Wealth and the Christian (III)

And He also went on to say  to the one who had invited Him, When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your rich neighbours, otherwise they may also invite you in return and that will be your repayment. But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous (Luke 14:12-14).

This passage is one of few in scripture where our Lord teaches a non-discriminatory attitude towards charity. It is discriminatory in that He nominates “the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind,” but unlike I Timothy 5:3-16 (which deals specifically with the care of widows), He gives no direction in terms of us making an assessment of the moral or financial position of those people that are the recipients of aid.

Why? Presumably, because this cohort of people are always needy. “The poor,” are simply that, and the addition of the “crippled, lame and blind” really doesn’t alter much.

This isn’t an easy text to deal with in practice. I don’t know many people at all who fall in to the categories that Jesus describes. But that is not the issue. I could go out of my way to find some. That would mean my time and inconvenience. I would have to get them here: to arrange means of transportation for them. We would have to feed them, get them back to their homes, and wash up afterwards. We have done none this, to this point.

Undoubtedly, some Christians have done this on an individual basis, over the centuries. The wealthy Australian businessman, Sidney Myer, put on a massive Christmas dinner for poor people during the Depression, and fed thousands. But there is another way of responding to this requirement, and this community need.

God commanded the Israelites during the time of Malachi, to “bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house…” (Mal.3:10). There is an opportunity for the church to minister to the poor corporately through the tithes, as well as Christians individually helping in this way. This is something that should (like all of the aspects of corporate church) be overseen by the church leadership so that resources are used wisely.

When there is food in the house of God for needy people, and people come and receive it, it brings respect for the church in the community. It shows that we are prepared to care for those who are not church members, and means that the house of God has something to give to others. It also gives us an opportunity to help struggling people with their money management, and even teach things like cooking and living skills.

It becomes a means of evangelism, and it provides an opportunity for a fulfilment of some of the gospel promises:

 Now it will come about that in the last days the mountain of the house of the Lord will be established as the chief of the mountains, and will be raised above the hills; and all nations will stream to it. And many people will come and say, ‘Come, let us go to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that He may teach us concerning His ways, and that we may walk in His paths.’ For the law will go forth from Zion and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem (Isa.2:2-3).

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