Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Poverty's Days Are Numbered

There is a growing mindset in our day that we can end poverty forever.  Through the effort of man, all of us working together, all the world religions acting as one... you get the idea. 

There is a very interesting promise in Deuteronomy for Israel.  Moses challenges the people to obey God as they prepare to go and take the promised land.  God actually promises them, "there will be no poor among you; for the Lord will bless you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance to possess" (Deut 15:4)! ! !  A promise that there will be no poor among them!  Amazing.
Then how come there were poor people in Israel when they took possession of the land? How could Jesus see a "poor widow" give all she had as an offering to God (Mark 12:42) if there were no poor?  Did God not keep his promise?

We forgot to read the very next verse.  The promise in Deuteronomy was conditional!  Verse 5 says, "if only you will strictly obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all this commandment that I command you today."  God gave a conditional promise and Israel did not meet the condition. They were not faithful to God. 

But we see a partial fulfillment of this promise in the early days of the church in Acts!  After the Spirit was poured out on the church at Pentecost, he began to bless and build and grow the church. Outwardly they were expanding through the preaching of the gospel and inwardly they were becoming a loving, unified community who valued their brothers and sisters in the community more than their own possessions.  People were selling houses and land, laying the proceeds at the apostles' feet, and the money was being distributed to church members with needs.  And in the midst of all this, Luke makes this statement:  "There was not a needy person among them" (Acts 4:34)!  What God promised, conditionally, to his covenant people Israel, he has partially fulfilled in his covenant people the church.

This was not a complete eradication of poverty; needs still rose up. But they were soon met because of the love of the community for one another, the generosity produced by the Holy Spirit, and the providence of God in allowing there to be rich people in the church who could sell possessions and give for the meeting of needs. This seemed to be relatively short-lived; when persecution intensified, the church was scattered.  More poor within the church community; less rich believers to provide.  Is God NOW being unfaithful? 

No, because this promise of no poverty given in Deuteronomy 15:4, partially fulfilled in the church in Acts 4:34, still awaits complete fulfillment in glory!  God has not promised that all believers will not be this life.  Jesus lived an example life of sometimes poverty; Paul and the apostles were sometimes homeless and in rags (1 Cor 4:11); and many believers have suffered great persecution and poverty: 

"Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth" (Hebrews 11:36-38, ESV).

The prosperity God promises is partially seen in this world in times of God's blessing, but awaits a future complete fulfillment. Promised to Israel. Partially seen in the church. Completely experienced at the future consummation of all things. 

Poverty's days are numbered! 
Though here we may face times of great hardship, suffering, and need, let us be faithful and joyful in our God.  A day is coming when we will reign with Christ forever and ever!  No more tears, nor more pain, no more dying, no more poverty!  (1 Cor 3:21-22; Rev 1:6; 5:10; 21:4; 22:3-5)

Praise the Lord!

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