Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed

A Brother’s Wisdom 35

Homeless.jpgHow we treat the poor is a barometer of our faith in the Glorious Jesus Christ. That’s what James says in James 2:1 and then he sketches a scene before our eyes:

2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. 3 If
you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say,
“Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand
there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?


This scene is so clear and it makes me wonder how we do the same in our churches today. How do we show favortism to the rich (or well-heeled or attractive)? How do we show favortism against the poor (or unattractive)?

In that day, they gave the wealthy special seats and they made the poor to sit at their feet. (This reminds me of the Old North Church in Boston, where folks had their names on good box seats for church services.)

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posted April 15, 2009 at 1:46 pm

I think one way we show favortism is to make assumptions about the wealthy. One assumption is they are good leaders, so we put them on our leadership teams. We assign them more authority and grant more deference. We also grant power to some based on nothing more than their status.
perhaps we don’t have little tables with places for the rich or high status but we have places in our churches and in our minds for how they ought to be treated. We may not even see someone down and out or hurting or poor. They might be invisible and we might not even notice they are there.

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posted April 15, 2009 at 1:59 pm

our church just went through James and I remember from this passage that they were into the wealth gospel. That is, if you’re wealthy it’s because you’ve been blessed by God because of something you’ve done and if you’re poor it’s because you are doing something wrong and so not being blessed by God and so the discrimination was based on that.
If we’re going to look at present discrimination on that way, on a broader realm it’s what we think of the homeless, that they’re homeless because they’re less than in some way and even if they are the less than – drugs, alcohol or psych problems, we treat them differently. I think it’s out of fear of the not norm. But how I see it in our church is with those with psych problems, they are not fully in the enclave, they are pushed out some. Partly that’s because we don’t want to enable the behaviors that come out of the psych problems, and we try to be the role models of what normal is. I’ve been thinking about that lately and I don’t know how we can do those things without the not normal not fitting in with the normals.

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posted April 15, 2009 at 2:42 pm

This somewhat overlaps what Joanne stated, but some of the emphasis on wealth and leadership is in hopes more people would be impacted by their influence (and their money?). I know of at least 1 large church in which the church pastoral staff intentially gets involved with small groups that include influencers.
However, even with some kingdom-minded goals, there are downsides. Here is an Out of Ur review of a speech given by John Maxwell at a Catalyst Leadership Conference a few years ago.
“John Maxwell talked about ?natural selection? (my term, not his), that is, the unavoidable inequalities of leadership. People’s gifting for leadership isn’t all the same. He claimed that anyone can go from a low level to a high level of spirituality because it?s a choice people make. (I’ll pass on the theology embedded in that.) But not all people have the potential to be strong leaders, because it?s a gift and a skill. And if a person is a level 2 as a leader, they can work hard and reach a level 4 or 5, but they?ll never become a level 9. Only people who are born as a level 6 or 7 can ever hope to become a level 9.
The implication: if you want to develop strong leaders, don?t waste your time with people of low potential. Focus on those who can reach the higher levels. He cited the example of Jesus, who didn?t spend equal amounts of time with all people, nor even with all the disciples. He focused on the three, then the twelve, then everyone else.
While this may be true, it?s also true that Jesus made sure to spend significant ?face time? and ?touch time? with the lame, blind, and powerless. IMHO, this is an element often lacking among those who choose to spend their quality time only with those of great leadership potential.”

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posted April 15, 2009 at 4:43 pm

Essentially the same thing but I remember you once said: “The integrity of our faith is measured by our attitude towards the poor” – I like that and I have kept it close to my mind and heart…it needs to be in my eyes, hands and feet as well.

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Amy Ivey

posted April 15, 2009 at 8:38 pm

I love being challenged like that. Your opening paragraph is so true – and so convicting. God is teaching me so much about this lately. I think it all comes down to 1 Corinthians 13:2 “Without love, I am nothing.” Jesus tells us to love the poor, widow, orphan, and foreigner. That is where His heart is. By doing so, we are loving Him. Love is an action, not a feeling.
Every day we are faced with opportunities to love others (our spouse, our children, our neighbors, our church families, the homeless in our community, the poor halfway across the world.) We’re to love ALL, not part, not some, ALL. We love, because He first loved us.

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posted April 15, 2009 at 9:09 pm

There is a basic systemic problem in that churches that need large quantities of money need people who have it. Too often this is accepted as unavoidable reality rather than confronted with any biblical idealism.
Check this article for a lamentable example of the situation.

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posted April 15, 2009 at 9:13 pm

I have seen more often than makes me comfortable churches seek the well-to-do, figuring they can get them to fund programs or buildings or in one case that springs to mind, seeking the men, because they bring in the money, the women and the children. I think churches often get conformed to the world and the world’s thinking and that James is a good corrective. We need to be reminded that God works through the poor and unlikely and seemingly ungifted to achieve great things. Does it chill anyone else that a church or pastor could assign a leadership number to people and write off people whose number isn’t “high” enough?

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Mary Greer

posted April 16, 2009 at 1:44 am

I think alot of ministries seem to use God as a slot machine. Assuming that having wealth has something to do with being highly favored by God. It is very confusing listening to some. God is interested in our souls not our pocket books

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posted April 16, 2009 at 9:30 am

I’ve been thinking about these posts the last couple of days – and agree with joanne (#1) and Rick (#3) – and it bothers me greatly.
But then I ask myself why it bothers me. And the root answer is – because the favoritism doesn’t flow my way, never has in an evangelical church, – and it tweaks my pride to be one “not identified for leadership potential” and one “not valued for giving potential.” I don’t want to be part of the unimportant masses.
This analysis brings me back to the core message of James and from the mouth of Jesus. Food for thought.
But Scot will probably turn this back around to the evil of oppression – so I can rest in the assurance that the passage doesn’t apply to me and go back to being self-righteous and comfortable in my pride.

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posted April 16, 2009 at 9:52 am

I too feel the issue of favoritism not flowing my way. It has taken many years, but I am now glad that it did not flow my way. It would have in turn made me a decider of how improper favoritism flows to others, and I would have been completely blind to it. I don’t know that this has made me a better Christian, but at least I have been spared from some such acts of commission.

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posted April 16, 2009 at 9:29 pm

This thread has me thinking about how we define leadership. To me, natural leaders, those who rise without having positional authority, tend to be people who are willing to reach out to others, people who can communicate with a broad spectrum of people and who know what’s going on. This can presuppose extroversion and it does presuppose investment in the group, energy and caring. A great leader is someone who can spot the gifts and talents in people that might otherwise be overlooked and draw these gifts out for the benefit of the group (and the person, of course). I wonder if sometimes, however, leadership becomes defined as the people leaders like and want to be around, which then becomes clique building. Beyond this question of what makes a good leader, which may be a subject for another post, I see in Jesus someone who chose the unlikely for leadership. Peter jumps to mind.
I have been fortunate to be part of a faith community that nurtures leadership gifts in women, and I have seen women (myself included, I must say) who would never, ever have identified themselves (or been identified by others in other contexts) as worthy for leadership. It’s a gift to be able to witness and be part of that. I think there is pride in this, but also a cry from the heart that we have more gifts than we are sometimes credited with it.

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posted April 16, 2009 at 9:33 pm

OK, as usual, some confusion in the above comment but hope it can be understood! I really do know grammar! I promise. I even teach it, scary as that may to faithful readers of this blog.

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