Monday, January 31, 2011

Proverbs 31- to the needy

Hello! I'm back from a weekend anniversary celebration with my hubby in the Texas hill country! We had a great time and I'll post some pictures later. But I'm excited to be back home and back into Proverbs 31 this morning.

Today I want to focus on verse 20.

She opens her arms to the poor
and extends her hands to the needy.

I had a funny conversation with my dad on the phone Saturday morning. I was telling him about tutoring at Reagan High School- which is in a poverty-stricken area of Austin. He told me about the spoof Stephen Colbert had done on Wake County Schools in NC. If you're unfamiliar with that situation, watch this: (you'll have to copy paste because I can't get the URL to link correctly)

Ok, Stephen Colbert and the Proverbs 31 woman might seem like completely opposite entities. And, I am not here to talk politics. But I am here to talk about personal responsibility as a believer in Jesus Christ- which means whatever way you vote- you cannot do what Stephen Colbert is poking fun at- you cannot ignore the poor and needy. You can't go and live in a gated community, home school your kids, drive an SUV and shut your eyes to the needs of others. Most people aren't trying to shut their eyes, they just become so focused on themselves, what they have worked so hard for, their kids, their homes, that they cannot see outwardly anymore. And, no matter how good you are, mo matter how moral you may be, you simply cannot do that and accurately represent Jesus Christ.

I watched a Francis Chan sermon when I was home for Christmas. Here it is, if you want a spiritual kick in the pants. It's kind of long, but I encourage you to watch at least the first five minutes for some much-needed perspective:

Francis' main point in this message is that the MAJORITY of the world lives on $2 a day. His point is that Americans, though we often complain about our financial problems, are incredibly rich.

For a while now, I've noticed a trend in the American church regarding finances. It goes something like this- "Take care of your needs. Get out of debt. Save a bunch of money- because the bottom might fall out at any time. Then, once you're financially secure, give away a bunch of money. That's good stewardship." The problem with that kind of thinking is that it doesn't match what Jesus said. That kind of thinking is money-focused. Look, it's not that it's not practical. It's very practical. It even matches a lot of what is written in Proverbs. But, the problem is not with the logic, it's with the focus. It's about you, your money, your stewardship. And that's the kind of thinking Jesus said would cause us to hate God. (Matthew 6:24)

Jesus told us not to worry about anything because our Father would take care of our needs. Never did He say that we needed to store up six months wages in case of disaster. Jesus commended a poor old woman for putting everything that she had into an offering plate. We get really freaked out about having to add in that 10% tithe column on our budget spreadsheet. Look at Acts 2 and you'll see that the first group of believers shared everything and even sold their personal possessions. If someone asked us to do that today, we'd say they were trying to "take over" and probably quote something about our "rights". But the early church didn't care about their rights! They were intoxicated with the Holy Spirit to the point that they no longer cared about this worldly place. The result? The church grew like a weed! Jesus- and the Proverbs 31 woman- are not focused on themselves, their jobs, their possessions or the government. They're focused on the Lord.

One of God's names is Jehovah-Jireh, "The Lord provides." To be like the Proverbs 31 woman, we have to see God as our provider, which might require some re-wiring of our thinking. We're not our own providers, no matter how hard we work or how good we are at storing up. The government isn't our provider- nor is it meant to be ignored. Government is a man-made institution that God uses divinely to carry out His purposes. Read Romans 13. Governments are corruptible for the same reasons people are corruptible- because they are made up of people- yet we seem to have such unreasonably high expectations for governmental systems. How often I encounter people who have much to demand from or complain about in regard to the government while they have very little to say about God. It's no wonder they are disappointed and disillusioned. They are looking to the wrong place for their needs to be met. This is true on both sides of party lines.

When we start to see God for who He truly is, we start to see ourselves for who we truly are. God is Jehovah-Jireh. There's nothing you or I, your employer, or the government can do to change that. But what most of us (myself included!!!) demonstrate to the rest of the world is this- God is "Jehovah-maybe-will-provide-but-only-if-I-take-care-of-myself-and-my-family-first." If you believe that, though it might make common sense, you are lying to the world about God. To accurately represent God to the world, we have to demonstrate the freedom we have to give generously- to the point of taking risk. Give generously of your money. Generously of your time. Generously of your knowledge. Generously of your emotions (within the relationships that God has purified only!!!)

Need is everywhere. Spiritual, financial, emotional need. You don't have to go to a poverty-stricken community to find people in need, but you certainly shouldn't avoid poverty-stricken communities- here in the U.S. or in other parts of the world. People need the gospel. They need the good news about Jesus Christ- news of renewal, reconciliation, and for goodness sake, HOPE. Real hope. Hope for Heaven, hope for life beyond this one- not simply better life here.

If you focus on money- saving it, spending it, lack of it- that's what you will worship. And you won't love God or the people that He loves. But if you focus on Jehovah-Jireh, He will provide you with vision to see what He sees- the needs of those around you and around the world. And He will give you the love that He has for them, the passion to demonstrate to them who He really is.

So, Proverbs woman, here's my challenge to you (and me): What has God provided you with? Has He given you more than $2 a day? Has He given you a home and a family? Has He given you a job? Who do you see around you who is in need? How will you meet those needs with what He has given to you?

When you are in need, who do you turn to? Who do you blame for your economic trouble? Who are you turning to for help? How much money, time and energy are you currently giving to the Lord's work in your community and throughout the world?

Christian, if you are looking for financial freedom, it doesn't start with cutting up credit cards, padding your savings account or listening to a weekly talk show. It starts with faith- the faith that is the hallmark of a Proverbs woman. Know your God, Jehovah-Jireh, so well that you do not doubt in His provision. And I promise you, you will be free to give.

Freely you have received, freely give. Matthew 10:8

1 comment:

  1. Wow! That was energizing and convicting. I totally agree.