makes many friends,
But the poor is separated from his friend.


3. ebyôn
poor in a material sense. He may have lost his ancestral land (Ex 23:11). It may be that he has reverted to borrowing (Deut 15:7, 9, 11).
Proverbs 30.14
 There is a generation, whose teeth are as swords,
and their jaw teeth as knives,
to devour the poor from off the earth,
and the needy from among men.

Deut 15.7,9,11
Notice the reference to the hardship and being forced to borrow money.

4. rûš
This is one of a family of words that emphasize the idea of leanness or the lower, unworthy class
Proverbs 17: 5
He who mocks the poor reproaches his Maker;
He who is glad at calamity will not go unpunished.

Note the use of calamity in the corresponding phrase

2. Clarification
In the book of Proverbs being a sluggard leads to poverty, but is not the same as poverty.
We must be careful about prejudging the poor.
We must be careful about underestimating how much good fortune there is in what we have.

Turn to Job 31
3. Reminders about the Poor.

A. God Judges Us All
 13 “If I have despised the cause of my male or female servant
      When they complained against me,

 14 What then shall I do when God rises up?
      When He punishes, how shall I answer Him?

 15 Did not He who made me in the womb make them?
      Did not the same One fashion us in the womb?

Job saw his position as a dispenser of God's justice as more important than his feelings, pride, or personal interests.  This stands in contrast to his times and to human nature.

I am afraid that we forget what a leader is. Too often, we loose our generous nature and sense of nobility as God's regents and then become selfish, petty, and harsh.

"The goodness of a man or a woman is often best indicated by how they treat those thought to be inferior to them, not how they treat their person those thought to be superior to them."  —David Guzik in The Enduring Word Commentary Series

B. God Made All  (15)
 15 Did not He who made me in the womb make them?
      Did not the same One fashion us in the womb?

"The wonderous origin of human life is true for both slave and free, although their earthly status differs markedly."—John E Hartley in NICOT

Because of our respect for God, we should respect others He has created.  (Gen. 9.6)
Proverbs 14.31
He who oppresses the poor reproaches his Maker,
But he who honors Him has mercy on the needy.

Proverbs 22:2
Rich and poor have this in common:
The Lord is the Maker of them all.

Job 34.19
Yet He [God] is not partial to princes,
Nor does He regard the rich more than the poor;
For they are all the work of His hands.

God is our judge and creator
My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the Lord of glory,  with partiality.
James 2.1

4. What should our attitude be toward the poor?
Job 31
A.  Job took pride in always sharing with the poor.
 16 “If I have kept the poor from their desire,
      Or caused the eyes of the widow to fail,

 17 Or eaten my morsel by myself,
      So that the fatherless could not eat of it

 18 (But from my youth I reared him as a father,
      And from my mother’s womb I guided the widow);

16 the eyes of the widow to fail
YLT—eye of the widow to consume;
KJV, NASB, NKJV, ESV—eyes of the widow to fail
NIV—eyes of the widow to grow weary;
NLT— crushed the hopes of the widows
That is, I have not frustrated her hopes, or disappointed her expectations, when she has looked intently upon me, and desired my aid.  The "failing of the eyes" refers to failing of the object of their expectation; or the expression means that she had not looked on him in vain; see chap. xi. 20. ——Albert Barnes in Notes on the Old Testament
       Job 11.20
      But the eyes of the wicked will fail,  And they shall not escape,
      And their hope—loss of life!”

Job had not seen the look of desperation turn to abject hopelessness.

 18 (But from my youth I reared him as a father,
      And from my mother’s womb I guided the widow);

Job inserts a parenthetical thought expressing the longevity of his compassionate treatment…  —Elmer Smick in Expositor's Bible Commentary
The expression "from my mother's womb: is obviously hyperbolic. It is a way of saying "all his life." —translations notes in the NET Bible
From the earliest youth, so far back as he can remember, he was wont to behave like a father to the orphan, and like a child to the widow.  —Delitzsch in Commentary of the Old Testament
APPL: What do we teach our children about the poor?

B.  Job took joy in receiving their gratitude.

 19 If I have seen anyone perish for lack of clothing,
      Or any poor man without covering;

 20 If his heart has not blessed me,
      And if he was not warmed with the fleece of my sheep;

20 heart  חלץ  Strong's H2504 - chalats  khä·läts'  loins-the region of the hips
YLT, KJV, NASB—loins; NKJV, NIV—heart; ESV—body
...loins is a synecdoche for the whole person. —John E Hartley in NICOT    
The force of the parallelism is lost unless one can feel the pathos of a shivering body thankfully warmed by Job's fleece. —Elmer Smick in Expositor's Bible Commentary

20 blessed me
YLT, KJV, NKJV, ESV, NIV—blessed;
C.  Job took honor in protecting the helpless.
 21 If I have raised my hand against the fatherless,
      When I saw I had help in the gate;1
 22 Then let my arm fall from my shoulder,
      Let my arm2 be torn from the socket.
 23 For destruction from God is a terror to me,
      And because of His magnificence I cannot endure.

The expression "raised my hand" refers to a threatening manner or gesture in the court rather than a threat of physical violence in the street. —translations notes in the NET Bible
The curse of the arm (that was raised against the fatherless) has a strong sense of poetic justice.
2 forearm ——Albert Barnes in Notes on the Old Testament

He was deterred from this crime of oppressing the fatherless by the fear of God. ——Albert Barnes in Notes on the Old Testament

  1 John 3.16-17
16 By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?
NIMY stands for "not in my backyard." That should describe our attitude to the poor, disenfranchised, and helpless.
It is not the keep the poor out, but lift the poor up.
We don't need to be in a constant state of angst over all the "poor in the world," but we should be moved with compassion by those that cross our path.
The concept of  my neighbor, “my poor,” .

5. Why does God allow you to control so much wealth?
Note the wording, “control.”  You don’t really own anything in an absolute sense, God does.
According to the world wealth calculator, if you make $20K a year you are in the top 10% of wealthiest people in the world.
An income of $55K puts you in the top 2%.

Even just $2K puts you in the top 50%

What is a Biblical way to define prosperity?
Ephesians 4:28
Let him who stole steal no longer,
but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good,
that he may have something to give him who has need.

The “real” measure of your wealth is what you are able to give away.
Our objective is to meet our needs in a just way and then have enough to be generous with others.
Deuteronomy 15
Deals with Israelites who had fallen on hard times.
The prosperous were warned of being conniving, grudging, or stingy with the poor.

7 "If there is among you a poor man of your brethren, within any of the gates in your land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart nor shut your hand from your poor brother, 8 but you shall open your hand wide to him and willingly lend him sufficient for his need, whatever he needs. 9 Beware lest there be a wicked thought in your heart, saying, 'The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand,' and your eye be evil against your poor brother and you give him nothing, and he cry out to the Lord against you, and it become sin among you.
10 You shall surely give to him, and your heart should not be grieved when you give to him, because for this thing the Lord your God will bless you in all your works and in all to which you put your hand. 11 For the poor will never cease from the land; therefore I command you, saying, 'You shall open your hand wide to your brother, to your poor and your needy, in your land.'
12 "If your brother, a Hebrew man, or a Hebrew woman, is sold to you and serves you six years, then in the seventh year you shall let him go free from you. 13 And when you send him away free from you, you shall not let him go away empty-handed; 14 you shall supply him liberally from your flock, from your threshing floor, and from your winepress. From what the Lord has blessed you with, you shall give to him.

What does “your” wealth show about what God is like?

Do you eat alone?
Job 31.17
 17 Or eaten my morsel by myself,
      So that the fatherless could not eat of it


2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you
in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord,

3 as His divine power has given to us
all things that pertain to life and godliness,
 through the knowledge of Him
who called us by glory and virtue,