I read this passage in the book of James the other day and, naturally, it scared the hell out of me:
“Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you.” (James 5:1-6, ESV)
This blog has served as a small platform to talk about the gospel and its relation to the poor and marginalized. The primary reason for my insistence on talking of these matters is that the Bible is filled with scriptures like the one above. I would argue that “our wealth in relation to the poor” is one of the major themes of the Bible.
I fear that when we read passages like the above, we immediately picture Donald Trump.
Maybe that’s okay.
But our interpretation can’t stay there. James wrote his letter to believers, in a time when the gap between wealthy and poor was much smaller.
With that truth in mind and with the new year upon us, I’d like to suggest some practical ways in which Christians might help the poor.
Tip Your Server Well
There are a range of reasons why people don’t tip their restaurant servers well – Why tip someone for doing their job? I can’t afford to tip. They didn’t earn it! A true tip is a gospel tract disguised as a $20 bill.
These are terrible excuses. But, honestly, I think the primary problem is that those of us who eat at restaurants don’t understand how servers get paid.
Most often (at least, in America) servers get $2.13 an hour. Seriously, look it up.
This low minimum wage helps restaurants afford to hire enough servers. It is then up to the servers to make up their wage deficit by receiving tips from customers.
Your restaurant server makes ends meet by depending on your generosity. If you are a Christian, you should be overwhelmingly generous.
Don’t Be A Slumlord
I know, this is a no-brainer.
Or is it?
Several Christians own and lease property for passive income. I think that’s a legitimate way to earn money.
But I know far too many professing Christians who fail to take care of their properties (even when the government pays the rent through section 8 programs). Meanwhile, the poor are left to live in terrible conditions.
Landlords, keep up with your properties. Pay what it costs to keep the house in working order. Show kindness to your tenants. Who knows, maybe they’ll take better care of their home if you do the same!
I know not everyone can do this. Rachel and I are currently fostering to adopt. It’s really hard and has forever changed our life.
But God commands us, SO MANY TIMES, to care for orphans in distress.
Pray about it, maybe Jesus is calling you to take part.
Participate in a Refugee Ministry
My father-in-law runs a ministry called The Welcome Project. He trains teams of church members to show hospitality to incoming refugees (another thing God has blatantly commanded his people to do).
If you live in a refugee resettlement zone, there may be a similar ministry near you. Pray about participating. It may cost you the luxury of time, but it is an investment in eternal riches.
If you don’t live in a resettlement zone, AT LEAST show kindness to foreigners around you. The easiest way to do this is to stop spreading hate and lies about immigrants. Because, if you’re doing that, you should be ashamed of yourself.
Befriend the Elderly
Elderly people can become quite lonely. I know a 90 year old man who never married and has no children. He regularly attends soup kitchens and bible studies to make friends and socialize. I know from experience that there are many people like him.
Consider finding a way to spend time with the elderly.
Make 2018 Count
I’ve been working with the poor for over a decade. To be honest, it’s wearing me out. Not because I don’t like the work, but because there is so much to do.
People always say they want to know God’s will for their lives. I’m telling you now, with 100% certainty, God’s will is that you care for the least of these. No Christian gets a free pass on this one.
I hope these suggestions help.
How about you? Do you have any suggestions on practical ways to care for the poor this year? Share them in the comments below!