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Are We There Yet
Scripture: Matthew 26:8-11; Colossians 1:19-20; 2 C...
Track 3 of 8 in the When Helping Hurts series
Running time: 1 hour, 03 minutes, 48 seconds.
Last week we looked at the creation and fall of man and what it did to introduce poverty to the world. But there is still more to the story we need to explore. As Jesus said it, There is Good News, We still need to consider the remaining part of the story: Redemption.

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Mike Nobis Speaker: Mike Nobis
Sunday School Teacher, Former Elder at Madison Park Christian Church. Mike is President of JK Creative Printers & Mailing in Quincy, IL. He is married to Pam and has three children, Tom, Tyler and Jennifer. Mike has three grandchildren: Ryne, Ivy and Alicia.

View all sermons by this speaker.

Are We THERE Yet?

Matthew 26:8-11 When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.” Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me.

Last week we learned a very important thing, in order to alleviate poverty, it is important that we first know and understand what poverty is. If we don’t know what it is and what its roots are, we won’t be able to truly alleviate it. The same is true when we talk about “success”.

Can someone tell me what poverty alleviation is? How do you define “success” in ministering to the materially poor?

If we don’t have a clear concept of “success”, it will be almost impossible to actually get there. Just as our diagnosis of the causes of poverty shapes the remedies we pursue, so too does our concept of the ultimate goal. How do we know when we actually alleviated poverty? Is that goal even possible?

This lesson is going to build on the principles we learned last week dealing with what poverty actually is. Poverty is rooted in the brokenness of human beings four foundational relationships.

The relationship with God
The relationship with self
The relationship with others and
The relationship with creation

From that foundation we will explore what successful poverty alleviation entails and find the principles and applications that can help us actually reach the goal.

There came a woman named Alisa, an African American. She became pregnant at 16 and now her and her 5 children live in public housing in inner Chicago. None of the three fathers are helping her with the kids or the cost to raise them. She has little skills, no husband and limited social networks. She attempted to get jobs but several obstacles stand in her way from finding regular work.

1. Not a lot of decent-paying jobs for a high school drop-out are available
2. The welfare system penalizes Alisa for earning money or acquiring assets
3. Government vocational training was confusing to her and staffed by uncaring individuals
4. Alisa had child-care issues that made it difficult to keep a job

Through all of this, Alisa felt inferior and inadequate. She feels trapped. Her comfort zone is receiving welfare checks and living in her public housing. She often talks about how she can’t “get out” of the ghetto.

Alisa comes to MPCC and by fortune, someone directs her to our class. She is sitting in one of our chairs and shares her situation. How do we alleviate poverty for people like Alisa? What does success look like?

As we found out, there are no easy answers; but moving in the right direction requires exploring the rest of the grand narrative found in scripture. Last week we looked at the creation and fall of man and what it did to introduce poverty to the world. But there is still more to the story we need to explore. As Jesus said it, “There is Good News”, We still need to consider the remaining part of the story: “Redemption”.

Colossians 1:19-20 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

On the cross Jesus did more than just save us from Hell. Jesus is bringing reconciliation to every last speck of the universe, including both our foundational relationships and the systems that come from them SLIDE 6: Poverty is rooted in broken relationships, so the solution to poverty is rooted in the power of Jesus’ death and resurrection to put all things into right relationships again.

Now we know that all this won’t be perfectly completed until Jesus returns. In light of this fact, how much progress can we expect to see before Jesus returns?

There are a lot of differing opinions about this. What makes this question hard to answer is we many times are focused on the wrong thing or don’t understand what scripture says about an issue. By not understanding or looking into scripture, we often times get confused with what are things of God and what are things of man. How do we resolve the problem of poverty in the world? How do we resolve the problem of poverty with Alisa in our class?

Look for the most important word in this scripture:

2 Corinthians 5:18-20 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.

Jesus’ ministry was not one of resolving problems; Jesus focused his work on reconciliation. Reconciliation means putting things back into right relationships again. Because Jesus was in the ministry of reconciliation, he gave us the job to do after he left. We are not the reconciler; Jesus is. But he made us his ambassadors representing His kingdom and all that goes with it.

Poverty alleviation is the ministry of reconciliation: moving people closer to glorifying God by living right relationships with God, with self, with others and with the rest of creation.

Our goal is not to make the materially poor all over the world into middle to upper class Americans. Look at what exists in upper middle class America today: high rates of divorce, sexual addiction, substance abuse, and mental illness.

Our goal isn’t to make sure that the materially poor have enough money. America’s welfare system ensures Alisa and her family has enough money to survive. But she felt trapped.

Our goal is to restore people to a full expression of humanness, to being what God created us all to be, people who glorify God by living in right relationships with God, with self, with others and with the rest of creation.

But what about Alisa? All this sounds great but her kids are hungry, Alisa is hungry. She is trapped and she lives in a very dangerous place. How does reconciliation with God feed her kids or pay her heating bill during the winter?

Material poverty alleviation is working to reconcile the four foundational relationships so that people can fulfill their callings of glorifying God by working and supporting themselves and their families with the fruit of that work.

There are two key things to note in this definition:

1. It is more than making sure people have enough material things, this involves empowering people to earn sufficient material things through their own labor for in doing so, we move people closer to what God created them to be.

2. Work is an act of worship. How we work and for whom we work really matters.

So how does all this change what we do in our ministries to help the poor? Or does it change what we are doing? Or maybe, this has nothing to do with anything related to the poor?

Remember one important fact from last week: I am broken, you are broken but Jesus and fix us both!! With this being true and poverty alleviation being about reconciling relationships, then this means you and I don’t have the power to alleviate poverty in either the materially poor or in ourselves. It is not something we can manufacturer through better techniques, improved methods or better planning. Reconciliation is ultimately an act of God.

Poverty alleviation occurs when the power of Christ’s resurrection reconciles our key relationships through the transformation of both individual lives and local, national and international systems.

True or False: The reason why many attempts fail to alleviate poverty is because the focus is on projects and products where actual alleviation is found in people and processes.

What about our church or our class; when dealing with the poor, is our approach on that uses projects and products or do we engage in the act of empowering people to be all they can be for God?

In our political world today, there is a debate as to why people are materially poor. If you are a conservative, then it is due to the poor people’s personal failures. If you are liberal, people are materially poor due to the effects of a broken system. Now, in Sunday School many have learned that Adam and Eve messed everything up by sinning implying that both the individual and the system could be the problem. But what many fail to understand is, Jesus reconciled everything, both the individual and the system. As we minister (ministers of reconciliation), we have to be aware and concerned with both the individual and the system.