************ Sermon on Luke 18:22 ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on October 29, 2000

Luke 18:18-30
Luke 18:22; 1 John 3:18
"Real Problems, Real People, Real Change"

Topic: World Hunger
Date: 10/2000.101
Title: World Hunger Facts

Listen to these Hunger Facts:
Every 3.6 seconds someone dies of hunger. Some 75% of them are children under the age of five. Which means that while we sit in church this morning 1,000 people will die of hunger.
About 24,000 people die every day from hunger or hunger-related causes. This is down from 35,000 ten years ago, and 41,000 twenty years ago. Notice, Real Problems, Real People, Real Change (HOLD UP BROCHURE).
Today 10% of children in developing countries die before the age of five. This is down from 28% fifty years ago. Notice, Real Problems, Real People, Real Change (HOLD UP BROCHURE).
Famine and wars cause just 10% of hunger deaths, although these tend to be the ones you hear about most often. The majority of hunger deaths are caused by chronic malnutrition. Families simply cannot get enough to eat. This in turn is caused by extreme poverty.
Besides death, chronic malnutrition also causes impaired vision, listlessness, stunted growth, and greatly increased susceptibility to disease. Severely malnourished people are unable to function at even a basic level.
It is estimated that some 800 million people in the world suffer from hunger and malnutrition, about 100 times as many as those who actually die from it each year.
Often it takes just a few simple resources for impoverished people to be able to grow enough food to become self-sufficient. These resources include quality seeds, appropriate tools, and access to water. Small improvements in farming techniques and food storage methods are also helpful. This is CRWRC's area of speciality. The results: Real Problems, Real People, Real Change (HOLD UP BROCHURE).
Many hunger experts believe that ultimately the best way to reduce hunger is through education. Educated people are best able to break out of the cycle of poverty that causes hunger. Again, this is an area that CRWRC works at. The results: Real Problems, Real People, Real Change (HOLD UP BROCHURE).

Sources (by paragraph):
1. The Hunger Site at http://www.thehungersite.com
2. The Hunger Project, United Nation
4. The Institute for Food and Development Policy
5. United Nations World Food Program (WFP)
6. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
7. Oxfam
8. United Nations Children''s Fund (UNICEF)

A recent article brought home to me the horrible ravages of hunger:
A 2 year old child with the body of an infant and the face aged beyond time hangs limply from his mother's arms. His faintly beating heart is visible through the wall of his chest.
Can you imagine someone so thin, so hungry, that you can see their heart?

I don't know if you saw the article in yesterday's newspaper about Afghanistan.
According to the Associated Press as many as 1 million Afghans could die of starvation this winter unless the international community quickly provides aid to cope with the country's worst drought in decades, World Food Program officials said Friday.
The World Food Program (WFP) is feeding about 2.3 million Afghans but is running out of funds, Gerard van Dijk, the food program's director for Afghanistan, told reporters in the Pakistani capital.
"If we don't act fast, there will be a Somalia-like situation in Afghanistan," van Dijk said. He was referring to the perennial famine in the African nation that has claimed thousands of lives.
Unless there are more contributions, the WFP will run out of food by February, when Afghanistan's bitter winter is at its worst, van Dijk said. He said the WFP has asked for $53 million in emergency aid but that donations have only trickled in ...

Today is World Hunger Sunday. Today we remember the poorest of the world's poor: those who do not get enough to eat. Again we are reminded of the truth of Jesus' words: "The poor you will always have with you" (Mt 26:11).

Today, you and I are being urged to focus on Real Problems, Real People, Real Change (HOLD UP BROCHURE OR BULLETIN).

Our Scripture reading tells us that one day a rich man came up to Jesus and asked Him a question: "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" (vs 18). Jesus tells him three things. Let's look at them in reverse order.

I Follow Jesus
The first thing that Jesus' says to the rich ruler is, "Come, follow me." This was a call to faith and belief in Jesus. If you want eternal life you need to follow Jesus, you need to have faith in Him, you need to believe in Him. Christ must be confessed as Savior and Lord. This is true for the rich ruler and it is true for you and me as well. To inherit eternal life we must follow Jesus.

II Live Out the Faith
The second thing that Jesus' says to the rich ruler is that he is to live out the faith. Any faith, especially the Christian faith, must not only be confessed with the mouth but it must also be lived with the heart. Our faith must never be just a bunch of empty, meaningless words. It must be lived out and practiced day-in and day-out. As our text from John's first letter puts it:
(1Jn 3:18) Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.

That's true for the faith Jesus challenged the rich ruler to have too. He is to live out his faith. So Jesus reminds him to keep the laws and commands of God:
(Lk 18:20) 'Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.'

III Give to the Poor
A The third thing that Jesus says to the rich ruler is "give to the poor" (vs 22). Or, using the words of the bulletin, he is to focus on Real Problems, Real People, Real Change. Why does Jesus mention the poor? Why does He single out help for the poor?

When we look at Scripture we see that God has a special concern for the poor, the hungry, the widow, the fatherless. God cares for the weak and helpless.

God's concern for the poor was built into the very structure of Israel's life. If you were hungry you could go into to anyone's field, garden, or orchard, and help yourself as long as you took only what you needed to feed yourself for that day (Deut 23:24-25). At harvest time, every poor person was allowed to glean the field after the reapers, and to take the grain left standing at the edges of the field as well as the forgotten sheaves that remained in the field. The harvesters were even required to leave the edges of the field unharvested for the poor to glean. At fruit-picking time, what was left hanging on the branches belonged to the poor. Every seventh year, creditors were required to release borrowers from their debts. And if a poor man needed a loan it was to be granted even if the seventh year of release was very near. Furthermore, in the 7th and 50th years the land was not to be tilled, and what grew of itself was free for all to eat. The wealthy were encouraged to be generous to the poor, to invite them to sacrificial feasts, and to remember them on other joyous occasions. The structure of ancient Israel was set up to guard against exploitation of and to ensure provision for God's special charges: the lowly and downtrodden, the widow and orphan, the poor and needy.

You and I are being called upon this morning to be like God: to share His concern for the poor and needy. We are to feed the hungry and clothe the naked and give water to the thirsty and visit the sick and help the helpless (cf Mt 25:31ff). We are to focus on Real Problems, Real People, Real Change. And, we are to do that as an expression of our faith in Jesus. We are to do this as living proof that we are a disciple and follower of Christ.

B What does Jesus have in mind when He calls us to give to the poor? He has more in mind than dropping a few dollars in the offering plate. The Biblical ideal is that we share with the needy. Our abundance is to be used to help the needy. The Bible goes so far as to say that the needy have a moral claim on us (cf Amos 5:11-17,24). It is their right to claim part of our possessions, part of our abundance, in order to supply their daily needs. God tests us through the poor. He uses the poor on earth to see whether we will administer justice and practice righteousness, to see whether we truly do live out our faith.

Some here might respond by saying it is our first duty to feed souls. Then, if there is time and money left over, we can worry about their bodies. The Bible, however, doesn't allow us the luxury of separating the one from the other. As Christians we have to look after the material as well as the spiritual, the secular as well as the spiritual, the body as well as the soul. If we neglect one or the other we are disobedient to God.

C To give to the poor, to share with the poor, to focus on Real Problems, Real People, Real Change, we need to have the right attitude towards our wealth and possessions.

The rich ruler is an example of someone with the wrong attitude towards material goods. He asked Jesus, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" One of the things Jesus told him was to sell his possessions and to give all to the poor. Why would Jesus say that? Jesus could look inside this man's heart. What did He see there? He saw a man who loved his wealth and possessions. He saw a man who put worldly goods and their acquisition before justice to the poor. That's why the man was so sad: he worshiped his goods and was very reluctant to part with any of them.

The rich ruler gloried in his possessions. He worshiped them. He did not practice justice. He did not realize that all wealth is a gift from God, that we are not its owners but its stewards who must render account to God for our management. Our earthly goods, in other words, do not belong to us. They belong to God. And He has entrusted them to us to use not just for ourselves, but for the church and kingdom, and to share with the poor and needy as well.

Examine yourselves, my brothers and sisters, for your attitude towards worldly possessions. What is your attitude? Do you say and think, "It belongs to me to use as I see fit?" Or do you say, "It belongs to God and He wants me to be a faithful and generous steward?"

If you glory in your possessions, if they are your god, then listen to Jesus: "Sell everything you have and give to the poor" (vs 22). Remember, it does us no good to gain the whole world if we lose our soul!

D How hard it is for us to have this right kind of attitude towards earthly things. We in North America live like kings. We are so rich. It is so easy for us to get attached to our riches. The words of Jesus apply to us:
(Lk 18:24-25) "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! (25) Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

Some people have tried to explain this verse away by saying that the eye of the needle is a small doorway in a house, or a small gate in the city of Jerusalem. Not at all! Jesus means the eye of a sewing needle. It is impossible for a camel to go through this eye. Jesus' listeners understood Him right. For when they heard Him they asked, "Who then can be saved?" (vs 26). The point is that it is impossible for a rich man or anyone else for that matter on his own efforts, to enter heaven. It is impossible for anyone on their own to have the right attitude towards possessions. It is impossible for any on their own to practice justice and righteousness when it comes to the poor.

IV Possible Only in Christ
A In this situation Jesus brings the good news of the Gospel: "What is impossible with men is possible with God" (vs 27). We can have eternal life, we can have the right attitude towards possessions, we can provide for the poor and needy, we can focus on Real Problems, Real People, Real Change, by the strength and grace of God. In Christ, God makes possible with is impossible on our own. The blood and Spirit of Christ accomplishes what man is not able to accomplish.

B The example that Luke sets before us is Peter and the other disciples. They disciples left home and family and all earthly possessions in order to follow Jesus. They have been transformed by God's grace into heirs of life eternal. And by that same grace they practice charity (cf vs 28).

V Reward
The good we do, the charity we show, is possible only by the grace of God. And, by that same grace, God has announced His intention to reward us for the good He has enabled us to do. "Give to the poor," says Jesus, "and you will have treasure in heaven" (vs 22).

Jesus wants us to picture in our mind's eye a treasure chest. Into this treasure chest God puts all our good works. In the final judgment God will open our chest and, out of grace, will reward us for what He finds in those chests. If we have been miserly and stingy, our reward will be small. If we have been generous and just, giving in accordance with the way the Lord has blessed us, then our reward will be great.

VI What We Can Do
What can you and I do to feed the hungry, to help the poor, to focus on Real Problems, Real People, Real Change? What can you and I do to gain treasure in heaven?
1. pray - for the hungry, for relief workers, for justice
2. give - generously; decide as a family to support a family our Sunday School children are doing that; in my first congregation I had a family that always had an overseas foster child; go to The Hunger Site there is a link on our web-site and simply by clicking your mouse you give a cup of food to someone who is hungry
3. influence public policy - it is easy to demand that the current tax surplus be used to pay off the national debt, to reduce taxes, to pay for the coming Social Security shortfall; in other words, it is easy to look after ourselves first; let us make sure we write or call or fax or e-mail our representatives in Congress and ask them to also remember the world's poor and needy and hungry
4. practice a simple life-style; make sure possessions are not our god; serve the Lord with what you have
5. support LOVE Inc - hardly a week goes by without the church office receiving a phone call from some desperate soul in the community
6. stop waste - did you know that in this country 20 billion dollars worth of food each year ends up in the garbage; enough food to feed everyone in Chicago for 2 years

Focus on Real Problems, Real People, Real Change. That's God's challenge to you and to me today. Are we willing to meet that challenge?

Some people object to helping the poor and needy. They point to welfare queens, to unemployed alcoholics, to pregnant teenagers who live on ADC and food-stamps. Why should I help these people, they wonder. Doesn't God help those who help themselves? If I help the poor, I want to help the worthy poor. What would the worthy poor look like, I wonder? I would like read from an article entitled "The Truly Worthy Poor" written by Bob Lupton.
A truly worthy poor woman: is a widow more than 65 years old, living alone in substandard housing; does not have a family or relatives to care for her; has no savings and cannot work; has an income inadequate for basic needs; is a woman of prayer and faith; never asks anyone for anything but only accepts with gratitude what people bring her; is not cranky.
A truly worthy poor young man: has completed school, unemployed but not living off his mother; diligently applies for jobs every day; accepts gratefully any kind of work for any kind of pay; does not smoke, drink, or use drugs; attends church regularly; will not manipulate for gain either for himself or his family; is dependable and morally pure; does not act "cool" or "hip" like his peers in the street; has pride in himself and is confident; may sleep in alleys but is always clean and shaved.
A truly worthy poor young woman: lives in public housing but only temporarily; has illegitimate children conceived prior to Christian conversion; is now celibate; tithes her welfare check and food stamps; is a high school dropout but manages well with limited resources; places a high value on education and nutrition for her children; walks everywhere (grocery store, church, school, welfare office) with her children to save bus fare and keeps her sparsely furnished home spotless; occasionally runs out of food by the end of the month but will not beg from friends even if her children are hungry, because this violates welfare rules.
A truly worthy poor family: is devout, close-knit; has a responsible father working long hours at minimum wage wherever he can find work; has a mother who makes the kids obey, washes clothes by hand, and will not buy any junk food; lives in overcrowded housing; will not accept welfare or food stamps even when neither parent can find work; always pays the bills on time; has no automobile; has kids who do not whine or tell lies.
(From Christian Leadership)

If I help the poor, I want to help the worthy poor. The trouble is, there aren't any. You see, to be truly poor means to be prideless, impatient, manipulative, desperate, grasping at every straw, clutching the immediate with little energy left for the future.

The worthy poor? There aren't any. But then, don't forget, none of us are truly worthy. So, God's will is that we help the poor and needy that exist, no matter how unworthy they are. God's will is that we focus on Real Problems, Real People, Real Change regardless of situation or circumstance.
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