Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
Select a thought to read by choosing a collection, the month, and then the day:
“What shall one then answer the messengers of the nation? That the Lord has founded Zion, and the poor of his people shall trust in it.”
From Pastor John’s Old Testament class: “Lessons from Isaiah”, No. 39.
Since Jesus came, every time in history that rich and powerful people have ascended to places of influence over God’s people, they have made shipwreck of the faith. The gospel of Christ is a poor man’s gospel; it is the choice of God. “Has not God chosen the poor?” asked James. And Paul made the same point when he told the saints in Corinth, “You see your calling brethren, that not many who are wise according to the flesh, not many powerful people, not many of noble birth have been called by God; instead, God has chosen the foolish things of the world so that He might bring the wise to nothing, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to bring the strong things to nothing, and insignificant things of the world, and things despised has God chosen, and things that are not, that He might bring to nothing the things that are, so that no flesh might boast before God” (1Cor. 1:26-29).
Jesus was born in a stable, like the poorest of the poor, but after rich and powerful men abused and killed him, they began to build palaces for his glory, and declared themselves the protectors of the faith. But the gospel, out of the hands of the poor, is like a sharp sword in the hands of a fool.
The Roman Emperor Constantine ordered the construction of a magnificent sepulcher for himself, with statues of the thirteen apostles in it.
Yes, thirteen. And the thirteenth apostle, as the inscriptions on the statues indicated, was Constantine himself, a shepherd of the holy Roman Empire for Jesus. It was the rich and powerful Constantine who completed the debasement of the faith of Christ, giving birth to the officially recognized religion of “Christianity”. That is why in Christian history books, he is called “Constantine the Great”.
The poor can more easily sense what can be trusted because they so sharply feel their need. False relief, false promises, and false claims, are easier for them to spot. The rich can afford the base luxury of entertaining themselves with fantasies, and this indulgence may be the deadliest part of “the deceitfulness of riches” of which Jesus warned his disciples.
It is true that prosperity often follows humility and obedience to God; we see that clearly throughout the Bible and in history itself. But just as clearly as this, we can also see that pride and disobedience often follow prosperity. God promised ancient Israel, that nation of escaped slaves, that He would give them the land of Canaan, with its houses “full of good things”, with wells they had not labored to dig, with cities they had not built, and with vineyards and olive groves they had not planted; but knowing what usually follows prosperity, He pleaded with Israel, “Beware, lest you forget the Lord that brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage” (Dt. 6:10-12).
Israel forgot Him. Quickly.
When I was a child, my family could not afford a car, or carpet in the house, or grass in the yard, or storm doors and windows. In that rental house in which we lived, we had no heat in the winter, except in two rooms where the coal stoves were, and no air conditioning in the hot days of summer. As a man, God has blessed both me and many of the saints I know, with what I would call “much”, and this “much” frightens me more than all the poverty in the world. It makes me run to Jesus for mercy.
The gospel is, first and foremost, a poor man’s gospel. Paul didn’t say “not any mighty”, but “not many mighty”, and so, the door to God’s kingdom is not completely closed against the wealthy and the worldly wise; and yet, it is all but closed. “It is easier”, said Jesus, “for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God” (Mt. 19:24).
The rich can hardly escape trusting in their earthly riches; earthly wealth opens many doors for the rich in this world. But their wealth does not even make the door of God’s kingdom to creak. The very few with earthly wealth whom God has called into His kingdom should, James said, “rejoice in that he is made low”. In other words, rich brothers and sisters should fall on their faces before God in gratitude for the rare mercy shown to them by God, for being given eyes to see what is really valuable, for being made a part of the despised family of God, for being made joint-heirs of God with Christ along with the poor of this world whom He has chosen, for being given true riches.
The gospel of Christ is a poor man’s gospel. It has real comfort in it, real relief, true promises. And while the rich in the world, comforted instead by their possessions and their status, rarely feel the need of such real things as the gospel offers, the poor are much more often drawn to the gospel. God established the gospel in truth, and the poor trust in it.