As you know, from time to time I like to post some questions I have received via email along with my response in an effort to open the dialogue to a wider audience/make the answer known to others. Below is a recent interaction I had with someone wrestling with answers to whether God is a God of the poor or the rich. Read below and let me know your thoughts. May we all serve Him with increasing boldness and integrity today.
From: Xxxxx Xxxxxx
Sent: Monday, January 30, 2012 9:19 PM
Subject: A poor man’s god
I brought a friend to service two Sundays ago for the sermon on hell. I thought the sermon was fantastic but afterward he gave me his thoughts which were: “It sounded like God is a god of the poor”. I tried explaining to him that even though at the surface of the passage it appears God favors Lazarus and punishes the rich man (‘You in your lifetime received good things while Lazarus in his received bad things’), God did not punish the rich man with the consequence of hell solely because of the luxury he exhibited on earth. Rather, God punished the rich man because he did not help Lazarus. And again, on the surface it may seem that if you are wealthy and do not serve the poor, that you will go to hell. Not helping Lazarus in this situation was evidence that the rich man did not accept Jesus Chris and follow his teachings — the real reason for the rich man’s admission to hell.
Hopefully my initial response to his observation was accurate and summarized the sermon.
While I know that God IS a god of the poor…can you help provide me with some scripture and talking points that I can share with my friend that will allow him to know who God is with regards to his observation/thinking? — I want him to know that being wealthy/inheriting riches is not a sin, but what we think we possess is not ours and as Christians we have responsibilities in how we use what the Lord has afforded us.
Really struggling with how to respond biblically to his perception of rich vs. poor. Thanks for your help.
Sent: Monday, February 06, 2012 8:31 AM
To: Xxxxx Xxxxxx
Subject: RE: A poor man’s god
Xxxxx…great question and I’m glad you are asking. As you know JP was teaching that Sunday as I was just getting back from teaching in Africa. What a great message for you to interact with your friend over. More conversation may be in order, but I’ll give a quick and brief response to get the ball moving.
God is not the God of the poor or the rich. He is the God of the poor AND the rich. Proverbs 22:2. God doesn’t care if we are prospering or living in poverty. He cares that we are living properly in relationship with Him, and therefore one another. Matt 22:36-40. The Scriptures teach us that God blesses those who are poor IN SPIRIT (Matthew 5:3)…and as we can also see through the story of the rich young ruler (Matthew 19:16-26) often worldly riches set us up to rely more on what is tangible versus humbling ourselves before a God who works in our weaknesses. Solomon makes it clear that it is better to be poor and walk in integrity than it is to be rich and be crooked (Proverbs 28:6). May I say it is better to be rich and walk in integrity than to be poor and crooked. Bottom line, we have no integrity (no wholeness of soul) without the grace of God making us new in Him. (Titus 3:5-6). I know many rich men who are “rich young rulers”, and also other rich men who are as humble as Lazarus with their lives and all that the Lord has entrusted them with.
There are examples of men who though they were rich became overly poor in Spirit and as such found life in Christ. Zacchaeus in Luke 19 immediately comes to mind. Again the issue is not our net worth, but whether or not we believe our net worth was fully displayed when the Father allowed the Son to demonstrate His love for us while we were yet full of ourselves (rich in sin and poor in righteousness).
Really glad you are seeking answers and bringing folks to join you at Watermark. I hope your friend comes back with you soon, and please make sure you both come up and shake my hand when you do.