“They asked only one thing, that we remember the poor, which was actually what I was eager to do.” Galatians 2:10
The apostle Paul was an interesting person. He was a member of the strictest Jewish group, the Pharisees. He marked himself as an “up and comer,” in their ranks by his aggressive stance toward Christians. But when he found himself confronted by the living Christ, he channeled that energy into his ministry toward the Gentiles. When we think of Paul, we usually think of his success at starting new churches and the writings from his hand in the New Testament. We think of his sacrificial devotional to the work God gave him to do.
In Galatians we find an interesting and little noticed aspect of Paul’s focus. He was especially interested in helping the poor.
The Bible has a number of things to say about the poor. Jesus said we will always have the poor with us (Matthew 26:11). The book of Proverbs considers the situation of the poor and says things like: “Those who mock the poor insult their Maker (17:5),” “Happy are those who give to the poor (14:21),” “Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord (19:17).” And Jesus said, “Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of heaven (Luke 6:20).”
Christians often make one of two mistakes. We think that true Christianity is all about salvation of the heart and we ignore social needs. Or we focus on the social needs of others to the neglect of personal faith in Jesus Christ. But the Bible commends balance and we see it in the life of Paul. Though his heart was fueled by a passion to start new churches and proclaim the gospel, he also felt real compassion for the poor.
Why should we help the poor? Because every person is a child of God. Every person has been created by God and is loved by God. Even people who have made bad choices are loved by God. And some who are poor, especially the young, suffer from the cycle of generational poverty that is not their fault. Just as the commandment that we should not kill, is a recognition of our common humanity, so it is with the instruction to reach out to the poor. God does not allow us to turn away from those in need, for they are like us, creatures made in God’s image and loved by him.
As Paul was, so we should be eager to help the poor. To reach out to those in need is not the whole gospel, but it is a part of it. It is a part of the gospel and the life of faith that we cannot neglect.
With Warm Regards,