9 And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.
10 Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I was also forward to do. Gal. 2:9-10
Who would have thought that part of the apostolic mandate is to
“remember the poor”?
The apostles of old had a true heart of God; for God is very concerned with the poor and downtrodden, the less fortunate. A true mark of a false ministry is where the leader, founder or whoever is in charge jets about all over the world (preferably in a private jet) while he has no inkling of the kind of life that the people he leads or preaches to are living.
It is not enough to just preach the right gospel. It is not even enough to have the right anointing or to take your rightful place in the ministry. Once you are out there, ministering, you have a special mandate to
“remember the poor”!
And we cannot allow culture or pride to dictate to us. The white man cannot, for example, say, “Oh, the black man is lazy; I am not going to support him with my money.” Nor is a rich black man allowed to speak similar words about a less fortunate fellow black. No, we must be led by the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit teaches us that God is kind, merciful and sacrificially generous. The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 8:9:
“For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.”
Jesus denied Himself the comforts of this world that we might inherit the true eternal spiritual riches.
Would it have made Paul less of an apostle if he had ministered without remembering the poor?
The answer is no, but it would have greatly undermined his ministry – and God’s purpose. You don’t want people questioning issues and intents in your life as a servant of God. You don’t want people seeing double standards in your life. If there is one place where justice must not only be done but be seen to be done – so to speak – it is in the ministering of the gospel.
A true servant of God must care for his flock in every sense of the word. You cannot go into the midst of God’s people and just thump the Bible and then get into your air-conditioned car or jet and leave. A part of your ministry must be to see how these people live, real time; and if there is a physical, material or other need, you have to provide as a father. You must ask yourself, what kind of lives do the people I minister to live?
The early apostles were shining examples of this kind of ministry. When they went to minister among God’s people, they did not live in expensive air-conditioned hotel rooms. No, they lived amongst the people. That is how we got to know about Gaius. The Apostle Paul mentions him, and so does John. Why? Because he was their regular host. Gaius hosted many of the apostles of Christ!
Now, you would think that Gaius was a rich man and therefore worthy to host these great servants of God. In one of our towns in Tanzania there was a rich brother. He was so rich he even had a Jacuzzi sauna inside his home. His home literally became over-ran with preachers; every preacher who visited even a neighboring town wanted to be hosted there.
According to today’s standards, therefore, you would be forgiven to think that Gaius was a rich man. But Gaius was not rich, he was poor. In fact, the Apostle John prayed that Gaius would prosper both in his health and in other areas of his life as his soul prospered (3 John). You wouldn’t pray such a prayer for someone who was already well-off materially.
The Apostle Paul also lived with the people he ministered to. Read Roman chapter 16. It is through this kind of ministry that today we have names that we can baptize our children with. One celebrated radio presenter in a neighboring country was called Patrobus.
The early apostles remembered the poor.
The Apostle James adds:
“Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” (Jam. 1:27)
These scriptures are a challenge. The apostolic ministry is a lifestyle where the clear mandate to remember the poor has been given by God Himself to His servants. The carriers of this ministry must pay the price!
I personally happen to know of many small-church pastors here in Tanzania who even now are struggling to make ends meet financially and even ministry-wise. At the same time, there are big ‘ministries’ or denominations whom these pastors work with; but they even have never stepped inside these pastors’ homes to know how they live, and the general picture is that they do not care. Some are so callous they do not care to even know these small pastors’ names! In other words, these ministries have not remembered the poor. The even sadder fact is that some of the pastors have been working with these ministries for decades.
As I said, this is a challenge; a challenge, not from me, but from God Himself. It is a challenge to every ministry to get out there and go down into the lives of those poor people they minister to and to know how they live. And, if there is any way you can help, get out and do so.
Finally, this ministry to the poor should not be made into a TV ad. It has nothing to do with the publicity people love putting out on TV. Rather, this is a lifestyle where the true intention is to bring out the heart of God to God’s people.
[“Remember the poor”!]