Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Kingdom of God - Good News to the Poor

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has
anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Luke 14:18-19

Good verse huh?

Before we left our CLB our leader preached a series of messages on "The Good News to the Poor." It drove my husband nuts because in the prosperity gospel that was being presented, the good news to the poor was that, because of the cross they did not have to be poor any longer. God had come through Jesus so that we no longer needed to be sick or poor. In my husband’s opinion (and now mine) the speaker was totally missing the point and even distorting the true gospel.

I have below a portion of the letter that he (Husband) wrote to our leader. See how it truly displays the heart of God towards us as opposed to the twisted words of the "other" gospel that God wants you rich.

Good news to the poor:

In the context of the day during the life and times of Jesus, if you had wealth, you were viewed of having the favor of God in your life. God was your friend, you were blessed, God was near you and like/approved of you.

If you were poor however, God was not near you, you were not favored of God. He obviously was not pleased with you and, plain, did not like you. You had no hope of God’s favor or His visitation. (In reality, it was a wide pendulum swing to the view of wealth and God’s favor, to the point of error.) The poor walked as second class citizens with the knowledge that God did not favor them, bless them and love them because of them and their sin. The rich were blessed, but they were cursed. There was little hope of anything else.

So here comes Jesus, and he preached “good news” to the poor. As a poor person, you would hear this, and your first reaction was almost disbelief. “You mean that God is coming to visit me?” “God noticed me?” “God is pleased and wants to be with me?” “I too can be favored and blessed by God?”

The answer Jesus brought to the people asking these questions was: “Yes!” The religious leaders would preach “No,” but Jesus was changing it!

To the Pharisees it was the religion and law of the day, but Jesus was preaching a different ‘good news:
“God is coming near, the favor of the Lord is near, to you, to all who will believe.”

Just as Jesus healed the lame man whose sins he had forgiven to prove the same, he healed the multitudes to prove the same: God had come near them. “Believe and receive! The Kingdom of God has come, to you!”

It was a paradigm shift to the people of the day who were rejected because they were poor. God would not visit them and they were not blessed. Jesus came to break that theology/practice/understanding of the people. Its not about poverty/money, but God is available to the poor! He likes the poor and wants to dwell with them and be with them. They are being invited to participate in His Kingdom.

So he sent out his boys (disciples) to the villages and towns, the highways and hedges, announcing that the Kingdom of God has come (to them!), ie: good news!

We too can preach the same:
God has come. He has favor for you.
God has come to you. You can come to God. He will dwell with you and you can dwell with him.

This is the Good News to the Poor!!


Sarah said...

Great post, Barb. When I first began questioning the charismatic prosperity teaching it was in the context of impoverished nations. What about all the Christians in those nations? Why are we so focused on God wanting to give us more money - when we are gorged on the stuff, and Christians in other nations can't afford to send their kids to primary school??!!

I think the prosperity gospel has that dark, pharisaical side to it. That if you are poor, you haven't gotten the formula right - your theology/ your faith/ whatever. And so *you* are the problem. So all those Christians who live in third world poverty? Not pleasing enough to God? (I do believe God has promised to provide, and to bless His people so that they can be a blessing to others. But I don't know exactly what that looks like all the time.)

But historically, lots of Christians have experienced injustice, and *poverty* as a result of that injustice. Like the African-American Christians seeking civil rights along with Martin Luther King Jr. Or the Bible-believing Mexican migrant workers in California who joined Cesar Chavez to fight for just treatment and equal treatment, and decent living conditions.

There's so much more at play here than some magic formula. If we believe in a magic formula, then we will fail to seek justice where there has been exploitation and cheating. It's kind of the same problem as: "Just pray this little prayer and you're good."

Barb said...

So true Sarah,

I was reading in RobbyMac's book last night and the prime reason that people don't accept the prosperity gospel is because it does not really work for those in impoverished nations. Benny Hinn once even rejected it as he looked onto the crowds in Manilla because He just could not preach it there to those people. He later decided different though because his website is now full of "you give to me and God will bless you."

Tyler Dawn said...

Wonderful, that is indeed an awesome glimpse into God's heart!

Tyler Dawn said...
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