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What does the Birth of Christ Mean to People who see Themselves as Poor?

Quotes

  • Paradoxically, scarcity mind-set often increases as wealth increases. Families with massive resources start placing their trust in provision, not the provider (Gigsle Sorli)
  • Do not ask God to bless your work. Rather, figure out where God is already working, and join Him in His work. The blessing will already be there (David Servant).
  • We are kept from our goal, not by obstacles but by a clear path to a lesser goal (Robert Brault)
  • Once in our world, a stable had something in it that was bigger than our whole world (C.S. Lewis)
  • Who can add to Christmas? The perfect motive is that God so loved the world. The perfect gift is that He gave His only Son. The only requirement is to believe in Him. The reward of faith is that you shall have everlasting life (Corrie Ten Boom)

 Text

Luke 2: 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.

An understanding of the reason and meaning of Jesus coming to earth as a baby should be what the gospel, the good news is. Jesus, God’s chosen redeemer of human beings, entered this chaotic, sin sick world through an already subdued people. The Jews were under Roman Empire.  The story of Jesus’ birth explains how God made it possible for all people to enter an intimate relationship with Him. Jesus’ birth was not only good news, but news that would bring great joy for all the people. It is not just Christians, all those who go to church, but all the people. ‘As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.”’ (2 Corinthians 6:16).  My question is whether it is possible to have God living among a people whose view of life is characterized by a poverty mind-set. That is the belief that there is insufficient supply of resources and opportunities for everybody. When life is viewed through the lens of scarcity, there is a tendency to be fearful and anxious. How can Christians live the abundant life that Jesus came so that we have? “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10b). This is not merely an economic issue: it is a compelling one for all who claim that Jesus Christ is Lord.  It is not possible to be the light and salt of this world when you see opportunities as restricted to whatever one can envision and strategize.  This is because the assumption is that one has to hurry up and get their share before it learns out.

CAN PEOPLE’S BELIEFS BE SO STRONG THAT THEY REPEL THE GOSPEL?

Since it is not possible for darkness to resist light, the naming of Christ as Lord without total transformation of the way people think, should be explored. Knowledge of who Jesus Christ is and acceptance of what his word gives illuminates the mind. ‘When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”’ (John 8:12).  Since the presence of Light lights all aspects of life, what would cause those excited about the birth of Christ, to hold the view that he cannot be fully trusted for every aspect of life?

Putting trust in one’s limited wisdom – Like King Saul (1 Samuel 15) put too much trust in his own limited wisdom. By assuming that he had a better idea than obedience, he retained mental darkness because he had faulty knowledge of God. He knew that God loved sacrifices and so he figured out that if God would have really thought the whole thing through, He would have ordered them to bring back the best animals for sacrifices instead of killing them. So Saul was helping God out by doing what God should have told them to do. Such thinking blocks the light of Christmas from shining shine.  They are serving God the way they know, not the way He has ordered.

Craving for approval of others – In a theology of scarcity, the belief is not only that there is not enough for everyone, but God is also not able to provide for all the people. That plunges people into toxic suspicion and competition with one another. That makes approval of others such a strong craving that Jesus said it is one main reason that keeps people from placing faith in Him. “I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe since you accept glory from one another but do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?” (John 5:43-44). When a Christmas message is used to outshine one another, whether in drama, preaching, dressing or even sharing a meal, then the intended light of God cannot be visible.

Culture that does not encourage needs continuous examination – Respect of systems of authority is what gives society and in particular, church, stability. Since maintaining the structures of authority is so important, in some cultures, questioning or examining that authority is viewed as rejecting or questioning God. That keeps people subdued because of the fear of being described as a rebel. That was the culture in which Jesus Christ was born. The Christmas message is bringing clarity ‘You have heard it was said . . .  but I say to you . . . “(Matthew 5:17-48). Failure to examine what Jesus Christ is saying so that you hold to what is familiar is a blockage of God’s light. Jesus Christ said “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” (Mark 12:17). Historically, there has been a tendency to horde the gospel until some people dare to question the systems. It is what Martin Luther did, John Wesley and the many people that have continued to choose to obey God rather than man.

Focus on what is missing – The drift to scarcity mind-set that focuses on what people do not have gets strengthened by unexpected calamities like Covid-19.  Reducing opportunities and realization that one is not able to control situations causes some kind of paralysis that makes one feel hopeless and helpless.  Inability to achieve one’s goals can cause the mind to be fixed on all that is lacking and in the process lose focus on what Jesus said, ‘And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”(Matthew 28:20b).

SOME REASONS WHY JESUS’ COMING IS THE ONLY LIGHT OF THE WORLD

One of the reasons poverty mind-set persists could be that the reason Jesus came is not understood. Where Christ’s name known but the reason for his coming is not understood, people feel compelled to take care of themselves. To overcome the mind-set that sabotages God’s plan of salvation, it is important to examine why Jesus Christ came – the Christmas story.

Freewill versus freedom – In the beginning God created human beings with freewill. While bearing His image and likeness, they were to subdue or dominate the earth, multiply and increase in number while beholding God’s blessing (Genesis 1:26-28). Free will is the idea that one is able to have some choice in how one acts. The assumption is that one has freedom to choose how to behave. Freedom is the physical and mental ability to exercise that free will. The first human beings had God’s presence until they used their freedom to exercise the freewill by listening to another voice. That is what led to the fall, that which separated them from God. In His love and mercy, God provided a way of restoration. “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” (Genesis 3:15).  Jesus Christ came to restore a relationship that allows the freewill. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). So the Christmas message is for whoever believes. It is the belief in Jesus Christ that liberates the believer to exercise the freewill.  It is denial of the Christmas message to hold the belief that one’s situation is permanent and there is nothing one can do about it because it is God’s will. When using the freewill to honor God liberates the mind to explore God’s creation.

To reveal God’s character– Jesus revealed God’s character in all he did. He said that anyone who saw him had seen the Father (John 14:9).  “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word” (Hebrews 1:1-3a). Scarcity thinking is strange to one to who knows God, to whom belong the silver and the gold (Haggai 2:8), in addition to every animal of the forest and the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10). Remember, “no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless” (Psalm 84:11).  Jesus came so that we may know who we are to the Living God.

To prepare his disciples for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit – Through Prophet Jeremiah (31:33), there was a promise of a different relationship. This prophecy is repeated in Hebrews 8:10 “This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people”. That is the experience of Acts 2.  It is not possible to serve God without that power from on high being within us. That is the power that keeps us reminded of who we are, children of the King of kings.

New Covenant that replaced the Levitical priesthood– Jesus explained as they had what is referred to as the Last Supper, that giving of the body and the shedding of blood was to be the last sacrifice. We now do not need to sacrifice at all “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!”  (2 Corinthians 9:15)That is what the coming of Jesus Christ has meant. He is the mediator between God and man (1Timothy 2:5).  That takes away the desire to be approved by people. In prayer, we do have to be anxious about anything because we have access to the Throne of mercy. The fear of failing or not meeting the standards is taken away when we know that before our Father we can be honest. No need of living on shrunk thinking when we have access to the source of abundance.

Hope beyond the grave – What people consider as their destination when their life on earth comes to an end, determines how one makes decisions.  Regardless of worldly rank, wealth or strength, all human beings are born under the power of death and corruption. ‘Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die’ (John 11:25).  That means the grave is not the end.  “I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable” (1 Corinthians 15:50)” And so we will be with the Lord forever” (1 Thessalonians 4:17). One with hope for eternity is able to take risks and explore possibilities. One without hope is in war looking and so ends up insecure which is the root cause of poverty mind-set. This is all possible because of the coming of Christ.

To live the abundant life that is made possible by Jesus Christ’s coming, there is a need to have our thinking renewed. The Christmas story is a story of gratitude to God. Mary magnified the Lord who extends His mercy to those who fear him, from generation to generation. And He also fills the hungry with good things (Luke 1: 46:55).   With a mind that magnifies the Lord, one can walk in peace aware that ‘your life is now hidden with Christ in God’ (Colossians 3:3).  The Christmas story is about our Father’s invitation to share in His abundance. Thus it is not possible to be a disciple of Christ with a scarcity mind-set. God expects those who have recognized the meaning of Christ’s first coming to be stewards of what God has so generously given us. The Christmas story reminds us to “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Colossians 3:2). That calls for trusting in God’s ability to provide, walking by faith, working to add value and make others choose to respond to God’s love. To entertain thoughts, words or excuses for scarcity could be unconscious denial of the great news of great joy that the angel proclaimed. Persistent and chronic poverty should lead to our examination of whether the news we have is the one the angel pronounced. Would you say that you and your people’s faith, creativity, and innovation reveal the abundant mind-set that the Christmas story brings?

“The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God” (C. S. Lewis).

MERRY CHRISTMAS AND MAY THE GOOD NEWS CAUSE YOU GREAT JOY

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