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: He 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 lived like the poor who we wish to help: he had nowhere to lay his head. 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.
And 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.
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 others. We find order overtaking chaos. We find death itself not being able to hold back God’s work. We see an overcoming of all that tears at the fabric of what humanity was meant to be. We see a restoration of life—lived fully for the eternal God, starting now. There is power to be found in this kind of empathy.
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“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.
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. For us, it too should be all about God’s kingdom. From a different man, Jesus hears:
“‘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. If you love God, you love the 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.
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.
What we do with our beliefs is as important to Jesus as what we believe. Jesus is about complete commitment to loving him and others. Jesus loves belief filled actions.
To a young rich man, Jesus says:
“If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (Matthew 19:21; see 19:16–30 ESV).
Regarding a poor widow who put a seemingly insignificant amount of money into the offering box, Jesus says:
“Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on” (Mark 12:43–44; see 12:41–44 ESV).
The currency of Jesus’ kingdom is different than ours. Jesus’ currency is self-sacrifice and love. For Jesus, belief and actions are one and the same—you cannot have one without the other.
As I reflect on the problems those in poverty face, I realize that we own their problems as much as they do. Our inactions have created many of them. We—all of us—are at fault for the state of our world. But we can also join Jesus in changing the state of our world.
If Jesus believed that belief is about action, why don’t we? Why have we not dedicated ourselves to bringing true discipleship and love to others, when it’s what Christ told us to do? What good is belief without it offering true hope?
But questions alone are not enough. We must provide answers. I believe those answers are now available. Take action today. Make us believe. Go love people, all people, but especially those who are poor.
Hope is magical; or better put, it’s miraculous. It changes our perspective and it changes lives.
The developing world is full of people with tenacity and strength who lack the resources to make their dreams reality. They need hope. Those of us with resources can offer them hope: We have the ability to completely transform lives.
The incredible thing about offering someone hope is that doing so also offers you hope. It makes you believe in what the person you’re helping is yet to see. It changes the way you feel about the state of that person’s life, and in doing so, causes you to think about what hope God has in store for you. It gives you a small glimpse at God’s eternal perspective—you briefly see the connections he does: how he has used you to help someone else, and how he will likely use someone else to help you.
When we give of our time, money, or resources, we have the opportunity to watch Jesus’ work in the world. We have a chance to see God at work.
In this early stage of Jesus’ Economy, we’re dreaming of a better world—we’re contemplating what the world could look like. We want to ignite a movement of people who are bringers of hope. We want to inspire people to empower others and to give them the outlet to do so.
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1 ESV).
Jesus has great opportunities in store for this generation. He is the hope that Hebrews 11 speaks about. It is his work through the Spirit that we’re anticipating and desire to fully realize. It is Jesus’ second coming that we wait for. But it is his work now that we live for.
As Christians, we are convicted that Jesus was resurrected from death and is working even now. We believe in what he is yet to do, and we should do everything we can to be a part of it.
Sadly, many people wait a lifetime for the right opportunity to truly make a difference in someone else’s life. And even more disheartening, many people wait a lifetime for someone else to help them, without anyone ever coming.
I believe that God has life changing opportunities in front of us now. If we simply look around, we will see them. If we pray earnestly, we will realize how awesome God is and how much work he is doing at this very moment.
God wants to use you for great things today. Today is the day that you can bring hope to those in need. Today is the day that you can acknowledge that hope is something all people deserve. In hope, there is something magical that ignites our spirits—and it’s something we can bring to others in the name of the Jesus.