"Thanks and thanks again to Him who offers to the man whom the sorrows of life have assaulted and left naked–offers to him the fig leaf of the Word with which he can cover his wretchedness." -Søren Kierkegaard

The Importance of Beggars

Posted in Day-To-Day, Photography by matt on Friday, October 7, 2011

Old beggar man checking out his beardRelating to beggars has always been difficult for me.

I’ve read books about it, I’ve studied the way Jesus related to the poor, and I’ve talked circles around the subject, but every time someone on the streets holds out an open palm, I still get that tight feeling in my stomach.

What will they use the money for? Should I just try to get to know them instead? Would they go with me to buy food? Should I even be asking myself these questions?!

Old beggar lady making a grab for my camera bag.

But despite the uncertainty, there is one thing I’m sure of, and I was recently reminded of it after encountering a couple of beggars in our city’s bazaar.

I need them as much–if not more–than they need me. In Matthew 25, Jesus talks about caring for the poor in stark terms. Right after talking about his return to rule the world and to set all things to rights (vs. 31-33), he uses caring for the needy as the litmus test for inheriting the Kingdom of God. Jesus even ups the stakes by saying that caring for the needy actually equals caring for him! So why do I need the poor? Because, if I can’t learn to love and identify with them, how will I ever understand the Kingdom–much less gain it!

What about you? What do you do when approached by a beggar? Anything you’ve learned or helpful scriptures you’d be willing to share?

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“Gospel” Meaning…What?

Posted in Questions For You, Theological by matt on Friday, August 14, 2009

Sooooo I’m just gonna come straight out with it: I’m not entirely sure what the term “gospel” means.

Yup, I said it.

I know some of my readers probably haven’t even heard the word, but for my fellow heritage English speakers around the world this is a pretty common term. It’s used to refer to a type of music, as a term for four books in the Bible, or as just an everyday word to describe something as being absolutely true. It’s a fairly common word.

And, of course, people with church background know that the term originates from the word euangelion meaning ‘good news’ or, more specifically, “the good news about Jesus Christ.” My dictionary simply defines gospel as “the teaching or revelation of Christ.”

So what’s the good news? What are these teachings and revelations? That may be the most important question a person can ask when considering the Christian faith.

In my experience, this question has almost always been answered by quoting – whether it be directly or indirectly – Paul’s definition in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4.

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you – unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, (ESV)

Blood given for the forgiveness of sins. It’s the classic substitutionary-atonement interpretation of Paul. And this is a glorious, fundamental part of our faith. But what about what Jesus says about the gospel? Does it differ? In Mat. 4:23a it says,

And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom… (ESV)

What gospel is that?

Jesus talked a lot more about the ‘gospel of the kingdom’ than he did about the gospel of substitutionary-atonement that we see in Paul – isn’t that significant? I don’t consider them opposed to one another, but what the heck is the ‘gospel of the kingdom’?! That’s a new gospel to me. And there are so many other passages where Jesus is either teaching, preaching or referencing ‘the gospel’ (Mat. 9:35, Mark 1:14, Mark 10:29, etc.)

But Jesus obviously wasn’t running around telling people, “I’m going to die for your sins (in your place) and come alive again on the 3rd day and thus conquer death. Believe and trust in me!”

So what “good news” was he telling people? How do we understand these different uses of the term ‘gospel’ and how do they tie together?

(This isn’t rhetorical, by the way. I could use some insight.)