Smoky Mountain Family Historian

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Poverty, Our Ancestors, and Responding to Needs

Many of us came from families who were poor. While I have some ancestors who came from affluent backgrounds, I had more than came from impoverished ones. A simple look at the value of lands on census records or on tax assessment lists verifies this. I've heard many of the family members I knew who grew up through the Great Depression talk about how little they had. However, they also freely admit that almost all of their neighbors were in the same boat that they were.

When I think about poverty, I am reminded of the words of the Apostle Paul to the Christians in Philippi. He said:

But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Nevertheless you have done well that you shared in my distress. (Philippians 4: 10-14, NKJV)
I love to read that Paul was content no matter what his situation was. With the financial worries of the past few weeks, many have been left to wonder if their economic conditions will worsen. Paul's contentment was not based upon his wealth (or the lack thereof). For him, Christ was enough. I believe that many of our ancestors didn't worry much about their poverty. I believe that they were content, just as Paul was, in whatever circumstance they found themselves. There were a few who weren't. However, I believe that many were!

I'm very grateful to belong to a great church that does try to minister to the needs of those who are hurting financially. We don't want people to go hungry. However, we want to minister to them spiritually as well. Just as the Philippian Christians ministered to Paul's needs, we need to be reaching out toward those who are in need.

Reading through a lot of older records, you will find accounts where finances or material goods were granted to those who were in need. There were even overseers who were charged with this.

Even this practice has Biblical roots in that the deacons were appointed specifically for that reason.

Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” (Acts 6: 1-4, NKJV)
I wonder if our early government officials were following a Biblical example in responding to the needs of the poor in their communities.

This post was submitted for Blog Action Day.



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