The roadmap for the body of Christ to end poverty was set out in the Deuteronomy and Acts. Yet somehow we still miss it.
What is poverty?
Poverty is a trap. It means not having enough and what you do to cope with that need.
Poverty is a trap because it disadvantages the entire family. The children are less likely to do well at school. In fact, most children who grow up in poverty fail to attain any qualifications worth a damn. As adults, they are trapped in low paying jobs and their children will inherit the same trap.
Poverty is a trap that damages society. Children that experience poverty are more likely to engage in crime, antisocial behaviour and drug use.
We Christians should be doing something about that. Instead, we either are trapped ourselves or grow fat and offer to “pray for the poor”. James 2:16 points out just how worthless that is, for a poor person.
What can we do?
What does Deuteronomy 26:12 say to do with the tithe? It says to feed the Levit, the fatherless, and the widow. I bet your pastors have not been telling you about that.
Deuteronomy 26:11 says to include resident foreigners in your celebrations. Or as we know them today, immigrants and refugees.
You will celebrate all the good things that the Lord your God has given you and your family, along with the Levites and the resident foreigners among you.
The model of the three tithes
Almost all teaching about tithes seems to focus on the one that pays the wages of the preacher – the sacred tithe. That’s the one you give to the church if you practice tithing.
However, your tithing is not done until you have paid all three tithes. The fact that we do not is why poverty keeps our communities in bondage.
These are the three tithes:
- The Levitical, or sacred tithe (Numbers 18:21-24).
- The tithe of the feasts (Deuteronomy 14:22-27).
- The tithe for the poor (Deuteronomy 14:28-29).
The tithe for the poor
The law regarding tithes talks repeatedly about “Levites, the resident foreigners, the orphans, and the widows”. In those days that was pretty much everyone unable to earn an income and feed themselves. In other words, those trapped in poverty.
Did you know that the provisions of Leviticus and Deuteronomy say to treat those in debt like the resident foreigners? That does not mean hound them out of the country as we are prone to do in this day and age. It means to care for them and keep them safe.
What do you think Matthew 25:31-46 is talking about if not caring for those in poverty? The division into reward or fire is not based on belief, confession, church attendance or anything else. The eternal reward is based on how you helped the poor and needy.
As it says in James 2:14-26, Faith without works is dead.
If you have extra houses
If you are fortunate enough to have more than one house, consider selling your spare houses like they did in Acts 4:32-35.
Then you can do what Leviticus 25 says and buy the freedom of your spiritual brothers and sisters. If you do not know how to distribute it yourself, find someone that does.
Are there fellow Christians trapped by crippling debt or locked into a mortgage they can no longer afford? Did you know that it is your biblical duty to go and buy their freedom?
Imagine the blessing you could unlock if you rocked up to the bank and just paid off another family’s debts. You would be making true the promise of Isaiah 61:1 by living it.
If you have additional houses under heavy mortgages
Okay so selling your houses would not net you much income. That happens. However, you can still bless the body of Christ without selling them.
I imagine you pay the mortgage by renting out your houses. That’s a business – and you might want to consider reading the next section too.
Think about this. Is there a family that lives in substandard housing? Maybe they cannot afford rent, or deposit. Maybe race is an issue that holds them back. Perhaps they were recently made homeless.
When one of your properties becomes vacant, that is an opportunity to bless a needy family. If you can offer them a year rent free so they can get back on their feet. Or if that is too expensive for you, offer them a rent much below market rates with no deposit.
Before they move in, you and some fellow Christians could pack the cupboards with food and furnish the house with items they need. Items which you will gift to the family.
Are you a Christian business owner?
If you are a Christian that owns a business, God has blessed you. What are you going to do with that blessing?
You could, for example, use the business to put those trapped into poverty into self-sufficiency. Here’s how.
Every seven or so years, take a tenth part of the business and separate it into a business of its own. One way to do this would be to set up your business as a franchise.
Now you have a new business that you could give, not sell, to a poor person from your local church.
The neediest people might not be equipped to run the business themselves. So you may wish to prepare in advance by taking them on as your apprentice. I don’t mean run a modern apprenticeship that some middle manager takes care of. I mean make them your right-hand person and let them learn from you by working with you.
When the time comes to gift them a business of their own, they will have the skills to run that business and make it grow. Teach them to do the same and in seven years time, the two of you will be able to help two more people out of poverty.
Do you earn enough to increase your savings regularly?
So you have savings. Good for you. Now it is time to think about how to bless others. After all, Matthew 6:19-21 says that we should store up treasures in heaven and not on earth.
Is there a family that you could bless by doing their grocery shopping for? If you believe in prayer (and I am assuming that you do) why not seek God and ask Him who you should shop for this week?
Don’t look to the well-dressed people sat at the front of the church. Turn your attention to the ones sitting at the back. The people that get overlooked.
Think about the families that never seem to go on vacation. The families that never seem to come to retreats and events. Maybe they don’t like going away but maybe they cannot afford to do so.
Do you own two cars?
Do you own two cars? Maybe you own several TV sets. Whatever you have multiples of you could share.
When you have a wealth of material things and there are others who have nothing how is the name of God blessed?
Consider that there might be others close by that lack the things you have. Do you really need all those things so much that you cannot give a few things away?
You cannot take your things with you so how about you release the blessing locked up in those items by giving them to those whose need is greater?
What does Luke 6:38 say about giving? Try it.
Do you only have sufficient?
Maybe all of these ideas are too much for your means. However, could you not make a meal stretch to a few more people?
In any church, there are the lonely ones. The singles and the elderly. You would enrich your life and their’s by simply inviting them to eat with you.
Skip the popular people. the names and faces of the church that everyone recognises. They have all the meal invites they need. Look for the people that get overlooked and bless them instead.
Do you not even have sufficient?
If you lack even enough for yourself, keep your money. Stop putting “tithes” into the church offering for a while. Use the money to pay your debts and feed your family. God the Father will understand.
Instead of tithing money, bless the body with anything you do have available – your time, your skills, your love.
Share what you have with those that appreciate it. “Seed gifts” mean nothing to the already wealthy. A cup of tea with a lonely person means the world to them.
The church could end poverty
I strongly believe that the church today has the means to end poverty in one generation. Two, at most.
The reason we do not is that we have failed to teach two-thirds of the tithing message. We have failed to remember that it is not “salvific category” but actions that define our faith.
For too many of us, our faith lacks works and is dead. We have become no better than the Pharisees – all law, no mercy.
It is time for the true Christians to take a stand against the prison of poverty. It is time for the church to show the world how it is done. It is time for our light to shine. It is time to show love to our brothers and sisters in need.