Future Tense Part 1: Rich Man Poor Man
We live in an increasingly polarised world. The rich are getting richer and the poor are increasing and getting poorer and the numbers in the middle are dwindling. This is happening here and in America. But globally there is iniquitous inequity. Young people are seeing no hope for them in the future and it affects who they are and the choices that they make. Many of us may feel that we have suffered injustice or know someone who has. We may have resented the hand we were dealt. This is not what God intends and if we would call ourselves his followers then we need to recognise what is going on and fight for justice. He speaks about this through one of his prophets Isaiah. He lived several years before Jesus and writes of the two-faced nature of his so-called worshippers. You can read this here.
The voice of God reminds Israel of their sins. Their piety and righteousness are all an act, as is their desire to draw close to God and obey him. God describes them as selfish. It is clear that God sees into the heart of his so-called worshippers. He sees through their shallow imitation of faith. He is looking for an expression of their faith and love for him in the way that they treat others. He is not looking for people who go through the motions of faith. He wants people who live for justice and equality. He calls for prisoners to be freed, an end to oppression of workers. Food and shelter for all. This is big stuff, but a smaller thing is to stop the pointing of fingers and spreading vicious rumours. God says that people who reflect his love and care will feel the favour of God and shine in this dark world. They will be as beautiful and desirable as a well-watered garden.
He also ends with a call to be obedient to the call to keep that Sabbath and use that time to delight in him and share that delight. He doesn’t want people to just do what they feel like instead. He knows that we need to rest, to refocus on Him to keep us on the right track and express our real devotion to Him.
This is all very challenging to us today. This calling out of superficial faith is challenging. Also, the long list of the ways that we are to bring righteousness and justice into our world is also challenging. There are many ways that we can get involved with social justice that we do as a church such as; CAP, Storehouse, Martha’s meals, HomeStart, and the Winter Night Shelter to mention just a few. Perhaps you could spend an hour a month coming along to Global Prayer and Praise where we pray for those imprisoned for their faith.
There are also other ways that you can make a difference to the poor. You can at least give eye contact with the homeless and big issue sellers. Maybe buy them a sandwich. You can try to buy fair trade products to ensure that workers are not exploited. You could sign petitions that come through the email to you. There are also local organisations that you could be involved with.
Imagine the impact it would have if everyone who professed to be a Christian took a stand against injustice. It has been said that “for evil men to accomplish their purpose it is only necessary that good men should do nothing”.
After a new vicar disguised himself as a homeless person and went to church one Sunday he was disappointed at the way Christians treated him. After he had been ignored and humiliated, he walked to the pulpit and introduced himself as their new pastor and told the congregation what he had experienced that morning. He said to them; "Today I see a gathering of people here, but I do not see a church of Jesus. The world has enough people that look the other way. What the world needs is disciples of Jesus that can follow his teachings and live as he did. When will YOU decide to become disciples?”
Hopefully this wouldn’t be his experience in our congregation, but we still have a long way to go. Let us decide today to obey the commands of God and to love our neighbour as ourself. The world would be a very different place if we all did that. There would be a demonstrable light in the darkness.
Read the passage through a couple of times.What jumps out at you? Is there anything that shocks or surprises you or anything that you find hard to accept or understand? What and why?
There is a similar passage in the New Testament where Jesus talks about looking after those in need in Matthew 25:31-46. There is an even stronger incentive for caring for those in need. The difference between heaven and Hell. How does this passage challenge our understanding of being saved by faith in Jesus?
Jesus says that when we serve others in need we serve him. How does that change our perspective or heart when we see a homeless person on the street?
Make a list of the things mentioned in these 2 passages. Which are mentioned in both? How are we doing at expressing our worship through doing these things?
What things on these lists are easier to do and which are harder? Why is that? How can we overcome any fears or problems that we have that prevent us living this way?
As a result of looking at these passages is there anything that you feel you need to do? What is your next step?