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The Story of a Lifetime

• Sandra Unger

Sandra Unger guest speaks this weekend and tells a story of poverty and how to make a difference. She tells an all too familiar story of hope lost and continuing the cycle of poverty. Walking us through the biblical commands, Sandra points out how important it is to help the poor, but with something more important than money.

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Loving the poor is difficult. Whether it’s preconceived notions or problems dealing with individuals in the past, it’s simply not easy to help the poor. And yet, God commands us to do so. In this sermon, Sandra Unger gives us four thoughts about helping the poor.

The first thought is that money is not the answer. This may seem contrary to most logic, as poverty is defined as lack of wealth. One would assume that if you give a person money, they would be able to get out of poverty. However, the problem lies in financial literacy. Having money is like reading–if you’ve never read a book, then someone giving you a book won’t help you read. In a similar way, if you’ve never had money to manage and spend wisely, then someone giving you money won’t teach you financial literacy. Money does play a role in helping the poor, but teaching others how to use that money in wise ways may be a more important factor.

The second thought is that the poor simply need someone to care about them on an individual basis. A relationship feeds a poor person more than giving them some money for food ever will. When a person feels cared about, they are more likely to care about their lives and where they are headed. When we care about other people, it shows God’s love through us. But here’s the tricky part, we can’t care about a large group of people, we can only care for individuals.

Loving the poor in general may be an excuse for loving nobody in particular. Loving the poor in general is safer than loving individuals. There is no messy relationship stuff that gets in the way. There are no late night phone calls or someone you care about asking for help when a person loves the poor in general. Sure, they may give some money to an organization to help, but money alone isn’t the answer. It takes time and relationship to foster true change.

The third idea is that God has asked us to take care of the poor. The western, protestant mindset of “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” doesn’t work when people are mired in a chronic situation, and especially doesn’t work when they can’t afford boots. As Sandra lists in her sermon, caring for the poor honors God and he responds to it. In fact, it shows that people’s lives are intertwined with the poor. How we respond to the poor is how Jesus interprets our response to him. When we love the poor, we love Jesus. But we can’t love the poor as a group without loving the poor as individuals, in relationship.

The final idea that Sandra shares is that loving the poor is not easy. It will stretch you. It will make you uncomfortable. It will challenge a lot of your thinking and how you live life. It will require sacrifice. It’s scary. But that’s exactly what Jesus does to our lives. He comes and shows us truth and living as God would have us live, and it’s not easy. Anyone who tells you it is easy is lying. But rather than backing down from the challenge, we should embrace it as God has embraced us. We’re not easy to deal with either. Yet God stepped down from divinity to humanity, and surely we can step across socioeconomic lines.

These four thoughts on helping the poor do not come with a sigh of relief. It’s difficult being called to helping the poor, and it’s even more difficult to for relationships with people from a different background. But we don’t have to do it alone. As a community, we should step together and individually, but corporately, begin a relationship with those who are in need. To paraphrase Karl Barth, God is on the side of those who are oppressed and poor. We should seek to stand with God wherever he is, and not back down when it gets scary.

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Topics: Generosity, Hope, Poverty


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Focus Scripture:

  • Luke 4:18-19

    “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
    He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
    to set the oppressed free,
    to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

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7 thoughts on “The Story of a Lifetime

    Michelle says: Tuesday August 16, 2011 at 11:32 pm

    Have you ever taken them into your home for a duration? I mean 3 to 4 years and still take care of them after they are out of the system? My loving mother did from the time I was 7 until she couldn’t because of health reasons at age 72. She didn’t invite them into our home because of money, she was on a mission like your words describe.Grind it out & get back to those of us who have truly lived it. God has a place for all of them & he doesn’t make mistakes. Thanks.

    Reply
    Andrew says: Wednesday August 17, 2011 at 11:12 am

    Hey Michelle–thanks for posting! It can be very difficult to develop relationships with those from different backgrounds, especially socioeconomic backgrounds.

    I was wondering if you could explain a little further on your comment “Grind it out & get back to those of us who have truly lived it.” When your mother took others into the home, was it a bad experience? Or were you encouraging people who haven’t taken others into their home to take people into their home before judging them?

    I would love to hear more from you 🙂

    Reply
    Valerie says: Wednesday August 17, 2011 at 12:10 pm

    Wow! I like her!! I amd so inspired by what Sandra does and the lessons she just taught me. I was emailing this message to several friends as I watched it. My heart breaks for those stories. I just havent been exposed to them enough. Thank you Sandra! I hope to live in a similar fashion as you one day soon!

    Reply
    Ann says: Thursday August 18, 2011 at 6:26 am

    Moving, impressing, and inspiring! I would be grateful if someone could send me the text Sandra read out! Is it possible? It would certainly move others I know. Thanks in advance!

    Reply
    Jim LePage says: Thursday August 18, 2011 at 10:34 am

    Ann: Here are a couple of the quotes Sandra used:

    God always takes His stand unconditionally and passionately on this side and on this side alone: against the lofty and on behalf of the lowly; against those who already enjoy right and privilege and on behalf of those who are denied it and deprived of it….The Command of God is a call for the championing of the weak against every kind of encroachment on the part of the strong.
    — Karl Barth

    Especially among Christians in positions of wealth and power, the idea of reading the Gospels and keeping Jesus’ commandments as stated therein has been replaced by a curious process of logic. According to this process, people first declare themselves to be followers of Christ and then they assume that whatever they say or do merits the adjective “Christian.”
    — Wendell Berry

    Hope that helps!

    Reply

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