Inseparable

Word on Wednesdays is a weekly series of posts where I let the Truth of the Bible do the talking. If you’d like to get these posts in your inbox every week, click on the follow button to the right of the text.

Loving and serving the poor is an inseparable part of our faithfulness to God. It’s not legalism or works-based theology or liberalism. It’s simply aligning our desires with God’s desires. It’s caring about what God cares about. It’s loving ALL of our neighbors, not just the clean, well-dressed ones that we have something to gain by loving. Let’s look at just how important the homeless and the hungry and the oppressed are to our Lord.

“Shout it aloud, do not hold back.
Raise your voice like a trumpet.
Declare to my people their rebellion
and to the descendants of Jacob their sins.
For day after day they seek me out;
    they seem eager to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that does what is right
    and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
They ask me for just decisions
and seem eager for God to come near them.
‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,
‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
and you have not noticed?’

“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
and exploit all your workers.
Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
and expect your voice to be heard on high.
Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
    only a day for people to humble themselves?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the Lord?

6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
    and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
    and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
    and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
    and your night will become like the noonday.

Isaiah 58:1-10 emphasis added

The truth of the gospel cannot be separated from the pursuit of justice. Look at what Paul says.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

We sometimes just want to read those first two verses. Verse ten is clear. As saved people, we are created in Christ Jesus to do good works. Loving the poor is a huge part of that.

Loving God

Serving the poor

Inseparable.

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Mission Monday: Missing Out

Mission Mondays is a new series of posts dedicated to my exploration of loving God through loving the poor and the marginalized here in Waco.

This weekend I went through a poverty simulation put on by my friends over at Mission Waco. For 42 hours, they gave us a glimpse of life below the poverty line that 28.7% of Waco lives under. When I say a glimpse, I mean a glimpse. Knowing that on Sunday afternoon I was going to go back to a world with I-phones, buffet dining halls and memory foam mattress pads prevented me from seeing the full picture of poverty, but I saw enough.

I saw enough to know that when I don’t go under the I-35 overpass and engage and love people in poverty, I’m not just ignoring God’s clear commands on poverty, I’m not just snubbing the desperate needs of people in my community, and I’m not just being selfish. No, when I don’t go under the overpass, I’m missing out. 

If I don’t dive into poverty, I’ll miss out on so much. I’ll miss Jesus. I never want to miss Jesus again.

I wrote that at the end of the simulation as we had time to reflect. The poverty simulation affected me in a completely different way than I was expecting. I didn’t leave this weekend with a sense of pity for myself of having to sacrifice my college life and live like a hobo all weekend. I didn’t leave with a sense of pity for the poor who maybe have lived like that all their lives. I didn’t feel an overwhelming sense of duty, as if God’s grand plan depended on my determination and resolve to fix things. I left this weekend knowing that by not engaging this part of my city and this part of my world, I’m missing out on a huge part of the kingdom of God.

My first week of intentionally engaging poverty in Waco was a little bit like my first January in Texas. It had me looking up at the sky and asking God why He’s been letting me do things wrong the whole time. One of the things Mission Waco does for the poor is something called Friday morning breakfast. It’s exactly what it sounds like. Every Friday, they serve a big breakfast over at the Lutheran Church and the basement is packed out with the jobless and homeless . Mission Waco asks college kids like me to come to Friday morning breakfast, not to prepare food, but to sit with and love on people who don’t get loved on enough. Last week at FMB, I sat with two men, Charles and Lee, who were out of work and had been looking for jobs for a while now. They were a blast to sit with, extremely charismatic and positive despite their unemployment.

Thursday night, a couple of my buddies and I got asked to give the message at the chapel of a homeless shelter in town ran by Mission Waco. As we were about to start, I saw Lee from last Friday slip in the back. After the message, I went up and talked to Lee and asked how things were going. He told me good news; Charles and him had both gotten jobs and were starting next week. When I asked if there was something I could pray for him about, he didn’t have any requests. All he wanted was to thank God for providing. After we prayed, I looked around the room and saw my two friends Justin and Ben praying with other residents. We swapped stories the whole way back to campus from the evenings’ conversations.  We didn’t feel obliged. We just felt blessed. 

If you’re not engaging with poverty wherever you live, I hope this post doesn’t make you feel guilty. I hope it doesn’t convict you to write a check or obligate you to show up for an hour at a soup kitchen downtown. My hope for this post is simple. I want you to realize one thing. You’re missing out. 

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.

Matthew 5:3-4