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Devotion for Mar. 24, 2004

“All the arguments which are brought to represent poverty as no evil show it to be a great evil,” Samuel Johnson noted. “You never find people laboring to convince you that you may live very happily with a plentiful fortune.”

God’s concern for the poor is a consistent theme in the Scriptures. Far from romanticizing the plight of the poor as some in the church have occasionally done, God’s Word acknowledges that the poor are often taken advantage of and need society’s protection. The Law of Moses included many regulations that protected the rights of the poor and offered them a kind of social safety net. The regulations found in Deuteronomy 24 reflect this priority, as well as a general concern for others who were vulnerable in Hebrew society: women, orphans, and foreigners. Commentator J. G. McConville explains, “The movement in the chapter, from marriage to other measures protecting family life, and thence to commands protecting the poor and disadvantaged, is part of the laws’ connected reflection on what it means to be the people of Yahweh.”

Why should we care about the weak? First, we should care because God cares about them. He has an abiding interest in those that society has overlooked. This was reflected in Christ’s ministry when He accepted as His disciples those that Jewish society despised.

Second, we should care about the weak because we were once weak (1 Cor. 1:26). It is true that such a concern contributes to a more humane society, but that is not primarily why we as Christians show an interest. Our concern is an expression of the gratitude we feel for God’s grace shown to us. It is an expression of our longing to have a heart that reflects God’s own heart.

Fortunately, few evangelicals today see such a concern as an expression of a purely “social” gospel. We recognize that the same God who sent His Son to die for our sins is also the one who “secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy” (Ps. 140:12). Seeing the church’s obligation to the poor is not a new concept; it is part of the church’s spiritual DNA (cf. Acts 9:36; Gal. 2:10).

Apply the Word

It is easy to be so overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problems caused by poverty that we fail to do anything about it. Individually, we may not be able to change the social structures and injustices that cause poverty. In fact, it is unlikely that we will. Jesus said that we would always have the poor among us (John 12:8). This does not mean, however, that what you do is insignificant—it’s important to the people who are touched by your actions and to God. Ask your pastor for suggestions about practical ways you can “remember the poor.”

BY Dr. John Koessler

Dr. John Koessler, who retired as professor emeritus from Moody Bible Institute, formerly served in the division of applied theology and church ministry. John and his wife Jane enjoy living in a lakeside town in Michigan. A prolific writer, John’s books include Dangerous Virtues: How to Follow Jesus When Evil Masquerades as Good (Moody Publishers), The Radical Pursuit of Rest (InterVarsity), The Surprising Grace of Disappointment (Moody), and True Discipleship (Moody). John is a contributing editor and columnist for Today in the Word.

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