I appreciate the Biblical command that we serve "the needy." You mentioned that "the needy" are in "the projects." I wonder. As a case manager for the severely mentally ill, I was a guest in many apartments in "the projects." I could see no need for anything but responsible choices. 1st John talks of the "world's goods." Well brother, they have got them. I have big screen T.V.'s, they've got big screen T.V.'s. I've got a microwave, they've got a microwave. I've got a serviceable automobile, they've got a serviceable automobile. I have food in the refrigerator, they've got food in the refrigerator. I have new shoes, they have new shoes. I pay monthly to live where I am, and they don't. I pay for my food, and they don't. etc. etc. But the point is, why do we consider them "needy"? Unless by "needy" you mean "spiritually lost," I don't think we should consider them so. And certainly "worldly goods" by no means imparts or ensures Salvation. Indeed, the more money supplied for their needs, the more money some of them have free to spend on their wants, e.g. cigarettes, liquor and drugs. Money is fungible, so unless someone is held accountable for their spending, it can be used for anything.
You also spoke of "the poor." Now, what are the Bible's examples of "the poor"? One is from Luke 16, Lazarus, a beggar and a leper. He was poor through no fault of his own. He was a leper and could not work. The dogs licked his sores. You wonder that anyone should ask people why they cannot get out of poverty as we did, and I wonder that we shouldn't ask. The only real "poor people" in the U.S. today are the children of drug addicts and alcoholics who burn up the family finances getting high and they are not necessarily on public assistance. Now, in Mexico, Central America, South America, Asia, Africa and many other places on earth you are likely to find truly "poor" people. When John talks of "the world's goods," he is not talking about plasma T.V.'s and Maxima's. He is speaking of food, shelter and clothing.
In many parts of the world, no welfare exists, there are no unemployment benefits and worse yet, no opportunity to not need them exists either. They have no jobs. We, on the other hand, have transferred easily over a trillion dollars to "the poor" in LBJ's "War on Poverty" since the sixties. And what is the result? Not only is there significantly more poverty, the country itself is beginning to crumble economically since by "enabling" people so we've convinced armies of folks they are no longer responsible for providing their own bed and bread. And worse yet, we've discouraged millions of others who want to work, but decidedly do not want to support still others who simply won't. I contend that this scenario, i.e. the current state of social welfare programs in the U.S., is anti-Christian. I submit that we are being very poor stewards of God's money indeed by handing it out without the slightest attempt at accountability, which can only come through private organizations, specifically and ideally the church.
Although safety-nets are a moral imperative in affluent societies, wealth transfer payments funded and enforced at the point of an IRS gun and distributed without any oversight DO NOT CONSTITUTE CHRISTIAN CHARITY. As you mentioned in your sermon, Christian charity means SACRIFICIAL and VOLUNTARY giving of one's time, effort, goods and money. It is not and cannot ever be carried forward as a tax program. Sorry. No one gets any spiritual points for voting for more and more social engineering or wealth transfer payments. Indeed, a system of endless government checks by which people become enslaved to all sorts of traps set by Satan, e.g. indolence, drugs, prostitution, pornography, alcohol, gambling, theft, etc. is obviously antithetical to the very idea of Christianity.
Also, did you have anyone particular in mind when you inveighed against racism. If not, what was the purpose of bringing it up to our congregation. Our very presence at The Village Church [a "mixed" or "integrated" church] obviates such a description of any one of the planting families. If you meant visitors, it could have a purpose, but not a very tactical one insofar as we are trying to build membership and we can certainly work on each other's faults at some later date in the manner put forth by Scripture. I grew up in the Jim Crow South, which ended long before your time. I can assure you, a real racist would not come within a 100 yards of our church with any but the most malevolent of intent.
I know you have a sermon to preach and you have to say something. But, this is the second Sunday I have been disturbed at what seems to be political cant dressed up as preaching. Last week, you equated the Tea Party and the New Black Panther Party. Certainly, your reference to them was tertiary and seemingly expositional only. However, the distinct feeling I got was that you were saying that these were simply two equivalent sources of distraction to us as Christians. Now, I don't need to elaborate as to the history of the Black Panthers. I lived during their time and they were little more than street thugs and murderers. The New BP Party seems little better, in that they blocked a polling place in Philadelphia, intimdated white voters there and their leader, one King Shabazz, regularly calls for the death of "white babies."
On the other hand, the Tea Party is a political movement whose only aim is keeping taxes from swallowing us up whole and destroying our economy. Although accused by the NAACP of being racist, and even though many charges have been made as to particular racist behavior, the "incidences" have either been shown as hoaxes or there has been NO evidence thereof forthcoming. Indeed, Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) claims to have been called the "n" word fifteen times during one rally. Subsequently, Andrew Breitbart offered $100,000 to ANYONE with evidence to support the charge. With everyone carrying a cell phone, blackberry or droid around these days, ALL with video and audio capabilities, one would think this to be an easy charge to prove. NOT ONE PERSON HAS COME FORWARD TO CLAIM THE REWARD even though the rally was attended by thousands of people. So, you have casually, and inadvertently I hope, smeared a large group of people and falsely accused them of something onerous, even if innocently and without intent to do so.
My question is, why go there anyway? Why not use one of a thousand other reasons by which Christians might get distracted from the Bible or their role as Christians. For instance, pornography is a huge detriment to modern Christianity, as is drinking, gambling, adultery, drugs, affairs, divorce, greed, etc, etc. In other words, why be controversial and run the risk of being misunderstood when an example culled from the litany of man's sinful nature would do the job better anyway?
Anyway, I know it is tough being a Pastor because you have to listen to a lot of criticism from folks like me. But, don't let me discourage you. You are doing a great job. I only wish the political content and references could be turned down several notches and the voice of Christ be turned up.