In chapter 9 of Michael Frost's book 'Jesus the Fool: The Mission of the Unconventional Christ' we are presented with the parable of the "shrewd manager" in Luke 16:1-13, and how Jesus uses it to "...Reframe Our Attitude To The Poor."
This was a superbly written chapter - not only because it fits with my own beliefs on the subject - but also in opening my eyes even further to the magnificence of God's grace.
Just a few highlights I gleaned from it:
What do you think about when you see the poor? Whether it's a panhandler on a city street corner or a picture of a starving child from Africa, do you see despair or laziness? Do you react with compassion or disinterest? Do you cry out to God or blame him?-----------------
In Jesus' time, the poor were seen as the example of what happens to us if God is NOT with us... But Jesus the fool reframes the way we see the poor, and God and ourselves.
"The parable (Lk 16:1-13) is about someone who cannot buy his way out. He's trapped. It is by the landlord's grace alone that he survives. This is clearly a parable of grace, but Jesus uses the opportunity to say something extra about how we conduct our affairs. It seems that this story says two things: firstly, we will be rescued only when we realize our hope rests entirely in God's hands; and secondly, while counting on God's grace, we are to give wealth away to those in need. Our salvation is given freely by God, but our journey toward heaven should be lined with those we have helped financially.-----------------
This is another example of the 'how much more' approach. If a self-interested fellow like our manager can relieve the suffering of others, how much more can we, freely forgiven by God's grace, help those in need by acts of generosity and kindness?"
"This seems to be exactly what Jesus is saying. Giving money away shows that you are a slave to the God of grace, not to money. Jesus the fool creates a character who trusts in his master's goodness and helps others as he goes. Then he calls us to do the same."
"If we are looking for Jesus we can find him among the poor."
"One writer alert to the biblical concept of hospitality was Henri Nouwen, who defined it as such: 'Hospitality, therefore, means primarily the creation of a free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy.' God creates such a space for us to become his friend. He also calls us to create such a space for others."
I am certainly no authority on giving to the poor and showing hospitality, but I think this is perhaps a key area that separates those who want to identify with Christ and those wanting to live an Americanized Christianity (or civil religion). Once again, good stuff.