As Paul was describing the events of his ministry, he mentioned care for the poor. This notation seems like an aside, but it was actually a very important aspect of his ministry.
If you were part of the study in Corinthians, you will recall Paul’s emphasis on an offering for the poor in Jerusalem. Paul devoted two chapters to a collection for the Jerusalem church (2 Corinthians 8-9).
Within Paul’s defense of his work among the Gentiles, he wrote about a visit with Peter and James in Jerusalem.
— Galatians 2.7-10 – On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel for the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel for the circumcised
(For he who worked through Peter making him an apostle to the circumcised also worked through me in sending me to the gentiles),
And when James and Cephas and John, who were acknowledged pillars, recognized the grace that had been given to me, they gave to Barnabas and me the right hand of fellowship, agreeing that we should go to the gentiles and they to the circumcised.
They asked only one thing, that we remember the poor, which was actually what I was eager to do.
Rudy Ross and I discuss Paul’s relationship with the Jewish leaders in today’s YouTube video. For this article, I want to focus on God’s love for the poor.
James taught “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress” (James 1.27).
This is a recurrent and consistent message throughout the Bible. Below are a few Bible passages to emphasize the point.
Written into the very fabric of Jewish life was the care of the most vulnerable, immigrants, orphans, and widows. These representatives of the “poor” are featured in five Bible passages in Deuteronomy.
— Deuteronomy 14:28-29 – “Every third year you shall bring out the full tithe of your produce for that year and store it within your towns . . . as well as the resident aliens, the orphans, and the widows in your towns, may come and eat their fill so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work that you undertake.“
An Intimate Connection
The Psalm writer denotes God as the Father of the vulnerable, the poor.
Father of orphans and protector of widows
is God in his holy habitation. (Psalm 68.5)
God’s judgment falls on those who oppress vulnerable and poor people.
Woe to those who make iniquitous decrees,
who write oppressive statutes,
To turn aside the needy from justice
and to rob the poor of my people of their right,
to make widows their spoil
and to plunder orphans! (Isaiah 10.1-2)
Remember the Poor
Concerning the poor, Paul wrote, “They asked only one thing, that we remember the poor, which was actually what I was eager to do” (Galatians 2.10).
It is with a touch of irony that we consider the Gentiles’ gifts to the Jewish followers of Jesus in Jerusalem.
Jewish believers may have held to the belief that eating with a Gentile would pollute their spiritual life, but they were willing to receive gifts that would enable them to eat and feed their families.
The gifts from Gentiles to Jewish believers demonstrated that the two were one family. This is a point that we will consider in detail when we study chapter 3.
— Galatians 3.28-29 – There is no longer Jew or Greek; there is no longer slave or free; there is no longer male and female, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.
And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.
Jesus, Our Model
Jesus is the model of all giving.
— 2 Corinthians 8.9 – For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.
Jesus is our example. Billionaires have nothing on Jesus. He is the all-time richest person to walk the face of the earth.
He renounced his wealth and became poor (Philippians 2), so we could become rich. All he asks is that we share some of the wealth with the vulnerable people in our world.
Rudy Ross and I discuss this passage from another angle on YouTube today. It can be found on the Bob Spradling channel.
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