Coming face to face with poverty is a sobering experience. Looking into the hollow eyes and empty souls of those who live on the fringes of our society I am reminded of Isaiah 58. In this passage, God very clearly articulates what he expects of us. These are words and commands for every one of us, not just the super-spiritual. If you want to be a true follower of Jesus, then you are going to have to do the things the Father expects us to do. Don’t fast to deprive yourself of something; fast to provide something for someone in need. No one is more in need than those who simply do not have the money to survive. We must work to restore their respect and dignity.
So much evil permeates those in poverty. The results of poor decisions triggered by drugs, alcohol or simply living for the moment, span generations and reverberate throughout communities. Satan delights in feeding the frustration with spirits of laziness and sickness. Once wickedness has permeated a community, it is nearly impossible to kick it out. Fortunately, impossible is not a word in the vocabulary of God. All things are possible through Him. Since we know that with His strength we can root out the evil from our communities, it becomes our responsibility to take action. Whether that means advocating for the people or actually moving to live among them will depend on the situation. What we must remain cognizant of is the commandment of God that says we should be breaking the chains of wickedness. Share a smile, lend a hand, and give them your heart; take the light of Jesus into the dark and broken places of our world.
Poverty is a form of slavery. Many of those who are underemployed work long hours and receive little pay. They will never get ahead, yet they must keep working in order to feed their families. They are trapped in a system that is designed to make them fail. We can help. America is the most affluent nation the world has ever known. The Western Church has been blessed in ways unlike any other time in history. We have the means to redeem people from the slavery of poverty. We have the programs and the know-how. We simply lack the will to give up our own comfort in sacrifice for another. As Keith Green so aptly said years ago, “Jesus rose from the dead and you can’t even get out of bed”. It should be our honor to lend a hand to someone in need so that they too can begin to enjoy freedom.
We are to share our food with the poor. There is not a single Christ follower who has the right to live in excess while there are people in this world without food. It is contrary to everything Jesus taught. We are commanded to bring the homeless into our homes, but instead we have empty beds in guest rooms that we keep locked tightly behind home alarm systems. We go to great lengths to keep out the very ones we are told to bring in. The type of life God desires is one that would see us clothing the naked when we see them. There are children living in garbage dumps in this world wearing little to no clothing. We don’t often see these pictures on the evening news because it is far too inconvenient to be bothered with images such as these. Besides, if we became more aware, we might begin to feel somewhat obligated to do something. Meanwhile our closets grow daily as we strive to live in ignorance to the world around us.
Finally, Isaiah 58 teaches us that we must not neglect our own flesh and blood. Despite the apparent trend of modern times, families were meant to live relationally with one another. If anyone in your family is in need and you do not reach out to help them, you are disobeying what God has told us to do. We are to look after and care for our family, regardless of our own feelings. We must care for them out of love and respect for our common lineage.
I encourage you to read Isaiah, chapter 58. It is foundational for a life that reflects the glory of God. We are called to continue the mission of Jesus Christ. Isaiah 58 is the blueprint; it tells us all we need to know in order to live a life that shines brightly for Christ. Don’t get caught up in useless traditions that do nothing to truly impact the souls of the ones who hear. Instead, immerse yourself in Isaiah 58 and pray to discover how you might be able to become one who follows the battle plan. Don’t make it harder than it is; we each have our marching orders. Get out there and change the world.