Monday, August 2, 2010

Good News To The Poor

The headlines on the front page of last Saturday's edition of the Weekend Today tabloid, a quote from our Finance Minister, Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, reads: "An activist Government focused on helping the poor".

In the report, Mr Shanmugaratnam says that the Government aims to increase median income by 30% in real terms the next decade and is "very serious in wanting to ensure that incomes for the bottom 20% keep growing in real terms and it means providing opportunities across the board and investing in every Singaporean - their skills, their attitudes, their abilities to operate."

This is the kind of good news which will be welcomed by the poor, the kind of good news which offer hope or, in the words of our Finance Minister, "optimism in the future". Whether the Government can achieve that goal is another matter but at least, they have made clear their intention to help the poor.

Imagine if the Finance Minister announced instead that the Government would be taxing all levels of income (presently, those earning below $20,000 per year are not taxed) and increasing the GST (goods and services tax) from 7% to 15%, would that be good news to the poor? Of course not!

However, that is the kind of Good News which some (I suspect, many) Christians believe is the Gospel which Jesus is anointed to preach to the poor i.e. making the poor poorer. These Christians say that God did not promise health and wealth in the Gospel but that God demands sacrifice from us, that God wants us to give Him all of whatever little we have.

If that is true, then I say this God is an unreasonable and selfish god! Hebrews 7:7 says "And without doubt the lesser person is blessed by the greater." What is wrong to expect blessings (in all areas including the financial) from God? For without doubt, God is the greater, nay, the greatest!

Look at how God blessed Isaac in Genesis 26. Isaac lied that his wife, Rebekah was his sister but God blessed him even though he didn't deserve it. The land was in famine but "Isaac planted crops in that land and the same year reaped a hundredfold, because the LORD blessed him" (Gen 26:12).

In fact, God blessed Isaac to the point that he "became rich, and his wealth continued to grow until he became very wealthy. He had so many flocks and herds and servants that the Philistines envied him" (Gen 26:13-14). The Philistines were so envious that "all the wells that his father's servants had dug in the time of his father Abraham, the Philistines stopped up, filling them with earth" and forced Isaac to move away from them (Gen 26:15-16).

However, the Lord continued blessing Isaac in the new land, and he found water in every new well that he dug. The first two wells which Isaac dug were forcibly taken by the Philistines but he did not fight with them. Instead, he dug a third well, which again found water, but this time, the Philistines left him alone. Why? This is because the Philistines could see for themselves how Isaac is blessed by the Lord, and now they sought to make peace with him when previously, they were persecuting him by taking over the wells which he dug - "We saw clearly that the LORD was with you; so we said, 'There ought to be a sworn agreement between us'-between us and you. Let us make a treaty with you that you will do us no harm, just as we did not molest you but always treated you well and sent you away in peace. And now you are blessed by the LORD." (Gen 26:28-29)

Why should we be afraid or apologize for the fact that our Lord blesses and blesses us? Isn't this a good testimony for others especially the non-Christians to see? The non-Christians do not read the bible. What they read is us, our lives. When they see how blessed (in all areas including the financial) we are, they too will have some respect for our God and may even turn to our God.

Why was Issac blessed? Because of something he did? No, he lied about his wife being his sister and putting her in danger - Gen 26:10 "Then Abimelech said, "What is this you have done to us? One of the men might well have slept with your wife, and you would have brought guilt upon us.""

Isaac was blessed because of God's promise to his father, Abraham - "I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bless you and will increase the number of your descendants for the sake of my servant Abraham."(Gen 26:24)

We are also similarly blessed like Isaac for we are also children of Abraham:

Consider Abraham: "He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness."Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: "All nations will be blessed through you." So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree." He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.
(Galatians 3:6-9, 13-14)

God promises to bless us in all areas, including the financial - "He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?" (Rom 8:32). Why should we be afraid to say that? Why should we be afraid to tell the people that God blesses us financially? Do we not tell people this good news for fear of them becoming worldly or totally money-minded?

Jesus said in Matt 6:24 - "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money." but He did NOT say that God doesn't bless you financially. In fact He says that God does bless you financially, so don't worry about your finances:

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
(Matt 6:26, 30-33)
Take note that Jesus did NOT say that we don't need to eat, drink or wear; He said "your heavenly Father knows that you need them".  Take note that Jesus did NOT say that God will NOT give you all these things; He said "all these things will be given to you as well"!

However, as Jesus warned in Matt 6:24, our focus should not be on Money but our focus should be on God. When our focus is on God, and we "seek first his kingdom and his righteousness", and do not follow the pagans and "run after all these things", all these things will be given to us.

Just because we are afraid that the people might focus on Money instead of God does not mean that we should be afraid to tell the people that God does bless us with Money. Jesus said in Luke 4 that He was anointed to preach the Good News to the poor. Even our earthly government knows what is good news to the poor; how much more our Heavenly Father! 

Don't rob the poor of the Good News!


Anonymous said...

Big logical flaw. Tharman is talking about the government helping the poor directly. But your pro-prosperity message isn't about giving YOUR money to the poor, is it? If it were, it would have been more properly what Jesus taught. But you are saying that the poor should expect God to give them the money!

Stanley Wong said...

Hi Gwee,
Yes, that is exactly what I am saying - "the poor should expect God to give them the money!"

I don't know how God will do it - it can be through a fellow brother-in-Christ who gives him some money (it has happened to me before), a Holy Spirit inspired brilliant idea (which was what happened to Olivia Lum of Hyflux), a "chance" meeting with an old friend who offers you a job (which was what happened to a NCC member according to his testimony) or even through lucky draw (one NCC member won a condo unit in Carrefour lucky draw, another member won a Lambo in DBS credit card draw) - but God does it.

Like I said in my post, even our earthly government knows to take care of the poor, how much more our Heavenly Father.

Junjie said...

@Gwee -

I personally know TWO pastors who believe that tithing is a vital aspect (though not the only one) to financial prosperity. Both have given money generously to me at times when I was in the greatest financial need (one even more than $3200, and out of his own personal funds, not church funds).

Another church leader during that season gave me a large love offering (privately). Within a coouple of years after that someone gave him a new car.

I'm not saying people should give me love offerings in order to prosper, but I have seen people who truly believe in the 'pro-prosperity' message, and it reflects in how they show generousity to others. Whether you agree with their doctrine is one thing, but you have to admit they are consistent! :D