In thinking about the urban poor and the ministry of World Impact, I couldn’t help but think that “poor” is so much greater than not having a lot of money. We can talk about how the plight of the urban poor impoverishes them intellectually — their education choices are limited. Even if they can make it through a public high school with grades that would qualify them for college, the schools they attend could well be limited because they would be dependent on scholarships and grants.
And what about the poverty of opportunity? How many family vacations do the urban poor take? Are they camping once a year? Taking off to Hawaii? And how about exposure to other cultures? Where they live, “other cultures” are likely in a rival gang. What about opportunities to learn about America’s heritage? How many urban poor are visiting Washington D. C. (besides the urban poor who live there)? Or Williamsburg? Or how many here in LA make it to the Reagan Library? How many make it to any library? Or museum?
Beyond this is moral poverty — where drugs and prostitution, gangs and adultery, abuse and prison are a part of normal life. Instead of breaking the cycles, however, our society that has turned the care of the urban poor over to the government knows little other than punishment and accommodation. Former U. S. Ambassador and Republican Presidential candidate Alan Keyes used to say that the most important issue before the government was the preservation of the family because that is the social structure that passes on values. He made a lot of good points.
The greater issue, however, is spiritual poverty. All other problems pale in comparison even as they stem from the heart of this one. In conjunction with what Jesus said in the beatitudes about the poor in spirit (“Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” Matt. 5:3), other Scripture calls our attention to the riches we have in Christ or to the fact that His riches are incomparable, worth whatever suffering might come our way.
Eph. 3:8 – To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ
Phil. 4:19 – And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
Heb. 11:26 – [Speaking of Moses] considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward. (Emphases here and in the following verses are mine)
I especially like the passages in Colossians starting with the end of chapter one and continuing into the early verses of chapter two that identify riches, wealth, and treasure in association with Christ.
Col. 1:27 – to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
Col. 2:2-3 – that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself,in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
In Peter’s first letter, he equates faith with gold, calling it “more precious” — that would be “faith that comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17).
Christ Himself is all the treasure we could want, but in Him are more treasures. When we have Christ, we are rich, but when we have Him and nothing else, we are abundantly rich.
If it were not for God’s grace declared in the preaching of the Word of God, I or anyone else would be spiritually poor. Rather, I and all who are in the family of God enjoy the riches of Christ.
How shameful, then, if we squat on this treasure that is never diminished no matter how many times we give it away. How important it is that we do not overlook those in our inner cities who desperately need to hear of the One Who is the image of the invisible God — He Who is treasure, who has treasure, and who gives treasure, Himself.