Once there was a fisherman who enjoyed all the luxuries of fishing. He had a large luxurious fishing boat, a top of the line motor, a state of the art depth finder and GPS, the best rods and reels money could buy, and plenty of resources to get his hands on any bait and tackle he needed. He woke up every day with the best fishing at his fingertips. His Dad was a good fisherman and taught him a lot about fishing. He even went to fishing school. He fished almost every day and was one of the best fishermen around. Sometimes he would take for granted that the best lakes, streams, and ponds were easily accessible to him, and that he had the means to enjoy them all. Often, after he fished, he would have leftover bait and just throw it away. And, on some days, he would catch so many fish that he had to buy extra freezers just to store them. He set out almost every day to see how many more fish he could catch and how full he could stock his freezers. He figured….. “why not stock my freezer and save up for a rainy day”? “That way, when I get tired of fishing and want to quit, I will have plenty of fish for the future”. This is pretty much how he lived his life…..catching fish and stocking his freezer.
On the other side of the lake that this fisherman often fished in, there were many other fishermen. They didn’t look like him, most didn’t talk like him, and if you asked him, they weren’t as good of fisherman as he was. Many of them didn’t have a boat, and if they did, it didn’t have a motor. Most of them did not have nice rods and reels or accessories. And most of them did not have the resources to access good bait. Some had no fishing supplies at all. They also lived on the side of the lake where the water was muddy, shallow, and hard to fish. One day, the game warden came by and visited the fisherman on the nice side of the lake. He told him all about the fisherman on the other side of the lake and how tough it was over there. The game warden was trying to get some of the fishermen from the nice side of the lake to help out the other fishermen. He explained that these fishermen sometimes went days and even weeks without catching fish. “How could this be?”, asked the fisherman from the nice side of the lake. “They have access to the same lake I do. They can go get a boat. They can go buy bait. I worked hard for these fishing supplies and fish”. Somewhat reluctantly, the fisherman went to his freezer, took out a small fish filet, and gave it to the game warden to take to the other fishermen.
One day, the game warden asked the fisherman to join him for a trip to the other side of the lake. The game warden wanted the fisherman’s help in showing the other fishermen how to fish. The fisherman declined. He said that he felt uncomfortable on that side of the lake and that it was dangerous. Life went on. The fisherman caught many fish, filled up many freezers, and was secure and comfortable. Now and then he would give up one or two fish to the folks on the other side of the lake. Occasionally the game warden would visit him and explain how tough things were for the other fisherman, but nothing really changed. At the end of one summer, the game warden stopped by to visit the fisherman. He had passed away. His freezers were still there, full of rotten fish.
I certainly can relate to this fisherman. When I look at what my true needs are in life, it is blatantly obvious that I have all I need and much more. I heard some statistics this week that were extremely alarming. Over 50% of the world lives off of less than $2 a day! Over 800 million people around the world, do not have enough food to sustain them. This makes hunger and malnutrition the number one risk to health globally. Approximately 20,000 people die each day of hunger or related illnesses, approx 9 million people per year. A child dies from hunger-related causes every 7 seconds. More than 1 billion people experience hunger on a daily basis. Approximately 5 million people die every year, one child every 15 seconds of water-related illnesses. In the US, 1 in 6 children live below the poverty level. The statistics go on and on. They are extremely alarming, but it is easy to get lost in statistics and numbers.
How can I live my life and just ignore this? I sure have been. I have been so focused on me, myself, and I, that the needs of others seem so distant. I have been focusing on building my castles of sand and living my life by my rules, not true biblical guidance. There are hundreds of verses in the bible that refer to giving to the needy, feeding the hungry, and helping the poor. I have read the bible cover to cover, but these verses never really interested me until now. You see, I have been caught up in the “American Dream”. Work hard, play hard, and get as secure and comfortable as I can. Some may ask “what’s wrong with that”. I used to think nothing was wrong with it. But, plain and simple, it’s not biblical. The “prosperity gospel”, as it is sometimes called, is no gospel at all. The bible does not teach that we should seek earthly wealth, security, or comfort. In fact, it teaches the opposite.
· “Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” Psalm 82:3-4
· “He who despises his neighbor sins, but blessed is he who is kind to the needy.” Proverbs 14:21
· “He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.” Proverbs 14:31
· Proverbs 30:8-9 — “Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’
· “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter– when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” Isaiah 58:6-7
· Ecclesiastes 5:10-15 — “Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless. As goods increase, so do those who consume them. And what benefit are they to the owner except to feast his eyes on them? The sleep of a laborer is sweet, whether he eats little or much, but the abundance of a rich man permits him no sleep. I have seen a grievous evil under the sun: wealth hoarded to the harm of its owner, or wealth lost through some misfortune, so that when he has a son there is nothing left for him. Naked a man comes from his mother’s womb, and as he comes, so he departs. He takes nothing from his labor that he can carry in his hand.”
· Luke 12:15-17, 19-21, 33 — “Then he said to them, ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.’ And he told them this parable: ‘The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, … “[I] have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you.” This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God. … Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. …’ ”
· 2 Corinthians 8:7, 13-14 — “But just as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us—see that you also excel in this grace of giving. … Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality …”
· 2 Corinthians 8:1-3, 9 — “And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability … For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.”
· 2 Corinthians 9 : 6 – 15 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: “He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and
will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. And in their prayers for you their
hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!
· I Timothy 6: 17 – 19 17Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.
· “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” 1 John 3:17-18
· James 2:14-17 What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
The above are just a few verses. Jesus summed it up for us. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength and love your neighbor as yourself”. If I am “to love my neighbor as myself”, then why do I have everything I need in life and many of my “neighbors” are hungry, sick, thirsty, poor, needy, etc… The “American Dream” of wealth, security, and comfort can be a spiritual cancer. Once it starts spreading, it runs wild. It consumes us. If not caught early and treated, it is deadly. And the treatment is not so fun.
Matthew 25 : 31–46
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in
heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from
another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the
goats on his left.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you
gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and
you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in
prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and
give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes
and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of
mine, you did for me.’
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire
prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty
and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and
you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes
or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
“He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not
do for me.’
“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
I believe we are saved by grace, and definitely not by works. But Jesus is very clear here. There will be 2 groups of people. Those that helped (sheep) those in need and those that did not (goats). He is also clear in stating that those that helped those in need will inherit eternal life and that those that did not help “will go away to eternal punishment”.
“Sometimes I would like to ask God why He allows poverty, suffering and injustice when He could
do something about it.”
“Well, why don’t you ask Him?”
“Because I’m afraid He would ask me the same question.”
Luke 9:25 – What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet forfeit his soul?