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The Kingdom: Living Like the Poor

Over the last little while I have been around people/organizations that have a deep rooted desire to help the poor and dedicate their lives doing so. I live with the family in Hamilton that was committed into moving into the downtown area to be where they were ministering, which is next door to the third poorest neighborhood in Canada. I just went to New Orleans where we saw people working to get many that were poor (and rich) off their feet and back into their lives. Oddly, the more I have been reading lately the more I’m realizing how much the poor is central to the gospel message.

Now that I am beginning to look for my own place to live back in the city where we are planting theStory I am left with a choice. The decision is deeper than simply choosing a great house which is the best for my money and the best investment. The decision is whether I’m more concerned with my reputation/security/”success” than I am with moving into an area where I could potentially put all those things at risk. So here I am left with this choice of where I want to live, and when I mention the different area’s here in Sarnia where I want to live I get the oddest of looks. Why would you want to move there? But the best house turnovers for your money are in this area. Do you trust the area and the people?

I am starting to realize that society’s norm is so completely opposite of what the kingdom looks like that we have completely created an entire new set of beliefs to comfort us in knowing that whatever we choose is all right. Before maybe someone would choose to live in a “lesser” neighborhood because they wanted to save some money, or maybe it was because they had friends there or they liked the community aspect of it. But now we’ve actually convinced ourselves that we are unsafe and stupid to move into certain areas, thus creating a cloud of judgment for all those that already live there. Now we think that anyone who lives elsewhere in the “nicer” of neighborhoods is better off and we all need to reach to attain where they are.

With all that said, I’m starting to think that the kingdom doesn’t really care what neighborhood we live in. That maybe, whatever neighborhood we find ourselves in we learn to be content where we are and create an environment around us of contentment and purpose, not failure and the need to go one step further. Imagine someone moving into the poorest neighborhood in town that financially didn’t fit where they were, and imagine they were content being there. Now imagine how everyone around them would feel. No longer does their neighborhood become just a step to where they are “supposed” to be but now becomes where they want to be. Our poor neighborhoods are transformed without a cent being tossed at it. Afterall, technically our poor neighborhoods are a hundred times better off than how people used to live hundreds to thousands of years ago. Our poor neighborhoods are very subjective in that we compare them to what our rich neighborhoods look like.

Living as a kingdom person, we are now able to be content when the world around us is striving for more. This means that we can live in what in our world is considered poor and still live as if we were rich, or better. Living as a kingdom person means transcending the ideals that society throws at us saying that we are a certain type of person because we live a certain type of way and receives all its value from Christ. So no matter where we live, rich or poor, dirty or clean, on a beach house or with a flooded basement let us remember that we are always living rich and we can actually be content (not faking it) without all the things that the world tells us we need.

12 Comments

  • “Oddly, the more I have been reading lately the more Im realizing how much the poor is central to the gospel message.”

    Not only is it the monitarily poor that is central to the gospel, but also those who are poor spiritually.

    Nice post … good thoughts there

  • To be honest Nathan, since we are looking for places to live together I am starting to get pissed off at the fact that we arent even able to live among lower income families. It is as though the government has created it and we have endorsed it that certain locations are poor people locations and we are locked out. Although some of us want to, its virtually impossible for us to live in these areas (Unless we make less).

    I am a firm believer that peoples ideas, attitudes and morals are contagious. What happens when you get a bunch of people who have low morals living with each other? Lower morals. What happens when you put a bunch of unemployed people living together? Not a lot of motivation to get a job.

    Our society has made it so easy to enter into poverty and be content being there. Do you know that people living on government subsidy homing can pay $36 in rent? Why would you ever want to get out of a life style of having your hand out when the kick back is enough for you to get by on?

    People who depend on the government are in a shitty spot. If they want to go back to school for training or upgrading their skills they have to get off their subsidy, support themselves and pay for their own school. Its hard enough paying for school even with family and friends supporting you but near impossible if you were to do it alone.

    Further more, I think (I know I am struggling with this) we have this sense that there are poor people and then there is us. Its almost as though poor people have a disease and we are hear to cure it. What are we curing, the fact that we have nicer stuff? The fact I have a car and they take the bus? What will I do to show them Jesus? Buy them a mustang? Maybe we need to drop the whole their poor crap.

    You never know, maybe these poorer communities are rich in fellowship. Maybe us rich pew sitting hussies are the ones in poverty and are dire need of some real fellowship. Maybe we need to stop thinking that we need to take Jesus their and start thinking we need to go their to experience Jesus.

  • Ron is on to something here. Keep digging. It ties in with what you were saying, Nathan. Its not about where you live, but I think its about standing in opposition to, and subverting the dominant culture that tells some where they can live, and others where they can’t.

    Probably doesn’t make sense, but it sounds great in my head.

    Ron is on to something here.

  • Though the ministry of the church should not exclude the poor (which is part of the task odf the deacons) I don’t think that Christians ought to be pressured to do so. Moreover I think there there’s often an unhealthy obcession with the poor within Christian circles.

    Yes, Jesus spent time with the poor and he was merciful to them. But if they didn’t accept his message he shook the dust from his sandles annd moved on just like he instructed his followers to do. For that reason if I had a family my primary concern in selecting a neighbourhood for our home would be safety. I wouldn’t endanger them for the sake of the lost. Personally those who want to be “missional” should consider that the safety of the flock is the primary concern of the shepherd, who chased the wolves away, so to speak.

    Tom

  • Tom, I dont agree with you what so ever… it pains me to hear you say that.

  • Ron,

    I hope that no offence was created, I realized that perhaps I came off a little more harshly than I intended. If you thought that I’m looking down on your efforts than I apologize.

    But seriously, why do you disagree?

  • Could you please elaborate more on your thoughts in regards to poverty not being a burden for a Christian and how your idea of living in Safety is beneficial?

  • Ron,

    It is a burden for the Christian. As I pointed our earlier one of the most important tasks of the deacons is the ministry to the poor and it’s the reason that office was founded (Acts 6).

    Living safely I think is beneficial though. Perhaps you ought to know a little about the person you’re talking to (not to show off though). I’ve worked with the mentally ill, mentally handicapped, people who have conduct disorders and kids from economically disadvantaged families professionally. Right now I work as a director of a small charity that works with kids with behavioural issues. All this is only to say that I see the value of charity.

    If however I had a family and these people whom I worked with posed a threat to them would I have them over to dinner? No. This is because I think my first duty is to them, not those on the outside so to speak.

    Similiarly the first duty to the church socially speaking is to those who are in the church. Paul tells us to good to all, especially to the household of faith. All of this is only to say that while the church ought to help those on the outside it musn’t become so “missional” that it pretends there is nothing separating us from them.

  • “All of this is only to say that while the church ought to help those on the outside it musn’t become so “missional” that it pretends there is nothing separating us from them”

    This statement pretty much sums up why I know Ron (and myself) disagrees with a lot of what you’re saying…
    Throughout history people have created an ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ mentality and look what kinds of things have happened as a result: racism, segregation, war, genocide, propaganda. It is this division between people that creates oppression, division, fear of the unknown and ultimately a desire to be separate; an “US”.
    By thinking of people as “on the outside” as you put it, you are creating this division. It may not be as serious as some of the things I previously described, but the whole idea of what you’re describing is in itself extremely dangerous. Whether you’ve intended to or not, you’ve stripped these people of their value. These ‘THEMS’ are not good enough, not rich enough, not normal enough, not enough like you to be valued. This is wrong.
    The first duty of the church is not to the church…it is to build the kingdom. Jesus came to love people whether they were rich or poor, healthy or sick, smart or not so smart. Jesus came for those the world did not want, Jesus came to save the untouchables, the ones the church, the US group, so often overlooks.
    So often we think that when we are being socially conscious, working with the poor, giving money, serving in these organizations that seek to better their cause, we are really helping. But if we continue to think as ourselves as ‘us-es’ than all we are doing is adding to this problem. The work becomes meaningless.
    I think that if a church forgets to live missionally EVERY minute of EVERY day then whats the point of the church? To build more churchy people? To keep us all locked away from the scary outside world in our safe Christian bubbles? No thank you.
    Yes, family safety is important. But dont you trust that if God is calling you to live in an unsafe location that he will be big enough to protect you from harm? God knows our needs. He is bigger than that.
    God doesnt look at neighborhoods and see houses of church vs. poor. He looks down and sees his children. I think that Jesus would want us to look at people the same way. Dont you?

  • Thanks Sally, I wrote a bunch of replies but I think you got my thoughts out for me.

  • Ron & Sally,

    How exactly have I stripped anyone of any value by stating that there are, in fact those who are outside of the church?

    Moreover I do think that there is a profound difference, a God ordained difference, between the people of the World and the people of the Kingdom. This antithesis has existed from the time of the fall (Gen. 3:15) and will exist to the end of the world when Christ comes back.

    This brings an inportant question, does God look down and consider all people to be his children? Personally I don’t think so. We become the children of God (John 1:13). We’re born without innocence and separated from God. We’ve all heard this rhetoric before we just need to take it to it’s logical conclusion.

    Weather or not someone is good, rich or whatever enough in this context doesn’t really make much difference as we’re all not good enough. But there is still a profound difference. And to answer your question, Jesus didn’t regard material disparity between classes, you’re right. But yet he does place radical antithesis between different people. We’re to regard this as well.

  • great post nathan. i have been wrestling (even tonight in conversation with aaron) about what our role is in helping the poor of the world. it is so tempting to just live and get caught up in the norm. on the other hand i feel like there is some glorification of those who help the poor… which seems to lure me for the wrong reason. all in all, the conversation ended with “thy will be done” which i just hope we are obident to follow whatever God has for us.

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