Personality Tests and Remembrance – Galatians 2:10

“Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.” –Galatians 2:10

I really enjoy personality tests. I think it is because of a few students who came to my college my junior year. They really enjoyed the Myers-Briggs Personality Test, and through their excitement the whole campus gained an understanding of the test. Through taking the test I learned that I was a highly intuitive person and very thought driven. Because of this, I am not as sympathetic with people, and my mind tends to be looking towards the future and not back at the past.

My life started making more sense after taking the Myers-Briggs. For example, any time I have ever moved or gone anywhere new, I forgot what I left behind. Many friends that I have made growing up I have grown apart from, because sometimes my mind is so forward driven. If I get too busy I sometimes even forget to call my family! It is one of the negative sides of my personality, and it is something I am working on.

The one request that Peter, James, and John ask of Paul and the others is that they remember the poor. Why is this their only request? Who exactly are the poor? And what does it mean to remember them?

Many commentators and pastors try to make this statement about the spiritually or the monetarily poor. And it very well might be about them! There was a famine that was going around Jerusalem at the time, so it would make sense for the apostles to remind Paul of that. But why would Paul mention this statement as the apostles’ only request? It wasn’t a very subtle way to ask for money. Though a monetarily poor can make sense here, there would be better ways to articulate this idea aside from using the vague word “remember.”

“Remember” in Greek can carry the same idea as it does in English. It might not be that the apostles were asking for Paul to give money, but to just keep the poor in their thoughts. So what does this mean then? Should Paul just think about poor people?

I imagine a Sheryl Crow song playing as the montage flashes in Paul’s mind.

What would make more sense would be if Peter and the others were telling Paul not to put his mission to the Gentiles above that of the Jews. It is like they are saying: “Paul, don’t be so busy ministering to the Gentiles that you forget about your people – the ones who are poor in spirit.” It fits in context. The poor here is definitely referring to those in Jerusalem. And the sense of the word “remember” is continual – that Paul might continually remember the “poor.”

Peter and the others might have been afraid that the Jews would be forgotten about once the message of the cross was brought to the Gentiles. Just like I move on with my life and forget about those that I love, the apostles were afraid Paul might do the same and forget about his people – the Jews in Jerusalem and throughout the Roman world. The one thing they wanted him to remember was that his mission wasn’t just to the Gentiles. It was to all people – both Jews and Gentiles.

Who do you need to remember? Is there a loved one who you used to pray would find the Lord that you have long forgot? Do you find your time invested into only trying to reach one people group – whether it is divided by age, race, or economic income? God is reminding us to remember those we have forgotten. Find the physical and spiritually poor. Maybe you forgot about those that are outside the church altogether. Don’t expect to find the poor at church. Be the church – the hands of Christ outstretched into the world.

Will you remember the poor?

Bless ’em, Lord.

The scene is familiar to anyone who has been on a mission trip.

Wherever you are, it resembles a shanty town. You wouldn’t be surprised to see a Prawn from District 9; “buildings” being more like “pre-evicted establishments” in the United States. There is graffiti on the walls. There are dirt floors, and habitants who fill in the rest of the description quite harmoniously. Motorized transportation seems to be a luxury for less of the populace than more, and the same goes with laptops, and cell phones, and in some places, electricity.

Many people come back from mission trips, and they tell stories of people with whom they got to make a small impact. Some tell stories about the missionaries they worked with, or maybe even a story about a chance they had to present the gospel message with another person (who half the time, does not understand English).

But what I hear most from people, the reaction that far exceeds the others, is a statement of how “blessed” they feel for the provision God gave them.

I don’t think there is a typology in the bible to merit a “prosperity gospel.” But not even an oblivious person would deny that there exists in the world people who seem “blessed” in some fashion or another. And though hard work, birthright, or geographical upbringings are all a factor concerning this, in the world, someone can always find another who is worse off than they are, and also, someone who is better off.

So everyone is blessed in one way or another.

But what is the point of being blessed? If there are not any grounds for a “prosperity gospel,” than being blessed is not a “gold star” given to the faithful from God. God does not give more to people who are more faithful, or have more faith, or whatever those “yuppies” say. But, I think the “gold star” goes to those who bless others (yeah, like that one, “Pay it Forward,” movie).

“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” – James, leader of the church in Jerusalem during the first-century and brother of Jesus Christ

I remember reading as Shane Claiborne described a gift his homeless mission received from a local church. I now describe common scenarios by referring to this one – microwave popcorn to the homeless. A church donated microwave popcorn to homeless people. The church of America is so unaware of the world outside its walls that it gives homeless people – men and women and children who don’t even have electricity, let alone microwaves – microwave popcorn.

I, of course, am generalizing.

Giving to others is not just a suggestion that should be done at one’s convenience, but in the first-century it was seen as a requirement for those who considered themselves to be followers of Christ. James was not saying that it would just be nice if people would give. But he (and others) seemed to put it as a high ritual among believers of the faith. As Jesus said, “Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you” (Matt 5:42).

Are we so encapsulated in our upbringing within a Capitalistic America that we have taken its large-scale structure of economics and justified it to ourselves as individuals, even more so as Christians? When we feel the urge to give, are we just giving our hand-me-downs while simultaneously living out of our means? We need to start giving to others as though they are our family. We need to love and invest in those around us, because we, as mankind, are one.

We need to stop feeling so blessed and start being a blessing to others.