Serving Christ, the Poor Person

English Service on April 17, 2016
Messenger: Pastor Jim Allison
Title:" Serving Christ, the Poor Person
Scripture: Matthew 25:31-46
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Matthew 25:31-46

“Serving Christ, the Poor Person”

It is often said that the message of Christ gives comfort to people who are in trouble and gives trouble to people in comfort.  In telling this story, Jesus’ main purpose is not to make us feel good about ourselves as we are now.  He wants us to be uncomfortable and see our need to change and grow before we become able to move to a deeper level of peace and joy.  So He speaks about God’s judging us.  He is speaking about people who call ourselves Christians, but some follow Christ in the way we treat other people and some don’t.  

Jesus is making it impossible for us to say, “I’m just focused on my relationship with God.  I’m not interested in social action, politics, and all that messy stuff.  I just want a pure, spiritual relationship with the Lord.”  He tells us that, if we are really committed to knowing Him and following Him, we go where He goes and join Him in what He does.  He is all places, but He is especially with the poor, He says.  He does many things, but He especially reaches out to lift up people that life has pushed down.  

Jesus talks about helping “one of the least important of these brothers of mine.”  In other versions, it reads, for example, “one of the least important of these followers of mine” (New International Version) or “one of the least of these who are members of my family” (NRSV).  Please don’t misunderstand.  Jesus does not mean that “the least” or “the least important” are really not as important as others.  These are people who are seen and treated by others in society as less important or not as good, as others.  God does not feel that way about them at all, so He sends us to “the least, the last, the lost.”  We, as people who have received God’s love, have this gift that He wants us to pass on to them in His name.  Living as Christ’s disciples means actively serving other people together with Him, being His hands and feet.  

Again, who are “the least of these”?  They are not just the ones without enough money.  They can also be people without enough friends, or health, or chances for a job.  They are people in need, ones not accepted by others.  For example, one topic of hot debate today is LGBT sex and rights.  Some people think these categories of sexual acts are good, natural, and healthy, while others do not.  But one thing is clear to almost everyone paying attention.  People in these lifestyles have for many years received cruel and abusive treatment from many others.  They have been treated as “the least.”  So when Jesus sends us out to serve, he sends us out to serve them along with everyone else in need.

So I hope you’ll see “the least” as a broad category of people we call the poor.  And yes, we are all poor in different ways.  But let’s not allow that to take our eyes off the fact that many people in our world are economically poor.  Many don’t have things like enough food or a decent home.  Jesus does not forget them by defining them too broadly, so let’s not do so, either.     

Jesus is teaching that the clearest mark of a true follower of His is not how strong that person’s beliefs are.  It is not how much he or she knows about the Bible.  It is how that person treats people who are in need.  If the love of God is in action in that person’s life, helping other people, it shows that his or her relationship with God is a healthy, strong one.

But how often is that really the case?  Our faith can slip into the kind in the following prayer, written (in slightly different words) by Richard Woike.

O pleasant, comfortable, kindly, good-natured God, I am so glad that today I can look forward, with a reasonable degree of certainty, to another ordinary day.  Keep me today from anything that tests my faith, from anything uncomfortable, from unnecessary stress, and from unusual problems, especially those involving sickness or death or the need to support relatives and friends with money.  

Dear Lord, save me.  Make it so nothing will happen that will stop me from being happy with myself the way I am.  Make me able to keep the things I say, the thoughts I think, the actions I take, and the many things I leave undone, just as they are.  Give me this day, in addition to my daily bread, the butter, meats, and sweetmeats that are my necessary diet.  And help me not to feel guilty about the amount of time and money I spend on food and clothing or my pastimes good and bad.  Free me from feeling bad about spending my time on things which have no real spiritual value but are seen as normal for a person in my position in this modern community and modern age.  

About the future and the darkening trend of things, keep me from thinking too much.  Events in the world happen one after another.  Can the shocking things I hear in news reports really be signs of the ways your hands are at work in this world?  Can you really be leading us to the end of time, when we will hear the shout of the words: “Look!  He is coming”?  Oh, Lord, such troubling thoughts!  Keep me from worrying about such things.  And guide me safely to and from my office and my home.  Amen.

And to these words, Jesus gives the surprising reply (v. 46): “. . . Go away to be punished forever.”  They are surprising to the people in Matthew 25 because they never imagined that the poor people they were passing by without helping were Jesus Himself.  These are uncomfortable words for us to hear, are they not.  But they are not the only surprising words in Jesus’ story from the future.  The people who receive His praise and eternal life are also surprised.  They ask, “Lord, . . . when did we see you hungry and feed you, . . . thirsty and give you something to drink, . . . a stranger and invite you in, . . . needing clothes and give them to you, . . . sick or in prison and go to visit you?”  They were not helping these people just to be seen and rewarded by God.  They didn’t even notice God was watching, so these “sheep” are just as surprised to hear this good news as the “goats” are to hear the bad news.  That’s because the “goats” were expecting something good, like a reward for all their social work, and the “sheep” weren’t.      

Again, Jesus is pushing us to ask the question, How am I doing at helping the poor people around me that God cares about so deeply?  And on a larger scale, how are our various cultures doing at building a life with equal opportunity? Is there a chance for people who are doing their best to know that their basic needs will be met?

One key social issue many cultures are facing today is economic disparity.  The gap between the rich and poor is becoming very large for many, many people.  As a result, a few have far more than they need while many have far less than they need and suffer greatly.  According to the Los Angeles Times, the richest 1% of the world’s people own 46% of the wealth (Puzzanghera).  We often hear in the news how shockingly large the gap is between the salaries of company bosses and the people who work for them.  The Economist magazine recently said that in Japan, the gap is not so much between rich and poor.  More, it is between people with permanent and temporary jobs.  Those with permanent work receive around \5,000,000 per year, and those with temporary jobs around \2,000,000.  That’s a big gap!    

I have no reason to complain about high prices.  God has always taken care of our family when we have placed our finances in His hands.  But now we are experiencing something new in deciding how to pay for our daughter’s college education in the US.  Recently we have received a number of messages from various universities that went something like this.  “Congratulations.  You have been accepted for admission.  We will give you a scholarship, as well as a loan.  If you will then pay the remaining $50,000 (\6,000,000) or $60,000 (over \7,000,000) or more each year, you are welcome to begin your studies here.”  So most of the places we have been in communication with are simply too expensive to be within reach.  Looking at the extremely high prices, I wonder what percentage of the population could actually pay them.  I think it is quite low.  

So I feel one part of the unfairness of life in the real world when I see how few people really have access to the strongest education they could receive.  When I think that only six or seven percent of the world’s people can go to college or university at all, I think I am only getting a hint at the unfairness many people feel.  Our friend Pastor Harrington Wesseh from our sister church in Liberia is an example.  He told me some years ago how badly he wanted to be able to send his daughter to college.  There was a school nearby and he told me the prices.  But he knew he could not send her without help.  That is one of the stresses he lived with, and now he is gone and cannot provide this for his daughter.  That is a sad thought for me.         

What do the teachings of Christ tell us about things like this?  The simple answer is that all Christians should be working to help the poor.  This is because God teaches His people to love.  You cannot be loving to people, the Book of James tells us, if you see people who have no clothes or food and say to them things like “Go in peace, be warmed and filled.”  (Compare James 2:16 in the New International Readers Version: “Go. I hope everything turns out fine for you. Keep warm. Eat well.”)  We should be telling people about Christ.  Evangelical Christians focus on this.  But telling the gospel is a form of love.  If we stop doing it in loving ways (with respect and compassion), it is not what God sends us out to do.  

God put people in this world to take care of His creation.  That includes caring for people.  He creates people with not only spiritual but physical, emotional, social, and intellectual needs.  So how could we possibly think that our only job is to tell people the gospel?  That will do a lot to meet their spiritual needs, but it is far from obeying God’s call to love people as He has loved us.  

God’s purposes in saving people are to meet all our needs.  He does not only care about our souls and forgiving our sin.  All parts of our lives are important to Him.  So the whole lives of people around us must be important to us, as well.  It makes sense for Christians to say, “I want to work to meet all the needs I can of the people God sends me to serve.”    

According to the Bible, a righteous person sees his or her wealth as something that doesn’t belong just to him or her.  An unrighteous person looks at possessions as belonging just to him or her.  God gives us possessions to use for the community.  It helps you be kind to the poor to realize that what you have is a gift.  You didn’t do enough to earn it.  You live by grace.    

Lending to the poor is lending to the Lord.  Oppressing the poor is oppressing the Lord, the Bible tells us.  

If you think you have earned your own salvation, you will look down on the poor.  If you think your salvation is a gift of God, you will look on the poor with love.  

Your bank account, your membership in a club, your home, all your possessions are not your identity.  People who have a different worldview may lift these up to the level of your identity.  They may live with the belief that you are how much money you have.  You are your accomplishments.  But the gospel says no.  You are a child of God.  You are created, loved, understood, and accepted as a son or daughter of the Lord of the universe.  Nothing else says who you are as fully or correctly.  

When we talk about serving poor people, we often hear two words: justice and mercy.  Many liberal people don’t like the word mercy.  It seems like a word people use when they are looking down on others, helping from above in a self-righteous, condescending way.  Many conservative people don’t like the word justice.  It seems like a word people use who are a little too sure they know what is right and wrong.  They think that we aren’t helping the poor enough, and they are ready to push everyone else to do that.  Many conservatives feel, “My money is mine.  I work hard for it.  If I want to give it to poor people, that’s charity, not justice.”

But the Bible does not separate these two words so easily.  There is a strong link between the two, and they are often used in much the same way.  Let’s take an example.  In my country, many children in school are not even learning to read and write.  When they get out of school at some point, their chance for a good job is far, far lower than that of kids who get a stronger education.  Some liberals look at the situation and say, “The system is the cause.  If poor people and people of minority ethnic groups had the money, facilities, teaching, and opportunity that others do, these problems would largely go away.  The problem is discrimination.”  Some conservatives say, “No, the problem is the family.  Even if people have all the material supports in the world, without the support of loving parents who will work hard for their children and teach them right from wrong, it won’t be enough.”  

The problem is that both of these viewpoints are right, and they are both wrong.  They can both be very self-righteous ways of looking at people.  They will tend strongly to have justice or mercy in them, but not both.  And one without the other simply will not work, according to the Bible’s God.  Christian faith does not fit neatly into any of the political, economic, and social systems we have in our cultures.  It has much to teach all of them, and it pushes against all of them.  But it does not serve any of them.

The Bible’s God does not belong to any one political party or put the blame for the world’s troubles on either racism or the family.  But He does say, “It’s not the children’s fault.  When you look at them, just think that you are looking at me.  Then you’ll know what to do.”  Poor people should receive support from Christians not just because we choose in Christ-like love to give it.  Because of God’s grace and the way He sets up human society, they also deserve it, God’s word shows.  Helping poor people is not only nice but just.  Not helping the poor is not only a lack of compassion.  It is also injustice.

Is God leading us to focus more on relief?  On development?  On reform?  One church may not be able to do a lot on all of these.  But God will give us our role to play.  Maybe we need to focus on a certain one of these, in certain programs, with certain goals.  

The local church’s main work is the ministry of the word.  But the ministry of the word will not work without the ministry of deeds.  We want the world around us to see that the gospel is real.  Words often will not communicate it effectively.  People who see Christians only telling the gospel often will see that and decide that we are only trying to increase our power.  They will not hear our message until they see in our actions the love of God at work.  Christ’s ministry was one of both word and deed.  He calls us to join Him in that kind of work that He is continuing today.  Let’s pray that we will.

God of mercy and justice, help us to know and love you more as we discover you at work in the lives of the people around us who need our help.  Give us the wisdom we need to know how to help in the most effective and loving ways.  And most of all, give us the power of your love, which makes all things possible.  In Christ’s name, amen.  

1 The original English is as follows.

O thou pleasant, comfortable, kindly, good-natured God: How glad I am that I can look forward, with a reasonable degree of certainty, to another ordinary day.  Keep me today from anything that taxes my faith, from discomfort, from unnecessary strain, from unusual problems, especially those involving sickness or death or the necessity of extending financial aid to relatives and friends.      

Dear Lord, deliver me.  Grant that nothing may occur which will disturb my satisfaction with the way I am, and the things I say, the thoughts I think, the acts I do, or the many deeds I leave undone. Give me this day, in addition to my daily bread, the butter, meats, and sweetmeats that are my  necessary diet, and let me not be troubled by qualms of conscience concerning the amount of time and money I spend on food and clothing, pastimes good and bad, and those pursuits which, while not of spiritual value, are the accepted hallmark of the normal citizen of this enlightened community in this enlightened age.  About the future, and the darkening trend of things, keep me from thoughtfulness. Events rush on.  The world travels.  Can screaming headlines prove Thy hands at work this very moment, bringing near that fateful cry, “Behold, He comes”?  Oh, Lord.  Such disconcerting thoughts!  Keep me from worrying about such things.  And guide me safely to and from my office and my home.  Amen.



Economist, The. (February 14, 2015). “The secure v the poor: Inequality in Japan.” Retrieved April 10, 2016 from http://www.economist. com/news/finance-and-economics/21643202-problem-not-super-rich -secure-v-poor

Keller, T. (2009). “The Gospel and the Poor: A Case for Compassion.” Here’s Life Inner City. Retrieved April 6, 2016 from

Puzzanghera, J. (January 20, 2014). “85 richest people own as much as bottom half of population, report says.” Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 10, 2016 from 27/

Stedman, R. (December 31, 1962). “The Unconscious Test.” Peninsula Bible Church, Palo Alto, California, USA. Retrieved March 30, 2016 from








我々は言えません、「私は、神との関係のみに集中します。社会活動、政治とそのようなすべての汚いものに興味を持たず、神との純粋な、霊的な関係が欲しいです。」   イエスは、我々がイエスご自身を知っていて彼に従うことを本当に約束するならば、主がどこに行っても、何をしても共に行き、共にするべきです。しかし、イエスはいつも貧しい者と共にいると言います。 イエスは倒れた人々を起き上げさせるために、特に、手を差し出します。



誤解しないでください。 イエスの言う「最も小さい」や「最も重要でない」とは、社会で他より必要が無く、又、他より良くないように見られて、扱われる人々です。神は、全くそのような社会感覚がないので、我々を「最も小さく、最後、失われたもの」に行かせます。我々神の愛を受けた人々が、この贈り物を主の名前で分かち合うのを望んでいます。 キリストの弟子としての生活は、主の手と足となって人々に仕える事です。



十分なお金のない人々? 友人、健康、または仕事で問題のある人々でもありえます。 他人に受け入れられていない人々もいます。 例えば、近年の議論の1つは、LGBT(同性愛、両性愛、性同一性障害)の権利です。 一部の人はその性的な行為は自然で、健全であると思うし、他はそう思わない。 しかし、これらの人々は、多くの他から容赦のなくて虐待的な処置を長年受け、「最も小さい者」のように扱われました。それで我々が困っている他の人を助ける同様に、イエスは彼らを救うために我々を遣わすというのです。


それで、貧しい者と呼ぶ人々の幅広いカテゴリーとして「最も小さい者」が、わかればいいのですが、我々は異なる意味ですべて貧しいのです。 しかし、それが世界の多くの人々が経済的に貧しいという事実から目を離してもいけません。 多くは、十分な食物または適切な家のようなものを持っていません。 イエスは彼らを忘れませんでした。


イエスは、真実の弟子の姿を教えています。その人の信条はどれくらい強いのか、 どれだけ聖書を知っているかで無く、その人が困っている人々をどう扱うかです。 神に対する愛情がその人に有り、他の人を助けているならば、それは神その人の関係が健康で強いものなのです。


しかし、我々はどれくらい、本当にそのように愛に導かれている人となっているだろうか? 我々の祈りはこうなっていないか。




   将来の暗くなる傾向について、私を遠ざけてください。イベントは次から次にやってきます。ニュースリポートからあなたの御手の仕事の前兆というショックな出来事を私は聞きましたが? 叫びの言葉を聞くとき、あなたは私たちを終末へと向かわせているのですか? 「見よ!彼が来る?」おお、主よ、このような混乱させる考え!私がこのような心配をしないようにしてください。私のオフィスや自宅から安全に私を導いてください。アーメン


そして、これらの言葉にとって、イエスは不意の返事(v. 41)をします: 「...永遠の火にはいってしまえ。」彼らが見過ごしていた貧しい人々がイエスであると決して想像しなかったのです。不快な言葉ですが、イエスの話から驚かされたのは彼ら(ヤギ)だけではありません。 主の賞賛と永遠の生命を受ける人々も、驚きます。 彼らは尋ねます、「主よ、...いつ、我々があなたが空腹であるのを見て食物をめぐみ、かわいているのを見て飲ませ、...旅人に宿を招き、必要な服を着せ、病気や獄にいるのを訪ねたか?」どちらの人々も神から見られて、報いがあるための行動では無かったのです。彼らは神が見ているとさえ気がつかなかったので、これらの「羊」はこの良い知らせを聞いて驚きます。同様に「ヤギ」が悪い知らせを聞くことになっています。それは「ヤギ」が、彼らの社会評価の報酬のように、良い何かを予想していたからです。


また、イエスは問題を出しています。どのように、私は周りの貧しい人を助けているか? 大きいスケールでは、どのように、我々の様々な文化は、機会均等で公平な生活を構築しているのか? 


今日直面している社会問題は、経済格差です。 富める者と貧しい者間のギャップは、多くの人々に非常に大きくなっています。 その結果、少数の金持ちが殆どの富を独占しています。ロサンゼルスタイムズによれば、最も豊かで、世界の人々の1%は、富の46%を所有します(Puzzanghera)。 我々は、会社社長と労働者の給料は雲泥の差であるとよく聞きます。 エコノミスト誌は、日本では格差そのものよりも、正規雇用と非正規雇用間のギャップの方が問題だと最近伝えている。 正規の仕事は、年間およそ5,000,000円と非正規の仕事が2,000,000円。 それは、大きい格差です!


私には、価格に不満を言う理由がありません。主の御手で家族の経済が守られています。 しかし、今、我が家は米国での娘の大学教育の授業料を払う方法を決定する際に、昔とは違う経験しています。 最近申し込んだ大学からのいくつかのメッセージを受けました。 「おめでとう。あなたの願書は受け入れられました。我々はあなたに奨学金(ローンだけでなく)を出します。それから毎年残りの50,000ドル(6,000,000円)または60,000ドル(7,000,000円)またはより多くを払うならば、学生として歓迎します。」 私が手の届く範囲であるにも関わらず、交渉した大学は余りに高価です。とても高い授業料に対して、人口の何割が支払い可能な人々なのか? 私は全く低いと思います。


受けることができた最も良い教育に、どうしてアクセスしないかについて見るとき、私は現実の世界での生活の不公平の1つの部分を感じます。 世界の人々のわずか6または7パーセントしか短大、大学に行くことが出来るのです。 

例:リベリアの姉妹教会の友人で最近交通事故で亡くなったハリントンWesseh協力牧師。 氏は、とにかく娘を大学に行かせたかった。 学校が近くにあったが、学費の援助なしでは不可能。その事は彼を悩ませ、結局娘の進学は断念した。私も悲しかった。



単純な答えは、すべてのキリスト教徒が貧しい者を助けるために働いていなければならないということです。 これは、神が愛のあり方を教えるからです。 ヤコブの手紙は、我々に話します、あなたが、服もなく食べる物も無い人に、「安心して行け、暖まって、満たされよ。」(ニュー・インターナショナル読者版の2:16「行け。すべてがあなたにとってよくなる。暖かく。食べ飽きなさい。」)、我々福音派のキリスト教徒は人々にキリストについて話すべきです。 しかし、福音を述べることは、愛の形、表し方です。 我々が愛する方向(尊敬と同情で)が出来ないなら、我々は神から出たものではないのです。


神は、主の創造を管理するために人々を置き、 互いに支え合う事も含みました。 主は、霊だけでなく身体的で、感情的で、社会的で、知的な要求でも人々をつくります。 どのように、唯一の仕事が人々に福音を話すことであると思うのか? 彼らの霊的な必要を満たすために良いが、主が愛してくださっているように人々を愛しなさいという神の呼びかけに従っていません。


人々を救うことにおける神の思いは、全ての必要を満たすことです。 主は、我々の魂を救い、我々の罪を許すだけでありません。 我々の命の全ては主にとって重要で、同様に、周りの人々の命は、我々にとって重要でなければなりません。 キリスト教徒は、「人々に仕えるために私は神より送り出され、出来るだけ彼らの必要全てを満たすために働きたい。」


聖書によると、正義の人は持っている富は自分の物ではないとみなし、 不正な人は富を自分の財産として見ます。 神は我々に社会のために財産を与えますが、 あなたが持っているものが神からの贈り物であると理解すると、あなたは貧しい者に親切にできます。富もあなたの労働の対価でなく、神の恵みなのです。


貧しい者への貸りは主に貸し、 貧しい者への圧迫は主を圧迫していると、聖書は語ります。


あなた自身の救いを達成したと思うならば、あなたは貧しい者を見下します。 救いが神のギフトであると思うならば、あなたは貧しい者を愛の気持ちで見ます。


あなたの預金口座、持ち家、財産等は、自分そのもの(アイデンテテイ)でありません。 異なる世界観の人々は、このようなものなしでは自分はいないと思い、自分の存在そのものであると思うかもしれません。 しかし、福音はノーと言います。神の子供です。 あなたは造られ、愛され、理解され、主の息子や娘と認められます。



 多くの自由主義の人々は、言葉の「慈悲」が好きでない。 他の人を軽蔑しているとき使用する言葉で、独善的な、見下したような方向で使われることが多いからです。 多くの保守的な人々は、言葉の「正義」が好きでない。何が善と悪であるかを自分で知っていると簡単に決めつけているリベラルがよく使う言葉だと思います。我々が十分に貧しい者を助けていないので他の人をも強制的に助けさせようとする人が使う言葉として考えます。「私のお金は私のもの、私は頑張って働いた。貧しい人々にそれを与えたいならば、それは慈善事業で、正義でない。」


しかし、聖書は簡単にこれらの2つの言葉を切り離せず むしろ全く同様に使われます。 

例 :米国では、学校の多くの子供たちは、読み書きすることさえ学んでいません。 彼らが学校を出るとき、より良い教育を受けた子供の学力よりはるかに悪く、良い仕事に着く可能性は低いです。 一部の自由主義者は状況を「システムが原因。貧しい人々と少数派人種集団の人々にはお金、施設、他の人のように教育を受ける機会があるならば、これらの問題は去ります。問題は差別です。」一部の保守派は、「いいえ、問題は家族です。たとえ人々が世界にすべての物資を持っているとしても、彼らの子供たちのために頑張って、子らに善と悪を教える親の愛情の支持が無ければ、十分でありません。」


問題はこれらの視点の両方とも適切であるし、間違ってもいます。 両方は、人々を見る非常に独善的な方法で、正義または彼らの慈悲を持っている傾向があります。 聖書によれば、つながりの無い1本は、単に動きません。 


聖書の神は、どこの政党にも属しないし、教育問題の原因は人種問題か家族問題か、どちらかを断言しません。 むしろ、全ての政党を批判的な視点から見、良い方向に導く存在です。教育問題について主は言います。「それは、子供たちの誤りでありません。 あなたが彼らを見るとき、あなたが私を見ていると思いなさい。 そしたら、あなたは、何をするべきかについてわかります。」キリストのような愛で選択をするからでなく、貧しい人々はキリスト教徒から援助を受け取るべきです。 神の恵みは彼らもそれに値すると、神の語は示します。 貧しい人々を助けることは素晴らしいだけでなく、当然でもあります。 貧しい者を助けないことは、同情の不足だけでなく、不正でもあります。




地元の教会の主な仕事は伝道です。 しかし、伝道は、行動なしでは働きません。 我々は、世界に福音が本物であるのを見て欲しいです。 言葉だけでは、効果的に伝えません。 キリスト教徒が福音を言っているだけと見る人々は、我々が勢力を増やそうとしているだけであると決めます。 我々の行動において神の仕事に対する愛情を見るまで、彼らは我々のメッセージを聞きません。 キリストの伝道は、「知らせと行い」でひとつでした。 主は、そういう仕事に加えるために、今日も我々を呼んでいます。 我々がそうするように祈りましょう。