Poverty & Wealth (Part I of II)…
Poverty & Wealth: What They Are and What We Can Do About Them!
Introduction: Various Statistics on Poverty:
Transition: My friends, for the next two Sundays we are going to be learning about poverty and wealth in the United States of America and around the world. We will use statistics, the Bible, and some common sense in an effort to understand what poverty & wealth are, what they are not, who is affected by them, and how Jesus wants His followers of all ages to respond to poverty & wealth.
Illustration: Fish and Land Animals
God has created a beautiful world for fish and ocean life—gorgeous coral reefs, colorful fish, warm waters, plenty of food, shelter, and entertainment. God has blessed fish with a great world!
But if you could talk to a fish, they probably would not believe that another equally beautiful, but even more harsh and difficult, world exists: the world of land! The fish don’t notice this land because they are focused on their beautiful ocean world—and plus, they could say that they don’t have the body parts to live on land and help out: they have gills, not lungs. They couldn’t survive on land!
For Us: Friends, that is how many of us feel about poverty: we barely notice that it exists, even though the majority of the world suffers from it. It’s like another world that we don’t see—or don’t want to see—because we are too focused on ourselves and the beautiful world that God has blessed us with. But unlike fish who truly can’t survive on land, we can survive if we go to love, support, and serve those in poverty! Not only has God made it possible for us to do this, He expects us to do this…
But before we can do something, we have to realize that there is a problem—we have to look around and notice (not just focus on ourselves and people who are “like us”). And then we have to see that we can help, that there is something that we can do, and something that God wants and even expects us to do. That’s what we are going to be focusing on the next two weeks. This isn’t about charity; this is about having real and active faith in Jesus. This is about putting our faith in Him into action and showing Jesus—not only telling Jesus—that we love Him.
Today we are going to look at poverty & wealth: what they are, and what they are not.
1. Poverty is not a sign that God loves some people less.
2. Poverty is a very difficult challenge in life—it’s real hard.
3. Wealth is not a sign that God loves some people more.
4. Wealth is a very difficult challenge in life, but it is a blessing and a responsibility—it is not bad to be wealthy!
Question: What do you think poverty means? What is it?
Let’s check out the dictionary for some help:
Poverty is “the state or condition of having little or no money, goods, or means of support; condition of being poor” (www.dictionary.com).
“POVERTY, DESTITUTION, NEED, WANT imply a state of privation and lack of necessities. POVERTY denotes serious lack of the means for proper existence: living in a state of extreme poverty. DESTITUTION, a somewhat more literary word, implies a state of having absolutely none of the necessities of life: widespread destitution in countries at war. NEED emphasizes the fact that help or relief is necessary: Most of the people were in great need. WANT emphasizes privations, esp. lack of food and clothing” (www.dictionary.com).
Wow. Okay. Now we’re starting to learn something here.
Question: For those who are suffering under poverty, what are some of the things they need?
Responses: Precisely. Food, water, clothes, a home, medicine, a job—the basics.
But the Bible also talks about another type of poverty—being poor in spirit…
Being poor in our ability to do the right thing, in our ability to even want to do the right things.
In this sense, all of us are poor, and Jesus has come to make us rich in this way.
So keep that it mind—we’re going to focus on material poverty in the next two lessons, but an even more destructive and insidious poverty that we all share is the poverty of spirit. Jesus is the only cure for that.
Main Point #1: Poverty is not a sign that God loves some people less.
Question: How do I know this?
Response: Let’s look at the Bible to find out.
Scripture: Matthew 8:20 NIV—what does this mean?
“Jesus replied, ‘Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.’”
Isaiah 53:2-3—what does this mean?
“The servant grew up before God—a scrawny seedling, a scrubby plant in a parched field. There was nothing attractive about him, nothing to cause us to take a second look. He was looked down on and passed over, a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand. One look at him and people turned away. We looked down on him, thought he was scum. But the fact is, it was our pains he carried—our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us. We thought he brought it on himself, that God was punishing him for his own failures. But it was our sins that did that to him, that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins!” (The Message)
Matthew 3:16-17—what does this mean? In relation to the other passages?
“As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’”
What It Doesn’t Say: “This is my Son, Whom I love, because He has clear skin, rippling muscles, white teeth, the best clothes, the coolest stuff, and the most friends, etc.”
The Verdict: Jesus was homeless, did not have a lot of money, and was not attractive on the outside (He suffered from material and physical/appearance poverty) yet God the Father loved Him very much! So God loves those in poverty just as much as He loves those who are wealthy.
Main Point #2: Poverty is a very difficult challenge in life!
Clarification: So please remember, when we talk about poverty & wealth,
A. we are not talking about some middle schoolers who have Playstation 3 and other middle schoolers who still “only” have Playstation 2 or Nintendo 64;
B. we’re not talking about some middle schoolers who have a five bedroom house and other middle schoolers who “only” have a three bedroom house or who live in an apartment;
C. we’re not talking about some middle schoolers who own a horse and other middle schoolers who only own a bike.
D. we’re not talking about some middle schoolers who have an 80 gig IPod Video and other middle schoolers who only have an IPod Shuffle.
In those examples, everyone is wealthy!!!
E. We’re talking about some middle schoolers who have food in their house to eat anytime they want, and other middle schoolers who haven’t eaten in two days because they don’t have money to buy food;
F. we’re talking about some middle schoolers who, when they’re sick, get better quickly because they get to go to the doctor, stay home from school, eat chicken noodle soup, and watch t.v. all day, and other middle schoolers who, when they’re sick, do not get well quickly because they sleep outside in the cold, can’t afford to see a doctor, and do not have healthy food to eat.
G. we’re talking about some middle schoolers who can concentrate on their schoolwork because they just had a delicious breakfast and lunch, and other middle schoolers who get bad grades and fall behind in their work because their hunger pains don’t allow them to concentrate.
So that’s what we mean by poverty—it’s serious, it stinks, and it is not necessary. Remember those statistics form the beginning of the lesson…
Transition: Now we’ve talked about what poverty is, and what it isn’t. Let’s move on to wealth.
Question: What do you think wealth is? What is it?
Let’s check out the dictionary again to help us out:
“A great quantity or store of money, valuable possessions, property, or other riches; an abundance of anything; plentiful amount; anything that has utility and is capable of being exchanged. An antonym to poverty” (www.dictionary.com).
Okay—sweet. Now we’re really starting to learn some good stuff here.
Question: So what are some of the things that the wealthy have a lot of?
Response: Precisely. Food, water, clothes, a home, medicine, a job, time, opportunity, etc.
But again, just like with poverty, there is another kind of wealth. There is the wealth of knowing God, of wanting to be like Him and wanting to serve Him. Some people actually want this, young people; for some people, reading the Bible, going to church, forgiving people at home and school, sharing with others, going on mission trips, inviting the new/weird kids to hang with you, telling others how great Jesus is, some young people actually want to do this stuff—they don’t have to be forced!!!
Also, there is the wealth of:
A. opportunity—going to good schools and getting good jobs;
C. parents and other adults who love you and care about you—like the small group leaders here!;
D. being talented and really good at stuff—like teaching, playing a sport, acting, being a doctor or lawyer or engineer; E. personality—some of you have so much joy, happiness, charisma and encouragement to share with others because so many people do not have these things!
So there are many different kinds of wealth in addition to the wealth of stuff.
Main Point #3: Wealth is not a sign that God loves some people more.
Question: How do I know that?—Let’s check the Bible!
Scripture: Matthew 5:45 (The Message)—what does this mean?
“This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty.”
Response: God loves everyone, for He blesses everyone—the annoying and the fun, the kind and the mean, the rich and the poor, the dirty and the clean.
The Verdict: God loves everyone, regardless of wealth or poverty, the same! So having less than others, or having more than others, does not show that God loves you less or more (but, as we will see in a moment, it does show that God expects more).
Main Point #4: Wealth is a very difficult challenge in life: a blessing & a responsibility—but it is not bad to be wealthy!
Scripture: Luke 8:1-3 (NIV)—what does this mean? (Wealthy women supported Jesus!)
“After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Cuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.”
Job 1:1-3 NIV—what does this mean? (God loved Job very much—and he was wealthy!)
“In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. He had seven sons and three daughters, and he owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys, and had a large number of servants. He was the greatest man among all the people of the East.”
John 19:38-42—what does this mean? (Joseph was a friend of Jesus—and he was wealthy!)
“Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.”
Verdict: God loves the wealthy too, but we have been given our wealth for a reason—to share it!
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 9:11-12 (NIV)
“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.”
Scripture: Luke 12:48 (NIV)
“From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”
God does not only give us wealth—stuff, opportunity, intelligence, talent, love for Him—just so we can have fun and enjoy it. You can enjoy it, and you can have fun with it—don’t feel guilty about the gifts that God has given you. He gave them to you!
But He mainly gives us wealth so that we can share it with others.
Closing Song: Another Day in Paradise by Phil Collins (please click HERE)
Closing: My friends, there are suffering people around the world and around the block who are crying out to God, “Please help us—please do something!” God is responding to them, “I know, and I will. I am waiting for My people, those who claim to be Christian and claim to know and love me, to bring My help to you.”
May we put our faith in Jesus into action today…so that others can know how great Jesus is and how much He loves them through us…