Remembering the Poor as the Heart of Ministry

"They only asked us to remember the poor--the very thing I also was eager to do." ~ Galatians 2:10 (NASB)
I find this verse very curious. In the midst of much traveling, saving souls, and theologizing, the apostle Paul takes a moment to recall a time in his ministry when the apostle Peter asked of him "only" one thing, and that one thing was to "remember the poor."

Which makes me to wonder, how often do I remember the poor? And am I as "eager" as the apostle Paul was to remember those living in poverty?

Honestly, I don't think I remember the poor as often as I should. I know in my life, I'm doing pretty well. My wife and I live in a uber middle-to-upper-middle crust part of town. On either side of our neighborhood are some shopping centers featuring high end restaurants, grocery stores, and retail outlets.  We have two Target stores within a mile of our home!  These insulate us into a really nice cultural bubble, as we seldom need to go anywhere outside these two shopping centers to find most of what we need for our daily lives.

Don't get me wrong, my wife and I aren't exactly rolling in dough. But we do make out a pretty comfortable life as two young professionals, who have firmly planted our feet in the middle of suburbia.  Like most of our neighbors, we have a mortgage, car payments, and a little bit of credit card debt.  We have some savings, and some money tied up for retirement.  We give to charity.  And we manage to scrape away a few bucks for date nights, and the occasional trip to the mountains or the beach.

Poor people are very difficult to find in my part of town, as the size of the homes and the property tax values virtually guarantees you won't run into very many "undesirables."  If I wanted to go to a part of town where most of the people living there meets the Federal government's definition of poverty, I would probably have to drive about 20-30 minutes to find such a place.

And so an old saying becomes a prophecy fulfilled: "out of sight, out of mind."

In order for me to remember the poor, I have to make a concerted effort to find somebody that is poor.  I'm simply unlikely to run into somebody who is poor in my daily life and interactions with others.

And I am willing to bet that the chances are, if you are reading this short blog post, then there is a pretty good chance you are like me.  You too are rather insulated from the poor, and they are not a regular part of your life.  Therefore, as you go about your day, you think very little about the poor.

I am also willing to bet that like me, most of the people who you attend church with are in the exact same scenario.  In contrast to the churches the apostles planted, which were made up of mostly poor individuals, our churches are often composed primarily of other affluent people, just like you and me.  Of course, there is nothing wrong with this per say.  Jesus died for rich people too.

But as a result of the high affluency rate in the population of our churches, whatever we do in the name of "outreach" to the poor often becomes nothing more than a "special project" that our church engages in.  It involves us loading a bunch of white rich people into a van to take a trip across town to the "other side of the tracks."  It's nothing more than a side project we do on the weekends, and a line item on our church budget.  Our main focus in ministry is back in the comforts of our home church, on Sunday morning, where hardly a poor person is to be found.

Yet for the apostles Paul and Peter, ministering to the poor was at the very heart of their ministry.  Indeed, they saw ministering to the poor at the very heart of the Gospel itself.  Ministering to the poor wasn't simply a side project that they tacked onto an otherwise busy church schedule.  They saw ministry to the poor as central to their calling as apostles.

I believe I am in the process of discovering this truth in my life.  It is my hope that this short blog entry will help you begin the journey of discovering it in your life as well.  For I feel in my heart of hearts that we miss the opportunity to remember the poor, and in doing so, we fail to become true ministers of Jesus Christ.,

May we remember the poor in all that we do.  And may remembering the poor become something that gets ingrained into the heart of our everyday church ministry, experience, and life.

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