The past two weeks at ANC we’ve been wrestling with “disputable matters” as discuss in Romans 14. It’s interesting how easily we take this text and make it about the issue itself instead of the impact of the issue on our unity and concern for others. Paul was clear to remind us that there’s certainly a bigger picture:
“For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit…” – Romans 14:17
He writes this just moments after reminding us what it looks like to apply all he wrote in the first 11 chapters. Essentially he’s spends the next couple chapters teaching how we should respond to the Gospel personally and collectively, both in our own context and in our culture (To listen click HERE).
It blows me away that “serving the least” has become a disputable matter in the church. We’ve taken something so important to the life and ministry of Jesus and made it an optional expression of the church. It was a major emphasis that many have made minor.
*In Luke 18, Jesus was asked by the rich young ruler what he should do to inherit the Kingdom. His response? Give to the poor. We know the law, yet this is probably the most obvious mark of a disciple we miss.
You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.”
“All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said.
When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” – Luke 18
I assure you, this wasn’t about the Benjamin’s. Jesus didn’t need this man’s money to help the poor. This man needed to help the poor. There is so much wrapped in what happens when we do. We are confronted at the very soul of our existence. This wasn’t the first time Jesus encouraged this discipline for making disciples, and it wasn’t his last time either.
“But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” Luke 14:13-14
In a moment, Zacchaeus discerned what Jesus required of him:
“But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount. Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham.” Luke 19:8-9
Paul labeled Tabitha a disciple. The marks of her discipleship:
“In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha, who was always doing good and helping the poor.”- Acts 9:36
The Angel who came to Cornelius, the first gentile convert reported in scripture, claimed that the very reason He was there is because God not only heard his prayers, but remembered his service to the poor:
“Cornelius answered: “Four days ago I was in my house praying at this hour, at three in the afternoon. Suddenly a man in shining clothes stood before me and said, ‘Cornelius, God has heard your prayer and remembered your gifts to the poor.” – Acts 10:30-31
The Apostles, pioneers of the New Testament church, knew that if they did anything of value, that they should continue to serve the poor:
“James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews. All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do. – Galatians 2:9-10
Darrell Guder wrote in his book, “Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America, that “Believing is not just a matter of knowing. Believing is also a matter of doing. Believing is trusting that Jesus’ way of living is the right way, and trusting it enough that one is willing to live that way – and die that way.” The only thing to dispute is whether or not we’re willing to do so.
*Excerpt from, “Barefoot Church: Serving the Least in a Consumer Culture”