Follow us

It's Time to Be Rich

Hey Branches community!
It’s that time of year when we get to come together with churches from all around the United States on a mission to serve local communities by partnering with local nonprofits who are already doing amazing work. This nationwide initiative is called "Be Rich" and it is run by a church in Atlanta, GA called North Point. While we report details of the generosity campaign to North Point, 100% of the funds raised and the hours served go to our nonprofit partners to help them serve our local community.
Maybe your stomach just dropped because you’re dreading the church asking you to give, or you’re wondering Why do we do this? To alleviate anxieties and answer that question I’d like to bring us back to where it all began…Genesis. In the beginning God’s love eternally existed, spilling over in abundance, creating life as we see it and know it (Delighting in the Trinity). He didn’t have to do anything about that, but he chose to build a relationship with us, reflecting the perfect others-centered love of his nature in the trinity. He charged humans to reign and rule, and even allowed the first human to participate in naming the creatures God created (Genesis 1, Genesis 2). The goal was splendor, peace, and paradise, but he left us space to be authentic and unique from him, which unfortunately meant we could make decisions that missed the ideal. In other words, we sinned (Genesis 3). God could have left us to our own compounding consequences of death and despair, but in a demonstration of his justice, goodness and faithfulness he came up with a plan to rescue us (again, he didn’t have to!) (Genesis 15).
The first five books of the Bible are called the Torah, or the teaching. This is because God nurtures this divine and human relationship he’s built with the descendants of Abraham in an attempt to show them how to live in a way that reflects Eden-blessing, the ideal and original plan. The Torah follows these descendants, called the Israelites, as they travel out of oppression, moving between trusting and failing to trust God despite his miracles, until they reach the promised land. At this point, the Israelites need Torah on how to live a good, righteous life in this new land. Now that they are no longer wandering in the desert, they begin to amass wealth and it’s not distributed evenly. In the last book of the Torah God responds by teaching the Israelites how to care for the poor amongst them (Deuteronomy 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11). Up to this point we can see that God could have left us to flounder, yet he rescues us at every turn. He promises to raise up a messiah to reconcile us back to him and overcome the part of humanity that causes us to sin. Following the books of the Torah is a series of writings chronicling powerful figures who ultimately fail to rescue the Israelites, but they do accomplish the goal of showing us how badly we need a perfect human. All the while one important theme emerges over and over again: God has a heart for the poor and needy.
After centuries, Jesus rises up and claims to be the fulfillment of the Torah (Matthew 5:17-20). He teaches a version of God’s kingdom that was unexpected, but not missing from prophecy, hinging on the idea that he is to be a servant king instead of a militaristic and powerful, worldly king. In his longest and most famous teaching, the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus lays out the roadmap for human flourishing and the ideal in the kingdom of God. This is where the name Be Rich comes from. Jesus teaches us that rather than storing up wealth in this world we should be using our wealth to benefit the poor and needy. That money is a way to foster Eden blessing, not the blessing itself (Matthew 6:19-24). In order to buy us back, or redeem us, Jesus needed to be a completely others-centered and un-sinning person who was willing to do the Father’s will and die like sacrificial animals in the Old Testament. Instead of covering one sin for one person one time, Jesus’ perfection and success in rising from the dead means he is moment-to-moment interceding for his followers. Anyone who believes in him and follows in his footsteps is on the path to eternal life (John 3:16, John 14:6). After Jesus rose from the dead, he visited his disciples, unleashing for the first time “the helper” or the Holy Spirit. The Spirit was (and still is) sent to us by Jesus in order to help us overcome our sinful nature, and to help us with our original purpose from Genesis, to be fruitful and multiply (in message and salvation) (John 15:26-27). When filled with the Spirit, Jesus’ followers are inspired to create justice and flourishing amongst them by selling their possessions to care for the poor (Acts 4:33-34).
The apostle Paul understood all of this and unmistakably expanded Jesus’ teaching from the Sermon on the Mount when he said, “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life” (1 Timothy 6:17-19). By now, the connection between giving and following Jesus is clear, but here’s Paul driving the point home. “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:16-18).
So why do we participate in Be Rich? To follow Jesus who stressed that he’s the way, the truth, and the life. To see the needy in our community and proclaim like Jesus “my comfort is less important than their survival.” We are every moment of every day being generously restored by the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. We get to love God back by loving our neighbors. We get to participate with God in nurturing a little Eden in our community. And, we get to fulfill our God-given purpose. Because God has a heart for the poor and needy. Not because it is required, but because we are inspired.
Posted in ,