Poverty & Wealth II (Part II of II): What Do We Do Now?
“Poverty & Wealth: What Do We Do Now?”
Question: What were you doing at 11:27 at night on May 30th, 2002?
It was a Thursday night—I looked it up. Many of you were in bed, getting rest for school the next day. Maybe you were sneaking in a few last moments of a book, homework, or a video game. Maybe you were complaining that your parents didn’t let you stay up later. Maybe you were glad to be sleeping because you had a rough day. Regardless, most of you were as young as four and as old as eight years old.
We are going to see what one little girl—approximately five years old—was also doing on May 30th, 2002, at 11:27pm.
It will be a little difficult to see this, so you’ll have to look closely, pay attention, and really concentrate (I cannot make the picture any larger). Try and figure out what is happening.
Introduction Video: Girl in the Yellow Dress
Question: What happened there? What was the little girl doing? Did you notice how many people walked by her?
Eight. Eight people walked right by a homeless child who was carefully making her “bed” and tucking herself in for a night of “sleep.” They walked right by and did nothing. Nothing. One guy was even counting his money as he walked by!!!
And notice that this girl was not screaming for help or crying because of her situation. She was calm and collected. Do you know why? Because she has probably done this many times before—she has probably been homeless for a long time and is used to it by now.
I wept when I first saw this last August…I cry less now that I have seen it a few times. Now, instead of being sad and hurt, I’m angry. And if I’m angry, sad, and hurt over a little girl I have never met and am not biologically related to, how much more does God feel the same—only intensify it by a billion times—because He made the child by hand, personally, in His image, and died for her on a cross.
This is what it means to be a Christian—a Christ-one—to know Jesus, to be like Jesus, and in the name of Jesus to do something, anything, no matter how little it may seem to us, to take care of other human beings who are suffering. This is what it means to be a “Christian,” my friends; this, and more, but nothing less. And hopefully, by the end of this day, each of us will walk away knowing what we can do now, today, to start ending poverty.
Illustration: Two Children and the Starfish (written & drawn out by SoulSpartan based on a short anecdote he heard somewhere).
There was a young boy and a young girl—best friends—whose families were both blessed to have beautiful houses right on the beach. Each morning during the summer they loved to race up and down the beach, soaking in the sun and collecting various sea shells. But starfish were their favorites…
One morning dark and ominous storm clouds were rolling in across the ocean, and their parents made them stay inside—the weather was supposed to be ferocious. Sure enough, the storm hit, and the young boy and girl munched on chicken nuggets and macaroni & cheese, glued to the patio windows as they watched nature’s fury wreaking havoc on their normally pristine beach.
As the friends normally did, they met up the next morning after breakfast for their regular adventures on the beach. But as they met up, they were stunned at what they saw. The entire beach, as far as the eye could see, was covered with starfish swept out of the ocean by the fierce storm. The two friends were horrified—they knew that the starfish would not survive long outside of the water because, since they don’t have blood, starfish actually use filtered sea water to transport nutrients throughout their bodies.
The two friends ran home crying, screaming for their parents to help them. Their parents were a bit surprised, and asked them what was going on. The friends explained frantically, and asked the parents to help them throw the starfish back into the ocean. The children ran ahead and were furiously throwing the dying starfish back into the sea.
Their parents, once they arrived at the beach, were stunned at the number of starfish on the beach. Their must be a million, they thought. They could barely see any sand. The young girl’s mother, shocked, asked her daughter why she was working so hard. “There are too many,” the mother said. “We can’t save all the starfish. What difference can we possibly make?”
The young girl quickly replied, without stopping from throwing the starfish back into the ocean, “We can make a difference for this one, and this one, and this one…”
The Point: It’s a mess out there, my friends—remember the statistics from last week? There is a lot of suffering, and it can be overwhelming for us. But Jesus doesn’t tell each of us to go out and solve these problems for everyone at once by ourselves—He tells us to go out and love these people one at a time, like the starfish. We might not be able to save/help everyone, but we can save/help one, and then another, and then another…And if we all work together with Jesus…
Transition: So there are two main points I want each of us to learn this morning—here’s the first:
First Main Point: 1. Jesus wants us to help people with their
A. Earthly Life (food, shelter, clothing, medicine, jobs, etc.—material poverty
B. Eternal Life (salvation, forgiveness of sins, rebirth—spiritual poverty)
-Suffering from material poverty can lead to death: hunger, homelessness, lack of water, etc.
-Suffering from spiritual poverty always leads to eternal death: separation from God forever.
While on earth there are some who suffer from poverty and some who don’t, the Bible teaches us that EVERYONE suffers from spiritual poverty—we are born separated from God, and without getting plugged back in, like a computer without electricity, we die spiritually without God.
Jesus of course realized this, and that is why on earth He helped people in both ways.
Scripture: Luke 9:10-11 (NIV)
“When the apostles returned, they reported to Jesus what they had done. Then he took them with him and they withdrew by themselves to a town called Bethsaida, but the crowds learned about it and followed him.
He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing.”
Question: What does the text say that Jesus did?
Response: He welcomed them, told them about the kingdom of God, and healed their bodies.
Jesus realized that the people were suffering in two important ways:
A. They were physically sick and needed healing—so He healed them.
B. They were spiritually sick and needed healing—so He told them about the cure: Himself!
We are to do the same—we are to share the wealth of our
A. Personalities, joy, time, energy, talents, opportunity, intelligence, money, & stuff;
We are also to share the wealth of
B. knowing Jesus, who alone can save the world from their sins for anyone who believes, asks, trusts, and follows Him.
It’s silly to only feed people for their 75 years on earth but starve them for their eternity…
…In fact, it’s not silly, it’s cruel (and the opposite is true as well).
Second Main Point:
2. Helping others is simple (not complicated), but it is not easy—A Case Study in Helping Others from Scripture.
Scripture: Luke 9:12-17 (NIV)
.“Late in the afternoon the Twelve came to [Jesus] and said,
‘Send the crowd away so they can go to the surrounding villages and countryside and find food and lodging,
because we are in a remote place here.’
He replied, ‘You give them something to eat.’
They answered, ‘We have only five loaves of bread and two fish—
unless we go and buy food for all this crowd.’ (About five thousand men were there.)
But he said to his disciples, ‘Have them sit down in groups of about fifty each.’
The disciples did so, and everybody sat down.
Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke them.
Then he gave them to the disciples to set before the people.
They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.”
Question: So what do we learn from this account—how does this apply to wealth and poverty?
A. The Disciples Notice the Need and Ask Jesus to Help the People (verse 12).
B. Jesus Commands the Disciples to Help the People Themselves! (verse 13).
C. The Disciples Respond—“We Can’t Do It, Jesus!” (verse 13).
D. Jesus Helps—He Does His “God Thing” with the Little We Offer (v.v. 14 & 16)
E. The Disciples Obey Jesus and Do Their Jobs—The Hungry Get Fed! (v.v. 15 & 17)
Review of Main Points:
1. Jesus wants us to help people with their
A. Eternal Life (salvation) (Luke 9:11)
B. Daily Life (food, shelter, clothing, medicine, etc.) (Luke 9:11)
2. Helping others is simple (not complicated), but it is not easy.
Side Note: This is where most teachers and pastors and parents fall short—we’re good at telling you what you’re supposed to do, but we’re not as good at telling you how you’re supposed to do it. It’s like telling you to go make dinner and then walking away without telling you how to get the ingredients, use the appliances, and find the recipe. Good luck with that!…
But that way of doing things all ends…today!
Question: So how do we do this? This is difficult. How do we end poverty and learn to share?
Answer: Start small.
Scripture: Luke 16:10 (NIV)
“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.”
Question: What is Jesus saying here? What does this verse mean?
Some people say, “If I had a million dollars, then I’d be able to help.”
Or they say,“When I’m older, then I’ll help. I’m too young now to make a difference.”
This, my friends, is nonsense—it is what is known as a “cop-out.”
A cop-out is when you don’t do something you are supposed to do and you come up with a slick excuse that makes you feel better about not doing what you’re supposed to do.
A. “The dog ate my homework” (Hah—yeah right!!!).
B. “I didn’t steal anything, my friends did. I was just with them” (Bo-gus!).
C. “He hit me first!” (Try again, pal).
D. “It’s not my mess—I didn’t make it!” (Wrong again, dude!).
The bottom line is this: Jesus is saying that if we cannot obey Him in the little things, we won’t obey Him in the bigger things.
A. If we aren’t generous with the five bucks in our pockets, we won’t be generous with five million.
B. If we aren’t kind and don’t share with the people in our house or in our neighborhood or in our youth group, then we won’t be kind and share with people we’ve never met who live thousands of miles away. That’s Jesus’ opinion…do you think we can trust Him?
Transition: So how can you start to help ending poverty in the world?
1. Ask Jesus to help you to help. Just like the disciples, we can’t do this alone.
A. Jesus wasn’t kidding when He said, “Apart from Me—[without Me]—you can do nothing” (John 15:5 NIV).
So ask Him to help you, everyday, when you wake up, before you go to sleep, and throughout your day. Just ask Him for help—it takes like fifteen seconds total. If we can’t—or won’t—give 15 seconds per day to ask for Jesus’ help, then we are kidding ourselves if we think we’ll give a day or a week or a lifetime to serve Jesus and others around the world.
2. Start small—at home, school, work and church.
A. Share your stuff with your siblings (and not because you have to!).
B. Help them with their homework.
C. Help them do their chores.
D. Help them clean up their messes.
E. Put a new roll of toilet paper on when you use the last of it. 🙂
F. Invite them to hang out with your friends.
G. Write them a note telling them how much you love them.
H. Leave some hot water for them in the shower each morning. 🙂
I. Honor your parents and others—for real.
J. Right away when you get home from school, ask your parents if there is any way you can help them.
K. Do your chores without huffing and puffing.
L. Drop the attitude, the “whatevers,” the rolling of the eyes, etc. Seriously, just stop. Ya’ll don’t treat me that way, so why them? Your Mom gave birth to you—just for that we owe our Moms respect and obedience. And your Dad gave up his Corvette…well, nevermind! 🙂
M. Say thank you after dinner, and when your Mom and/or Dad get home from work, run up to them and thank them for working hard today. They had to be respectful and obedient at work, so they know how you feel. If you don’t respect your parents, my friends, then you don’t respect God. Simple as that. Jesus said whatever you do to the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you do to Me. Again, Jesus wasn’t kidding here.
N. Respond to them and come downstairs, come to the dinner table, get off the phone/internet/video games. etc., the first time they ask you to. Anything less is disrespectful and rude, and your parents deserve better than that.
O. Put some thought and effort into the gifts you get your parents for their birthdays, Christmas, for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day (you do get them gifts, right?). Seriously, put some thought and effort into it—you don’t have to spend a lot of money, but you do have to invest a lot of thought and effort. Trust me, they do the same when they think about what to get you on your special days.
P. Look around and notice the people who need a friend.
Q. There are still many of you who have been attending this church for years, who have been meeting at church with the students in your grade for years, and you still don’t know very many people. That’s crazy! The number one reason that other 5th-8th graders don’t come to church here is not because it’s boring and it’s not because the leaders are mean: it’s because they say that they don’t have any friends here—they don’t “know anyone!” All you have to do is enlarge your circle of friends—look around and invite other people in.
Your friendship, just like your money or your stuff, is not yours to keep to yourself; God has blessed you with a wealth of personality so that you can be friends with others, not so you can stay with the people you already know.
3. Do your best in school—try (really try), don’t underachieve!
A. You go to school, take tests, and do homework for one reason: to develop and strengthen your critical thinking skills (your ability to think and figure out stuff). That’s the reason. And if you do your best in school (I’m not talking about just getting A’s, I’m talking about trying your hardest to learn and understand the material and get the work done with excellence and on time), then you will have the thinking skills when you’re older to solve some of these problems of poverty!
4. Don’t be afraid to be successful—it’s not wrong!
A. You also need to do well in school to get good jobs—we need more Christians who are CEOs, Executives, world-class musicians, actors, lawyers, doctors, principals, college professors, engineers, architects, writers, movie producers, etc.
Figure out what you are good at and what you love and do it as well as you can do it for Jesus. If it means you make a lot of money, then great! That’s a blessing (and a responsibility!) from God!
If it means that you become famous, then great. Then you can use that money, you can use your influence, you can use your experience and intelligence, to help those who are suffering in poverty. If God has blessed you with a wealth of talent at something, then go do it, and do it well! We can’t help people in poverty—children like the girl in the yellow dress—without having people who are good at advertising, speaking, writing, planning, handling finances and investing, organizing people and supplies, law, medicine, sociology, science, etc. It’s a total team effort!
5. Step up and serve those in poverty here in the United States and abroad:
Creeds n Deeds (monthly) and the Summer Mission Trip to Chicago (annually).
A. We average about 15 people at each of our monthly service projects that usually only take 3 hours of your time—I’m proud of you for that, but we have 275 students who could go. That means less than 10% of you actually come out and serve each month!
B. We average about 28 people each year for the Summer Mission Trip in Chicago—and I’m proud of you for that too! But we have approximately 200 people who could go. That means that only about 15% of you go on that fantastic trip!
Wait—do you hear that? Listen…My “cop-out” alarm is going off!
Seriously, right now I bet a lot of you are saying,
“But I have sports on Saturdays–I don’t have TIME for serving others; my team needs me!”
“But I usually hang out with my friends on Saturday–My Xbox 360 needs me!”
“But I go to Christian summer camp in June–I’ll be studying the Bible there. That counts, right?”
“But my family always goes on vacation the week of the Mission Trip in June. Come on, it’s my vacation!”
Fair enough, friends…But remember…
-Your Team, the Body of Christ, also needs you to do what Jesus died for us to do.
-You can invite your friends to come with—that makes serving even more fun!
-Studying the Bible endlessly without acting on it is annoying to God—in part, we read the Bible in order to do good things, not just in order to know good things.
-You can reschedule your vacation—you have thirteen weeks of it!
Bottom Line: With all of the facts you have learned these last two weeks and with all of the practical things you 5th-8th graders can do right now to help those suffering in poverty, you don’t need to ask yourself whether or not you are going to do something now.
You just need to ask yourselves,
“Do I really love Jesus?
Do I really believe what I claim to believe?
Am I really a Christ-One, or am I just pretending?”
And that’s not guilt, my friends, that’s reality: remember again Jesus’ own words (Matthew 25:40, 45 [NIV]):
“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.’ [The King] 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.’”
Closing Song: My Jesus (Todd Agnew)(Please click HERE)
My friends, please do not walk out of this room feeling guilty about being wealthy—
your wealth of
the Gospel, etc.
is a gift from God, not a curse!
But please also remember that having wealth of this kind comes with responsibility—
God gave all this to us in order that we might share it
so that others can thank Jesus, know Jesus, and love Jesus too.
The world is hungry—starving—for Jesus, my friends…and they don’t have time to wait until you’re
less busy, &
all grown up.
They need food and Jesus now, my friends, and you’re ready, now…
They’re starving for Jesus…
…And Jesus is telling us,
“You feed them…and don’t worry; I’ll be there to help you every step of the way!”