“Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?” – James 2:5
This morning’s reading in the Gospel of John reminds me of the importance of sitting at the feet of Jesus [JN 12; LK 10:38-42], for both a time of worship and for a time of learning, as well as the importance of dying to self [JN 12:24-25]. There is really only one way for us to live the fruiftuful and fulfilling life that God intends for us to live, AND IT STARTS WITH DYING TO SELF!
In reading James Chapter 2, especially 2:1-6, 14-18, I was once again reminded of the importance of respecting and responding to the needs of the poor in a Christlike manner. According to James, God has chosen them to be “rich in faith.” Just read these powerful words the other day. Though it’s a bit long, I would encourage you to read it:
To be honest with One Sunday I was walking with a staff member through one of Africa’s largest slums, the massive Kibera slum of Nairobi, Kenya. slums, the massive Kibera slum of Nairobi, Kenya. The conditions were simply inhumane. People lived in shacks constructed out of cardboard boxes. Foul smells gushed out of open ditches carrying human and animal excrement. I had a hard time keeping my balance as I continually slipped on oozy brown substances that I hoped were mud but feared were something else. Children picked through garbage dumps looking for anything of value. As we walked deeper and deeper into the slum, my sense of despair increased. This place is completely God-forsaken, I thought to myself. Then to my amazement, right there among the dung, I heard the sound of a familiar hymn. There must be Western missionaries conducting an open-air service in here, I thought to myself. As we turned the corner, my eyes landed on the shack from which the music bellowed. Every Sunday, thirty slum dwellers crammed into this ten-by-twenty foot “sanctuary” to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The church was made out of cardboard boxes that had been opened up and stapled to studs. It wasn’t pretty, but it was a church, a church made up of some of the poorest people on earth. When we arrived at the church, I was immediately asked to preach the sermon. As a good Presbyterian, I quickly jotted down some notes about the sovereignty of God and was looking forward to teaching this congregation the historic doctrines of the Reformation. But before the sermon began, the service included a time of sharing and prayer. I listened as some of the poorest people on the planet cried out to God: “Jehovah Jireh, please heal my son, as he is going blind.” “Merciful Lord, please protect me when I go home today, for my husband always beats me.” “Sovereign King, please provide my children with enough food today, as they are hungry.” As I listened to these people praying to be able to live another day, I thought about my ample salary, my life insurance policy, my health insurance policy, my two cars, my house, etc. I realized that I do not really trust in God’s sovereignty on a daily basis, as I have sufficient buffers in place to shield me from most economic shocks. I realized that when these folks pray the fourth petition of the Lord’s prayer— Give us this day our daily bread— their minds do not wander as mine so often does. I realized that while I have sufficient education and training to deliver a sermon on God’s sovereignty with no forewarning, these slum dwellers were trusting in God’s God’s sovereignty just to get them through the day. And I realized that these people had a far deeper intimacy with God than I probably will ever have in my entire life.
Things aren’t always the way we perceive them. We have the tendency to look on the outward appearance, God doesn’t, HE LOOKS AT THE HEART [1 Samuel 16:7]. Over the past 2,000 years some of the greatest and most godly saints have been those who we would consider “poor.” Those of us who are rich in this world might be able to learn a few lessons from these “poor.”
Just taking a few moments reflecting on being rich in faith!