How was Jesus poor and why did he become poor? Why would God come into the world as a man in poverty? Paul the apostle provides an answer.

“But just as you excel in everything—in faith and in speaking and in knowledge and with all diligence and in the love from us that is in you—so may you excel in this grace [of giving generously] also. I am not saying this as a command, but proving the genuineness of your love by means of the diligence of others. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that although he was rich, for your sake he became poor, in order that you, by his poverty, may become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:6–9 LEB).

In making the case for living graciously and generously, Paul pulls in the example of Jesus. He states that Jesus became poor for the sake of the world. The implications of this for our lives cannot be overstated.

How Was Jesus Poor?

The first level of Jesus’ poverty came in his decision to become a human (see Philippians 2:5–11). When Jesus decided to become human he moved from being crowned in glory in heaven to being mortal. He went from being able to move like a spirit to being stuck in flesh. But Jesus took it on gladly, for our sake.

Jesus took on poverty for our sake. He even became poor in a very ordinary way: He grew up in poor Nazareth and was a traveling preacher, who was basically homeless (see Luke 9:57–58).

If Jesus had not chosen to become human, he would not have been able to save us. If Jesus had not become physically poor, he likely would not have been as effective as a minister. Even in his poor appearance, Jesus was an attractive teacher—a stark contrast to the rich teachers of his day (compare Isaiah 53:1).

What the Poor Understand that the Rich Do Not

Jesus understood that it was through enduring poverty that he was able to reach and save humanity. On his way to dying for the world—on the cross—Jesus became a poor man. Those of us with much must realize how incredibly far we actually are from the state Jesus lived in. We must also keep in mind that our poor neighbors understand many things about Jesus that we do not.

This is why Jesus says things like, “Blessed are the poor, because yours is the kingdom of God" (Luke 6:20 LEB). The Macedonians, who Paul talks about just before the above passage in 2 Corinthians, gave out of their poverty because they understood what it meant to be in need (see 2 Corinthians 8:1–5). The wealthy Corinthians had a harder time seeing the perspective of the kingdom of God and hence Paul's not so subtle rebuke.

If Paul was alive today, he would probably remind us of the exact same thing he brought up to the Corinthians: be gracious in your giving and your lifestyle, for Jesus was incredibly gracious to us. Do what you can for those in need. And spread the good news of Jesus at all cost (compare James 1:27).

How does Paul’s perspective on Jesus, giving, and poverty change your perspective? Drop me a comment, I would love to hear from you.*


Want to go deeper into this subject? Check out my new book, Jesus' Economy: A Biblical View of Poverty, the Currency of Love, and a Pattern for Lasting Change. With simple, everyday choices you can make the world a better place. Learn how to live Jesus' economy, the currency of love.


*This article is adapted in part from my earlier article, "What Saint Paul Wants You to Understand about Jesus and Poverty."

If we want to understand what God desires in a leader (or any Christian for that matter), we need look no further than the book of Titus.

Near the beginning of Titus, Paul says why he had previously left Titus in Crete. While the book of Acts doesn’t fill is in on the details of when Paul planted a church in Crete, and when he left Titus there, we know from the letter to Titus that Paul saw this venture on the fourth largest island in the Mediterranean as critical. While explaining why he left Titus on the island, Paul gives us a glimpse into his view of Christian leadership, saying:

“The reason I left you in Crete was that you might put in order what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you. An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it” (Titus 1:5–9 NIV; compare 1 Timothy 3:1–7).

The 5 Attributes of a Christian Leader

In Titus 1:5–9, Paul tells Titus that anyone who assumes a church office should have five attributes:

  1. be a respectable person
  2. who knows how to teach others in the ways of Jesus,
  3. who knows how to love their family and others well,
  4. who doesn’t do things that are clearly against Jesus’ teachings,
  5. and is not a recent convert to Christianity (i.e., been a Christian for awhile).

It also makes sense for people who have the role of overseer to have the ability to do what Paul calls "discern spirits"—to protect the church from heretical teachings is a critical function of church leaders (see 1 Corinthians 12:10; Titus 1:10–16). This could also be defined as an orthodoxy filter and concern for the church staying on track.

3 Descriptors of Christian Leaders

If I were to narrow the above list to three overarching attributes or principles, these three could cover all of the above: 

  1. Capable and respected teacher (with discernment)
  2. Loving, in all spheres of life (at home and publicly)
  3. Experienced at living as a follower of Jesus (a true disciple of Jesus)

Now what I’m not saying here is that these are requirements for God to call a leader. All leaders depend on the grace of God; and God clearly calls the unexpected (e.g., Paul himself; Moses; David). I'm also not saying that a person who falls outside of these requirements is immediately disqualified—again grace and a repentant heart is central. Instead, these are requirements for someone to actually take a leadership position. These are the general rule we look to.

Live the Christian Principles of Leadership

Shouldn’t we all strive to these principles? Imagine what could occur in our world if we lived as people who were capable and respected, loving in all we do, and who experienced Jesus daily.

If we lived Christian principles of leadership, people would certainly wonder, “What is that makes this person who they are?” They would ask you about the faith you cling to. You would make a true and lasting difference in our world, living as a true missionary for Jesus in everything you do.

This article is part of our series, "How to Authentically Live as a Christian: Paul's Letter to Titus."


Enjoy this article? Check out my new book, Jesus' Economy: A Biblical View of Poverty, the Currency of Love, and a Pattern for Lasting Change. With simple, everyday choices you can make the world a better place. Learn how to live Jesus' economy, the currency of love.

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” 

This proverb is a good start, but ultimately inadequate. We must do more than just feed the poor and teach them how to put food on the table. We must walk with the impoverished through the process of coming out of poverty—as their friends. And then, we must connect them to the right resources, so that their livelihoods are sustainable.

What if there aren't enough fish?

We must do more than teach the man to fish—we must fish with him for a while to see what the fishing is like. And then, we must ensure that the fish will always be around. This means connecting people to a larger pool of fish. It means considering not just local economies but the global economy.

When we consider how to best help those who are hurting, we have to think through not just the immediate problems but also the long-term difficulties. We should be asking questions like: How can I help someone not just build a business but be connected to a global marketplace?

So we could say the proverb should be revised to:

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and connect him with the best fishing holes and you feed him for a lifetime.”

But what if the fishing is ruined by the environment or what if people steal the man's fish? How can we fix those types of problems? Our proverb may need even further revision.

Life is about more than fishing

Life is about much more than “learning how to fish.” If you teach a person to fish, but don’t meet their other basic needs, they will continue to struggle. It's not good enough to have fish to eat if I don't have clean water to drink or a medic clinic where that can care for my wounds.

Also, if you teach a person to fish but don’t help bring ethical standards to their community, their society will eventually fall apart. The good work will be undone.

There are deep rooted problems in society and these problems are ultimately spiritual. Corruption can destroy any good work. That's where ethics and thus healthy churches come in. We have to change the environment we live in if we want to see lives changed. We have to change the society.

"I will make you fishers of men."

And let’s also not forget what Jesus taught us about fishing in general: We are to do more than meet needs—we must lead people into God’s kingdom and the lifestyle that kingdom demands. Jesus' earliest disciples were fishermen and look what he said to them:

"And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then He said to them, 'Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.' They immediately left their nets and followed Him" (Matthew 4:18–19 NKJV).

Perhaps, then, we need to revise the proverb once more:

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and connect him with the best fishing holes and you feed him for a time. Join a man in lifting his society out of spiritual and physical poverty and he will never be hungry again."

Although, often the "man" you find will turn out to be woman, whom we should never hesitate to empower. She can lift her entire family out of poverty. Thus the proverb is just as accurate when it reads as follows:

“Give a woman a fish and you feed her for a day. Teach a woman to fish and connect her with the best fishing holes and you feed her for a time. Join a woman in lifting her society out of spiritual and physical poverty and she will never be hungry again."

Let's look at the whole picture

We need to do everything we can to look at the entire picture: the spiritual and physical problems affecting people. I believe this is how we empower people to overcome poverty. This is what creating a new, spiritual and physical economy for those who need it most is all about. This is what creating Jesus' economy is about.

I hope this article inspires you to do more than teach a man to fish. I hope you decide to really love someone today. Walk with people on their way out of poverty and work with them towards sustainability. Help instill biblical ethics into their community. In the process, I am betting that you will find—as I have—that it alleviates some of your own spiritual poverty.*


Join Us in Renewing a Whole Community

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*This article is based in part on my previous article, "Moving Beyond 'Teach a Man to Fish'."

It is easy to get so caught up with our own problems that we neglect to notice the needs of other people. Giving changes this. It makes us hopeful. It changes our perspective. It makes our problems seem manageable.

Paul the apostle recognized the power of giving to change our perspective on life:

"The one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work" (2 Corinthians 9:6–8 NRSV).

The key to changing our world starts with you and it starts with me. It requires generosity. And when we give generously, we may just find that the gift returns to us in the form of joy, a renewed perspective, and a deeper relationship with Jesus.

Giving Has Renewed My Faith

When I think of the power of giving, I come back to how the founding of Jesus' Economy has changed my life. I'm a completely different kind of Christian because of this cause of creating jobs and churches in the developing world. Jesus, by his grace, has shown me how generosity is a gift to my life. It has renewed and strengthened my faith. It has also brought me immense joy, as I have seen God work through the efforts of Jesus' Economy to renew communities.

People around the globe are in desperate need of our help. They’re suffering from issues outside of their control, but many that are changeable. When we walk alongside them, we can create opportunity out of these seemingly hopeless situations. We can find, and offer, solutions. I believe that now more than ever.

The Incredible Possibilities of Giving Today

We live in an interconnected world with incredible possibility: We have an opportunity to bring goodness and peace to the lives of others. There is a better future ahead for all of humanity, if we make it possible. What if the future could look different than the trajectory humanity is currently on? What would you want it to look like?

I want to see love, peace, and hope. I desire to see poverty alleviated, so that people can live freely and with purpose—so that they can accomplish good for other people in the world. I long for Jesus to become a major part of people’s lives, because I know the difference he has made in my life and the lives of others. I want to watch transformation in ethics and lifestyles occur. I want to see entire communities renewed. How about you?*

Help Make the World a Better Place

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*This article is adapted in part from my earlier article, "What Does a Better World Look Like to You?"

In our culture, when you first meet someone, the first thing you do is introduce yourself with your name. The second thing is to ask the person across from you, “So what do you do?” And by that, we almost always mean, “What’s your occupation, your job?”

Our culture defines self by a title: what your boss says you can call yourself or if you’re the boss, what you call yourself. In this regard, I recently enjoyed meeting a pastor who called himself, “chief janitor.” He was noting the importance of this primary occupation that keeps everything else running. He was also emphasizing his desire to serve.

Our culture also searches for other ways to define ourselves: Once we retire, the definition usually comes in grandchildren or in “what I once did, before retirement.” This often leaves me wondering, “Why don’t we redefine ourselves in these years in a different way, seeing them as the time when we can finally be freed up to do whatever it is God is asking us to do?” Why can’t our golden years become golden years of ministry?

Rethinking How We Define Ourselves

In the book of Titus, we see Paul’s self-definition—how he viewed vocation (or calling), what he put on his resume or business card. This is not what you would expect. We also see a better vision for ministry, one that doesn’t go it alone but finds unity with likeminded people working together for the furthering of God’s mission in the world.

At some point in the mid-60s AD, between Paul’s first and second imprisonments in Rome, he wrote to Titus on the island of Crete. It appears that Paul is either on his way (or already in) Nicopolis (Titus 3:12). Paul opens the letter with these words:

“Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ to further the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness—in the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, and which now at his appointed season he has brought to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior, To Titus, my true son in our common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior” (Titus 1:1–4 NIV, emphasis mine).

First Paul tells us that he is here to serve God; and then he tells us that he is an apostle of Jesus Christ—he is sent by Jesus on mission to the world (see Acts 9). Paul then gives us a purpose statement for his life: to further the faith of God’s people and to enhance their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness.

Paul here is not interested in knowledge for the sake of knowledge; he wants people to grow as Christians so that they may be transformed by the gospel, the same gospel that had transformed his life.

This gospel, Paul tells us, is about eternal life and based in a promise of God since the very beginning of time (John 3:16). That is, God in his providence, understood that if Adam and Eve were to sin—to go against his will—that a new plan would have to be put in place. Furthermore, Paul is emphasizing that the personhood of Jesus has always been present: It is through him and by him that the world was made (John 1:1–4; Hebrews 1:1–2). This is the message of Jesus, that we may have life and life abundant (John 10:10).

How Do You Define Yourself?

Paul sees his entire vocation as wrapped up in this message—in the gospel, in Jesus. This is why he preaches. This is what he lives for. This is how he defines himself. And this is why he has enlisted the help of, and partnered with, Titus.

Shouldn’t we see our vocations and callings in a similar manner? Shouldn’t we define life by what Jesus is doing among us, through us, in us? Drop me a comment to let me know what you think. Have you tried changing how you define yourself and what were the results?

This article is part of our series "How to Authentically Live as a Christian: Paul's Letter to Titus."


Enjoy this article? Check out my new book, Jesus' Economy: A Biblical View of Poverty, the Currency of Love, and a Pattern for Lasting Change. With simple, everyday choices you can make the world a better place. Learn how to live Jesus' economy, the currency of love.

 

You know the feeling: God has called you to do something for him, but you're unsure if you can. The act of service feels too great. Perhaps all you need to take that step of faith is a little perspective. Let's consider how Jesus' economy works. From that consideration emerges three steps that will help you commit to God's work in your life.

1. Consider the Value of Self-Sacrifice

We can see Jesus' economy, his perspective on our resources, in how his earliest disciples responded to his call:

“Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, [Jesus] saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.’ And immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him” (Mark 1:16–20 ESV).

Jesus’ earliest followers literally dropped their livelihoods to follow him—they completely dedicated themselves to him. Similarly, we are called to make sacrifices for Jesus—to show others love by giving, praying, and investing in them. We're called to embrace Jesus' economy of self-sacrifice.

2. Consider the Value of Acting Now

To a man with a recently lost love one, Jesus said:

“’Follow me.’ But [the man] said [to Jesus], ‘Lord, let me first go and bury my father.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God’” (Luke 9:59–60 ESV).

For Jesus, it’s all about God’s kingdom. There is no time for hesitancy; after all, Jesus (who is God incarnate) is staring right at this man. What can be more important? For us, it too should be all about God’s kingdom. Our lives should be all about living God's economy. And that means that our time, as a resource, is of incredible value to God. Hesitancy has a price. Is God calling you to act now or has he has asked you to wait?

3. Consider the Value of Looking Forward

From a different man, Jesus heard this in response:

“‘I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.’ Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God’” (Luke 9:61–62 ESV).

There are no hesitations in service to God’s kingdom and there is no looking back—it’s all about what God is doing here and now. It’s all about putting our hand to the plow of God’s work. Jesus calls his followers to look forward and move forward.

If you love God, you love God's kingdom and you love people. If you love the kingdom, you’re not going to ask yourself what else is important: you’re going to just live for the kingdom. Look forward to what God is doing and embrace it with your whole life.

Living Jesus' Economy

Jesus has called us to join him in his work—to believe in it with all we have. The cost may be hard to bear or understand at times, but when it’s put in the perspective of all that Christ has done for us—dying for our sins—it seems like very little.

God has asked us to demonstrate our belief by bringing good news to those who feel hopeless. We are called to drop everything for him. This is what Jesus’ economy is all about: envisioning what the world could look like and joining God in the process of making that vision a reality.*


Want to go deeper into this subject? Check out my new book, Jesus' Economy: A Biblical View of Poverty, the Currency of Love, and a Pattern for Lasting Change. With simple, everyday choices you can make the world a better place. Learn how to live Jesus' economy, the currency of love.


*This article is adapted from my earlier article, "God's Economy Part Two: Truly Following Jesus."

The Bible talks a lot about how God blesses those who follow the path of righteousness. In passages like Psalm 1 and Jeremiah 17, we’re told that the one who trusts in God will be blessed. But when I look at the world, it seems that, more often than not, the good guy loses. Meanwhile, the deceptive seem to win. I'm going to ask a risky question: Why trust God when the wicked prosper? And how do I seek God’s blessing in a world that feels unjust?

It is this precise issue that Jeremiah the prophet addresses in the book of Jeremiah 17:5–13. Writing in the late seventh century and early sixth century BC, to the southern kingdom of Israel (called Judah), Jeremiah teaches us three things about how to seek God’s blessing.

1. Acknowledge God’s Intent for Blessing 

Echoing Psalm 1, Jeremiah provides a principle of how things should work.

This is what the LORD says: “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the LORD. That person will be like a bush in the wastelands; they will not see prosperity when it comes. They will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives.

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit” (Jeremiah 17:5–8 NIV).

Those who trust in people (flesh) over God will find themselves withering away in a desert. But the one who trusts in God will be like a tree with deep roots. That one's roots go all the way to the stream, so that no matter what may come his or her way, there is a stream of water to draw upon. In drought, the one who trusts in Yahweh will endure.

2. Remember that God Knows the Heart

Jeremiah explains that God knows the hearts of those who trust in the ways of culture.

“I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.

“Like a partridge that hatches eggs it did not lay are those who gain riches by unjust means. When their lives are half gone, their riches will desert them, and in the end they will prove to be fools” (Jeremiah 17:9–11 NIV).

God sees the injustices. While many may be deceived, God knows. Trusting in God also means trusting in his knowledge of the injustices.

Furthermore, riches will desert us in the end. While our culture may prioritize material gain—at nearly any cost—God does not. And justice will come to those who exploit others in their journey to so-called success.

3. Trust in the Eternal, Not in Wealth

Jeremiah tells us that those who trust in Yahweh are putting their trust in the true "place of sanctuary ... the hope of Israel ... the spring of living water” (Jeremiah 17:12–13).

Blessings are intended for those who trust in God. Those who seek the path of deception or exploitation should experience the bareness of their decisions. But we’re still left with a problem: Why, then, does the world not work that way? Yet that could be the wrong question. Jesus would suggest that what’s needed to understand God’s blessings—and how to seek them—is a different perspective.

Blessing is Relationship with God

Blessing can come in material gain, positions of authority, and relationships, but blessing is first and foremost the deep well of relationship with God. This is at least what Jesus believed. Jesus says,

“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh" (Luke 6:20–23 NIV).

Jesus' view of the blessed life should confront us. It demands that we reevaluate what blessing means. The poor are blessed because they will receive the kingdom of God. The hungry may be hungry now, but they will be filled by God. Those who weep and mourn will laugh in the end.

God’s blessing is about realizing here and now that while the world may favor the deceptive and greedy that God will make all things right in the end (see Revelation 21). This means changing our view of what it means to be blessed. It means learning to be a blessing.

How to Be a Blessing

Jesus and Jeremiah both call us to trust in God to provide the blessing. Pick any of Jesus' sermons and you find echoes of this. Jesus’ life also demonstrates this. Jesus did not look to the praise of people, wealth, or power for blessing. Jesus looks to God the Father. Jesus proved, in how he lived, that God's blessing—even when all hope seems lost—comes to those who seek righteousness. There is nothing that shows this more than the hope of resurrection on the other side of death on a cross.

This is why Jesus lovingly looks at the Rich Young Ruler and says, “One thing you lack. ... Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me" (Mark 10:21). The Rich Ruler, like the people Jeremiah addressed, had placed trust in the wrong place.

To seek God’s blessing, we must place trust in God—in belief that he will make all things right—and we must act as if we really believe what we say. That means self-sacrificially answering the call of justice for the poor, the hungry, and those who weep. It means having resurrection hope with a willingness to give of any and every resource that God has provided to better our world. We are blessed to bless.

Take This Step as You Seek God’s Blessing

Are you too trusting in your wealth and security? I ask you now to change that. What do you need to give up and trust God with. Consider it practically: is it wealth, a relationship, even an occupation? What are you prioritizing over God?

My challenge to you is to place your trust in Yahweh and watch him bless what he calls you to do. In this life, or in the day that he makes all things new (Revelation 21), we will see it. Blessed is the one who trusts in God.



Ready to Bless Other People?

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For those of us who have much, it is difficult to understand the lives of those who have little. We have trouble fully comprehending what life is like on the other side of the poverty line. But we’re closer to understanding than we might think.

Jesus is the person who brings us closer to understanding the difficulties of poverty. Jesus is the source of our empathy. My clue for this comes from passages like these:

“As they were going along the road, someone said to [Jesus], ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head’” (Luke 9:57–58).

Jesus was born as a poor man, lived as a poor man, and died as a poor man. The Son of Man, Jesus, had "nowhere to lay his head." In his travels as a rabbi (teacher), Jesus relied on the hospitality of other people.

Jesus Lived Like the Poor

Jesus lived like the poor. There is sadness in this statement, but it’s also hopeful. It makes me sad for Jesus, but in my empathy for Christ, I am learning to have even more empathy for those who are hurting. I am growing closer to God’s heart as I think upon Jesus’ plight.

This is much of what believing in Jesus is all about: We have an opportunity to recognize how God himself experienced the full spectrum of suffering, as Jesus, and then do as Christ did—give of ourselves freely for the betterment of others. This leads to a profound lesson that Jesus taught in how he lived: self-sacrifice is essential.

The Hope of the Poor Starts with Self-Sacrifice

There is hope for those living in extreme poverty. There is love to be offered. There is empathy to be found for each and every situation. There is empathy to be felt and experienced through our relationship with Jesus.

It is in Christ, who experienced poverty, that we also find the solution to poverty. We find new life through his resurrection. We find hope in him that we can offer to other people. We find order overtaking chaos. We find death itself not being able to hold back God’s work. We see a restoration of life—lived fully for the eternal God, starting now. There is power to be found in empathy.

If you find yourself struggling with empathy, look no further than Jesus; his example will guide you back. Jesus' self-sacrifice, for the sake of the spiritually and physically poor, is our example.*


Want to go deeper into this subject? Check out my new book, Jesus' Economy: A Biblical View of Poverty, the Currency of Love, and a Pattern for Lasting Change. With simple, everyday choices you can make the world a better place. Learn how to live Jesus' economy, the currency of love.


*This article is adapted from my earlier article, "Jesus and Empathy: Moving Closer to the Poverty Line."

Nothing great ever took place without faith. When we have faith, we look beyond what is and imagine what can be. And that's what our world needs.

When we're faced with the injustices in our world, it can feel overwhelming. But let's see what happens when the tasks in front of us come face to face with faith.

Consider this: Jesus did not expect his disciples to seek a secluded life of faith apart from the world, but to be part of it. Jesus did not advocate for monkish spirituality, but a life of faith lived in the midst of culture. Jesus expected his disciples to be vehicles of change in the world. Jesus makes this point in his final prayer for his disciples:

“I do not ask that you take them [my disciples] out of the world, but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth—your word is truth. Just as you sent me into the world, I also have sent them into the world” (John 17:15–18 LEB).

From the beginning of our faith walk to the end of it in this life, our journey is about being in this world as actors of change.

Faith is not a journey of removing ourselves from this place, but one about bringing God’s kingdom to this place.

I firmly believe this: God wants to empower you to make change happen. He wants us to be empowered to change the course of history for the better.

When we go about alleviating poverty, we’re placing faith in what can be. We are looking at the current situation, calling it “not good enough,” and then acting to create a better situation. When Jesus calls us to help the poor (see Matthew 25:31–46), he expects a faith-based and faithful response. This response requires understanding our place in the world, which is to bring about change by the power of Jesus.

What we do with faith is as important as coming to faith, for what we do once we come to Jesus is what makes a difference in the lives of others. It’s where change for the betterment of our world occurs.

How is your faith connected to your actions? Is your faith changing the way you live each day, and the way you help others?*


Want to go deeper into this subject? Check out my new book, Jesus' Economy: A Biblical View of Poverty, the Currency of Love, and a Pattern for Lasting Change. With simple, everyday choices you can make the world a better place. Learn how to live Jesus' economy, the currency of love.


*This article is based on my earlier article, "The Unfathomable Power of Faith."

 

It’s now February so it’s time to ask: how are your New Year’s resolutions going? Maybe your resolution falls in the usual categories of exercising more, eating healthy, losing weight, quitting a habit, saving money, or getting organized. While all of those are admirable goals and ideas, the reality is that many of us don't stick to them. Sometimes the goals are too ambitious or too lofty. But in the midst of all this talk about resolutions, are we missing something major that could produce a lasting change on our lives?

To put it into a Sunday School answer, that's Jesus. But to give you a better idea of what that looks like, we've listed 10 ways you can live for Jesus in 2019.

1. Make time for God a priority

It shouldn't be a surprise or a secret that in order to live for Jesus, you need to make time with him a priority. Otherwise, you won't know how to live for him. It doesn't matter what time of day it is, morning, night, or in the middle of your work break; you just need to make time with God. It can look like carving out time to read a passage or two from your print Bible or Bible app. It could be finally setting aside time to sit down and read that devotional book you bought in the bookstore a few years ago.

No matter what it looks like, make sure it's intentional. If you're planning your time with God ahead of time and ensuring your relationship with God is number one, then your goal of living for Jesus is going to be that much more attainable.

Resource Recommendation: Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan coauthored by our founder, John  D. Barry.

2. Forgive easily

Jesus calls us to forgive other people as he has forgiven us and he calls us to outrageous levels of forgiveness (see Matthew 18:21–22). If God can forgive us for our sins and still love us unconditionally, we should be able to do the same for those around us. It's not easy, God didn't say it would be, but it's something we can do that will clearly set us on the path of living for Jesus.

Sometimes it'll be easy to forgive someone, especially if you have a close relationship and you know they're sincere. But sometimes, the person you forgive won't have even apologized. They won't seem "deserving" of your forgiveness. But then again, we aren't deserving of God's, but we have it anyway. Shouldn't we aim to do the same for others? Knowing how it makes us feel—redeemed, hopeful, and renewed—wouldn't we want others to experience those same feelings when we have the chance to forgive them? It won't be something you'll be able to do overnight, but if you seek God, you'll find the strength to forgive eventually and the both of you will be better for it.

Resource Recommendation: No Apology Needed: Learning to Forgive as God Does by Jesus’ Economy Board Member, Nathan Byrd.

3. Encourage often

A phrase we see repeated in the Bible is to lift each other up or exhort one another (e.g., 1 Thessalonians 5:11). When we encourage those around us, we make the world a more positive and uplifting place. Too often we let the world get the best of us, allowing ourselves to join in the criticism and negativity, which can even lead to a mindset of hate. Jesus has called us to exhort one another and spur each other toward Christ. If we can find ways to do that, the hearts of those in this world might be filled with love.

Consider how one simple note or word of encouragement boosts you or helps you get through your week. Now think about what you could do for others if you sent a text, email, or spoke encouragement into someone's life. It doesn't take longer than a few minutes, but it could change someone's whole day or week.

4. Join a small group

Community is important. When you're part of a small group of other Christians, it becomes like a second family. They lift you up, hold you accountable, celebrate with you, and pray with and for you. The New Testament teaches us to be part of Christian community and to make it a regular part of our lives (Hebrews 10:25). A small group will spur you toward Christ and bring you out of the dark places when you face them. And you'll be able to do the same for the others in the small group.

Most churches have small or community groups, so look into if your church has them. If they don't, start one! You can also start one among your friends, you don't have to go to the same church to be in the same small group.

Resource Recommendation: There are a host of Bible studies—designed for small group use—written by our founder, John D. Barry, and available right here on JesusEconomy.org.

5. Pray more

For some praying might come easily, but for others it can be an obstacle to overcome. Whether you aren't sure where to start or what to pray for or when, it can be a place where you're stalled out in your faith. The good news is that once you start praying more, the easier it gets and the more you do it.

Once again, you can start out small. Don't get caught up in the order of the prayer, leave that for later. Just talk to God, tell him about your day, your needs, your gratefulness; keep the communication line open. It doesn't have to always end in "Amen," in fact it can be a running conversation throughout your day. Your prayers do not have to be full of lofty words; just start talking to God. Lay your heart out to him; he wants to hear it. Eventually, it will become natural; you will start praying and won't even realize you started.

Resource Recommendation: Try using the Pray as You Go app or podcast. It offers 10 to 15 minutes per day of contemplative music, Scripture reading, and prayerful meditation.

6. Get into the Bible

When we're surrounded by so much great literature, it can be difficult to remember that nothing takes the place of actually digging into God's Word on a daily basis.

Starting out small will help you get into a daily routine. Read one verse a day, or set a timer to read the Bible for just 5 minutes. You can start with a familiar book or passage, or open your Bible to a random spot and start reading. If you start out small, it will be more attainable and you can work up to reading more and for longer. It may also help to consider adding a study Bible to your routine since that can clarify the difficult passages.

Resource Recommendation: Faithlife Study Bible is a great resource for digging into the Word. Our founder, John D. Barry, served as General Editor for this product. You can also set up Bible reading plans using the free Faithlife Study Bible app.

7. Be compassionate

Jesus is compassionate and showed it in the life he led on Earth. For example, when Jesus is being arrested and one of his disciples cuts off a servant's ear, what does Jesus do? He heals the man and instructs the disciple to stop. He knows he's about to be taken and what's about to happen, but that doesn't stop him from being compassionate toward one of the people persecuting him (compare Luke 6:26–36).

It's easy to let the little things get to you. Someone cutting in line, bad drivers, a rude coworker, the disobedient child, the list goes on of things that make us feel upset and want to lash out. But you have to stop and ask yourself, "is what's making me upset right now really going to matter in five years or even one year?" If the answer is “no,” then it’s probably best to let it go. Take a deep breath and offer compassion and kindness. The person on the receiving end might need it more than you realize. And try to remember, if Jesus could be compassionate toward those who wanted to see him crucified, I think we can be compassionate to the parent who cuts us off in the drop-off lane.

8. Reach out to someone in need in your community

More and more often we read about stories of someone taking their life; the victims of suicide seem to get younger and younger. Meanwhile, those who need help in other aspects of life such as finances, household chores, etc. sometimes won't reach out because they feel like a burden.

It's easy to let our lives get so busy that we feel like we don't have time to think of anyone outside of our immediate family and work circles. But it's vital that we do. Jesus has called us to serve other people we should never ignore our neighbors in need (e.g., Luke 10:25–37). We're to love them and empower them. So when you read that social media post that seems like a cry for help or hear that someone is having car trouble, reach out. Talk to them and find out what you can do that would empower them to solve the problem.

Resource Recommendation: If you’re looking for long-term solutions to empowering people in your community, check out our founder’s new book, Jesus’ Economy: A Biblical View of Poverty, the Currency of Love, and a Pattern for Lasting Change.

9. Tell others about Jesus

Spreading the good news of the gospel is one of the commandments Jesus has given us (Matthew 28:18–20). His love and sacrifice saves and redeems us, bringing us into life eternal with him (John 3:16–18). So why wouldn't we want others to experience that too? How selfish of us to keep it to ourselves! It's a cliche, but we should be shouting it from the rooftops. We aren't afraid to exclaim our love for just about everything else in our lives, so why not Jesus and his gift of salvation?

This can be scary, especially when Christians can come across as intolerant, Bible-thumping know-it-alls. The key is to build a relationship with those around you, showing them the attributes of Jesus that live in you. Then when opportunities present themselves, tell them about Jesus and what he's done for you. Begin by serving other people and wait for conversations to emerge from there.

Resource Recommendation: Become part of the movement of people sponsoring church planting efforts in areas where people have never heard the name of Jesus. Plant churches in Bihar, India with Jesus’ Economy.

10. Love deeply and generously

God is love (1 John 4:7–21). We hear it all the time. We know it to be true. We read about how wide and deep the love of Jesus is. We witness it in our own lives when he continues to love us no matter how many times we mess up. And he calls us to do the same. Our greatest commandment? Love God, and the second greatest is like it: We are to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 26:36–40).

But what does that really look like? It's investing time and effort into your relationships. It's celebrating with those who celebrate and mourning with those who mourn (Romans 12:15). It's supporting other people and showing them you have their back. It's speaking the truth into someone's life when they're making bad choices. It's putting their needs before your own. And when you love deeply and generously, I believe you'll see a change. Love gets through, in some way or another, every time.

Resource Recommendation: Part of loving generously is using our finances for the betterment of other people. This can come in how we can give and how we shop. Consider shopping fair trade with Jesus’ Economy this year and give to a cause you’re passionate about.

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