When James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that had been given to me, they gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. They desired only that we should remember the poor, the very thing which I also was eager to do (Gal 2:9-10, emphasis added).
Remember the poor.
When Paul and Barnabas met privately with James, Peter (Cephas), and John, they presented the gospel Paul preached to the Gentiles (cf. Gal 2:2). In that conversation, Paul explained his controversy with the Judaizers (vv 3-5), his position on Christian liberty, and the dangers of legalistic bondage. Would James, Peter, and John agree?
Indeed, they saw nothing to correct in Paul’s gospel and recognized that God sent him to take “the gospel to the uncircumcised.” So they gave Paul and Barnabas their blessing (“the right hand of fellowship) to continue the ministry. But the three pillars had one request: remember the poor.
The Jerusalem church was suffering economically, and Paul had already made collections for it (cf. Acts 11:30; 12:25). But as a broader problem, the house churches also filled up with the poor. As the believers met to break bread, many ate the Lord’s Supper as their only meal of the day. So the pillars urged Paul to remember the poor as he took the gospel to the Gentile world.
How many preachers and missionaries are sent out with that expectation? What difference would it make if we were just as eager as Paul to do good to the poor?
The last few years have been economically devastating for many people, and I am sad to report that experts anticipate there is worse to come. Jesus said we’d always have the poor with us (Matt 26:11), but we know that times of economic slowdown, famine, and war can swell the ranks of the unemployed, the hungry, and the homeless. In those dark times, Christians can be people who tighten their fists around what we have, or we can amplify the good news of the freeness of eternal life by generously opening our hands to the poor and loving them in practical ways.
We know Paul’s attitude. How does your ministry of sharing the good news include remembering the poor?