Since early this spring I have been working on a new book project–the Story of Paul. Like my book, The Story of Jesus, this book will begin with a study of Paul’s life as revealed in the Book of Acts and his Epistles. The second part of the book will focus on Paul’s teachings about a variety of subjects. Here is a brief section on what Paul said about the poor.
People living in the first century didn’t have social security, unemployment insurance, low income housing, food banks or any of the public services we have today to help people in a time of financial crisis. What could the poor do in their time of need? Who could they look to for help when their pantry was empty and their children were hungry? We discover from the Book of Acts that the followers of Jesus reached out to help one another when they encountered persecution induced poverty. Luke records that “there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land our houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need” (Acts 4:34-35). When a prophet announced the coming of a “great famine,” the church at Antioch gathered a collection to provide financial relief for their impoverished brethren living in Judea. Paul and Barnabas were appointed to deliver that gift to the church in Jerusalem.
In his letter to the Galatians, Paul recounts his visit and how the leaders of the Jerusalem church recognized his divine commission to preach the gospel of God’s grace to the Gentiles (Gal. 2:6-9). Having received “the right hand of fellowship” from James, Peter, and John, the church leaders asked Paul and Barnabas “to remember the poor” (Gal. 2:10). Paul added a comment saying, this “very thing I also was eager to do.” And Paul was true to his word. Over and over again, we find Paul appealing to the churches to collect funds to assist the poor believers living in Jerusalem (Acts 24:17; Rom. 15:25-27; 1 Cor. 16:1-4). Sharing James’ concern for the needs of orphans and widows (Jms. 1:27), Paul instructed Timothy to assist the widows at the church of Ephesus when they encountered financial distress (1 Tim. 5:3-16).
Martin Luther said, “After the preaching of the gospel, the office and charge of a true and faithful pastor is to be mindful of the poor.” The question most Christians have is, “How can we wisely and responsibly help the poor and needy?” I have wrestled with this question myself. I hesitate to hand out money to people standing by a freeway entrance holding a sign, “Anything helps.” It might make me feel better to give them a few dollars, but have I really helped them? Will the money I have donated be spent on food and shelter or on alcohol and drugs? To help the poor responsibly, I give to charitable, Christian ministries which are prepared and equipped to provide food, shelter and clothing to needy people. Portland Rescue Mission and Portland Gospel Union are examples of such ministries that are staffed and prepared to provide physical and spiritual help. In addition, believers should be sensitive to the Spirit’s leading to respond to the needs of friends, family members and neighbors. Jesus said, “You always have the poor with you” (Matt. 26:11), so there will always be opportunities for us to follow Paul’s example and Luther’s admonition to be “mindful of the poor.”
The Story of Jesus: Past, Present and Future
Most books on the life of Jesus begin with His birth. This book begins with a flash back to the past to see what Jesus was doing before He was born in Bethlehem. After looking at ten key Old Testament texts, we turn to the Gospels to tell the story of Jesus life on earth. This is followed by an encouraging study of what Jesus is doing now for us in heaven. The forth section of the book presents what Jesus will do in the future according to biblical prophecy.
The book is available on Amazon for $9.95 in paperback or $4.95 as a Kindle edition. And if you purchase the paperback, you can have the Kindle edition for just 99 cents.
Bible Study Methods
I was privileged to speak at a Bible study conference this past fall on “How to get the most out of Bible Study. Click on the picture below to watch my presentation on YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=THOIUaIw6KU&feature=youtu.be
And don’t forget about my other recent publication, “The Story of Israel: A short history of the land and its people.” Dr. Todd Miles, my friend an colleague at Western Seminary wrote, “Students of long-time Western Seminary biblical studies professor Carl Laney will recognize the love for the Bible and the love for the setting of (most of) the Bible that permeates every page of Laney’s latest book. The Story of Israel summarizes Carl’s teachings on the plotline of the Bible as well as providing helpful historical and cultural insights that bring clarification to the proper interpretation of the biblical text. Laney takes you from Genesis 1 through first and second Temple Judaism into the modern era. Those interested in studying the Bible will find this a very helpful resource for understanding the big picture and many of its details.” Thanks, Todd, for these kind words!
The Story of Israel is available on Amazon.com for $8.95. The book is also available in Kindle edition for $4.95. If you purchase the paperback book, you can buy the Kindle edition for just $.99. Click on the link below to find my book on Amazon.
More pictures of Oregon’s scenic beauty can be found on my YouTube video, Oregon Outdoors