A Beacon of Light for the Impoverished
Imagine this for a moment.
A woman walks into a church for the first time. She never thought she’d darken the door of a church, but she's desperate. She’s on her last straw and has to do something, so she gets her children ready in one of their only outfits and walks to a building she recognizes as the building she sees every night lighting up the night sky with its beacon of light. She slides in the back hoping to go unnoticed and begins to listen to the words of truth the pastor is preaching. As she listens, her heart yearns for these promises he speaks of. She secretly hopes someone will notice her in the back so she can open up about her desolate circumstances and what to do as she and her family has nothing. As the service ends, she looks around. The people eagerly get up and find each other from across the seats. They engage in laughter and conversation and discuss lunch plans but never look in the back of the church. She slips out as quiet as she came in, discouraged and without the hope, she was looking for.
This woman looks like many people in our communities; destitute, impoverished, and deprived. They sometimes walk through our doors looking for hope, but more often find a temporary solution instead. So, who are these people, what does God’s Word say about them, and what is our job as believers?
Who are the poor?
Compassion International defines poverty as “a standard of living filled with deprivation, malnutrition, poor sanitation, lack of access to safe drinking water, education, health care and other social services, and no survival safety net.” Poverty can look very different depending on what it is caused by. Some are born into it (generational poverty), some land into it (situational poverty), some are in poverty due to their education, health, or social needs, and some due to their lack of income (economic poverty). No matter how someone came to live in poverty, each of these types can be devastating. World Vision states that one out of every five students in the United States lives in poverty and 10% of the world lives in extreme poverty. Poverty causes a definite line in the sand and many are doing little to help erase the line. People need a purpose, and they look for it in many different places in their communities and nation. Proverbs 29:18 says that where there is no vision the people perish, so a lack of vision or purpose creates chaos.
What does God’s Word say about poverty?
From the moment man sinned against God, man has had to work the ground. This was the curse that came from man’s sin in Genesis 3:17b NLT (“...the ground is cursed because of you. All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it”). Poverty is something that will always be there as long as man works and struggles. However, we see a great purpose in the Bible when it describes poverty. God has a heart for the poor. In James 2:5 it says that God has chosen the poor to be rich in faith and in Luke 4:17-19 Jesus reads from Isaiah stating that He has come to proclaim the good news to the poor, bring freedom for the prisoners and oppressed, and give sight to the blind. The gospel is ripe in the lives of the poor because there is a need for purpose and something more in their lives.
What is our job as believers?
Let’s take a look at our example again. This time let’s observe how God’s people live out their call to be a beacon in the community around them. A woman walks into a church for the first time. She never thought she’d darken the door of a church, but she's desperate. She’s on her last straw and has to do something, so she gets her children ready in one of their only outfits and walks to a building she recognizes as the building she saw every night lighting up the night sky with its beacon of light. She slides in the back to go unnoticed but is immediately greeted at the door by a smiling face. She recognizes him as one of the ones who helps pass out food at the church’s food bank program that she attended last week. She then begins to sit in the back when someone immediately comes over and engages her in a conversation. As the service begins, this woman invites her and her children over to sit with her family. She sees an announcement on the screen about a block party the church is throwing in her neighborhood. She had heard from her friends about another block party in a different neighborhood. As she listens to the service, her heart yearns for these promises the pastor speaks of. She can’t wait until the service is over so she can speak with her new friend sitting next to her about all she’s heard. This woman will receive all she needs both physically and spiritually to survive because of the love and mission one church has for its community. This is being a beacon of light in a dark world.
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