Telling homeless people they are blessed!

A few years ago, I used to teach a weekly evening Bible study at the "Fifth Street Ministries" shelter in Statesville, NC. One of the first series of teachings I did was on Jesus famous, "Sermon on the Mount."

Looking into the eyes of the homeless people that came to my study, I was immediately challenged with the first of the Lord's sayings:

"Blessed are the poor..."

Talk about a tough saying to sell my target audience. Saying it almost makes me sound like an inhuman monster. You simply do not tell poor homeless people to their face that they are blessed! Such is akin to telling a 5-year old child that they should be happy their puppy died!!!

It seems counter intuitive in our society to associate poverty and being "blessed." In the Greek, to be blessed is literally "to be fortunate, or to have favor." The words "fortune" and "favored" are not words we ever use about homeless poor people. If they were fortunate, they would have a home of their own and not be poor. If they were favored, they would at least have family that liked them enough to take them in... Right?

Most homeless people I've ministered to do not feel like they are blessed, they feel cursed. They definitely don't feel fortunate, they feel like they are in a place of great need. They definitely don't feel favored, they feel forgotten.

But Jesus tells us the poor are blessed.

Yet, most of us spend most of our days doing as much as we can to avoid poverty. We study hard, we work hard, we climb the corporate ladder, we start our own business, and we strive to constantly obtain more and more and more. Some of us even try to work so hard that we can one day retire, and dream of being able to spend the last 20-30 years of our lives living comfortably off the interest from our investment portfolio.

Jesus says we've got it all wrong.

There is nothing wrong with making the most of our opportunities, studying hard, working hard, getting promoted at work, starting our own business, saving, and even investing enough so that we can one day retire. However, there is a mindset and spirit that we need to avoid in the process. And that is the mindset that puts us in the place where we feel like we have pulled ourselves up by the proverbial bootstraps, that we've earned what we have, that we are a self-made man, and that we lack for nothing. We need to avoid feeling full and satisfied.

Contrary to the practice of some charismatics who rebuke spirits of poverty, Jesus says we actually need to embrace it, and that we will be blessed in doing so.

No matter how well off we are, we need to see ourselves as a people who are in need of God's fortune and favor. We must realize that everything we have is from His hand, and that whatever we have, no matter how hard we studied and worked for it, is a good gift that comes from Him as a kind act of grace.

Even if you are rich and successful, you should not look at yourself as entitled to anything in this world. You are no more entitled to the wealth of your labor than a poor person is!

Unfortunately, the more affluent we become, the more entitled we often feel to stuff. We worked hard for it... right? So why should I give it to help poor people out? They didn't work for it after all.

And why should anybody criticize me for owning so much stuff? I earned tremendous royalties from the books I sold (as one pastor recently said). It's my money to spend as I want... right?

Unfortunately, the more we earn and the more we look around at what we've earned, so often the less we see the hand of God in freely providing all of these things for us. And the less we see of His hand freely providing the things we feel we've earned, the less we are willing to part with what we've earned and give to others in need.

Such is probably a reason why those in higher income brackets often give a smaller percentage of their annual income to charity than those in lower income brackets. Self-made people have a tendency to forget that God has been their source all along. They've become deceived by the illusion of their wealth. Their wealth tells them they've earned what they've got, now they need to hoard it in order to stay wealthy.

(Talk about a spirit that needs to be rebuked by charismatics, especially considering money doesn't really talk!)

And to come full circle, people who have been deceived by the illusion that their wealth has often generated, now actively fail to see God as their source of all they have, and they no longer see themselves as people who are still in need. They are rich, they are full, and they are satisfied, they have met their own needs, and now God is forgotten.

What a terrible attitude to have.

It is an attitude that can take us far from God and damn ourselves in the process.

No wonder Jesus could tell the poor they are blessed. They are in the position to look up and look beyond themselves, and possibly see the One who can freely provide them an entire kingdom.

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