Jesus, Poverty and a Bad Mistake

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We address poverty by both giving them bread for their bodies and the Bread of Life for their souls.

As I write this I’m traveling home from a Youth Specialties convention that was just held in Dallas, Texas. “YS” (as it’s commonly called) is a youth pastors’ conference that has tons of seminars for youth leaders to help them become more effective at ministering to teenagers. I’ve been teaching at these fabulous events for more than a decade and look forward to it every year.

One of the reasons I love YS is because it’s always a great opportunity to connect with youth pastors of all shapes and stripes. These leaders range from mainline to conservative, small church to large church and rural to urban.

My YS experiences have been defined by laughter, learning and, at times, controversial conversations. It has been a joy to wrestle through tough issues with others who are in the midst of ministering to the next generation.

One of the richest conversations I’ve ever had happened at a YS convention in Pittsburgh four years ago. This dialogue didn’t happen during or immediately after the session I was teaching that weekend. It took place as I walked down the street next to a younger youth leader whom, up to that point, I had never met.

To the best of my memory, the conversation went something like this:

You’re Greg Stier, aren’t you?”

Yes,” I replied.

After introducing himself to me and shaking my hand cordially, he shared with me he was from a more liberal stream of the youth ministry world. He then said, “I’ve heard a lot about you in my circle,” with a twinkle in his eye.

All bad?” I asked.

Pretty much,” he said with a half smile on his face.

Knowing evangelism (my primary focus in ministry) is not the most popular subject in some youth ministry circles, I asked: “Well, then, you probably already know what I’m about. After all, a guy who leads a ministry called ‘Dare 2 Share’ is not that hard to figure out. So, let me ask you a question … what are you about?”

He replied, “What do you mean?”

What matters to you? What is your ministry priority? What are you about?” I asked.

He thought for a second and replied,”I’m about the kingdom of God.”

Hard to argue with that. That’s a good thing to be about!

Seeking clarification I asked, “And, from your perspective, what is the kingdom of God about?”

Taking care of the poor,” was his quick reply.

Great! I’m all for taking care of the poor,” I affirmed. “But what about the Gospel?” I asked. “Where does that fit in?”

He thought deeply and replied, “That is the Gospel.”

What do you mean?” I asked.

He responded: “Well, Jesus fed the poor. The disciples fed the poor. And we are called to feed the poor, and when we feed the poor we are the hands and feet of Jesus. We are living the Gospel. That is the Gospel we preach, not with our lips but with our lives. That is the core of the kingdom of God.”

I thought for a second and asked, “Have you ever been poor?” (I could tell this guy had never seen a day of poverty in his life.)

What do you mean?” he asked.

Have you been poor by American standards? Have you gone without food? Were you raised in a high-poverty area? Have you ever lived on food stamps? Were you raised in a high-crime-rate area? That’s what I mean by poor.” I responded.

No, I haven’t,” was his honest reply. “Why do you ask?”

Greg Stier Greg Stier is the President and Founder of Dare 2 Share Ministries, which is mobilizing teenagers across America to share their faith.

More from Greg Stier or visit Greg at

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  • Ben

    Hi, Greg, I am so glad you came out of your passed life it gave you your character. Why do we say Jesus was poor when He wasn’t. when Jesus said, fed the poor was he speaking only those who were going hungry, like you said where there is no hope there is no life,
    let me ask you a question, If some one had a flat on the side of the road would you stop to help or would you just drive on by shouting Praise the Lord and keep on going? Jesus fed the hungry with bread and the demonstration of his love for His people so when the young paster said he would feed the hungry than said God bless that is the gospel inaction don’you think so. Ben

    • Joe McKeever

      Jesus wasn’t poor. “He became poor so that by His poverty we might be made rich.” He said He had no place to lay His head. He would have been surprised to learn He was not poor.

  • Peyton Jones

    Loved this bro. Been there. The whole nine yards. Trailer park, single mom working two jobs, on govt. lunches at school. Thanks for sharing. I was raised in a liberal Episcopalian church where they all thought I was nuts when I got saved. So I get it. Nothing to add, only to reinforce what you were saying. Only at 8, I didn’t have a clue how Jesus could do all the things you said. I would wait another 6 years before he made me to feast in Him. Eventually, I would go overseas and become a missionary for 12 years. Guess some of that poverty stuff stuck!

  • pastor mark

    Well Spoken.

  • Roy Malpas

    I am really blessed blessed reading your story. I’m a pastor from Philippines with a feeding ministry in the slum area. IT IS VERY important as we do ministering the children that Jesus Christ must be introduced to them, and that they may put their trust to him as their Savior. The feeding ministry is just one of many ways to reach out the poor people, but we should not forget to let them hear the Gospel.
    I understand real meaning of being poor.

    I grew up in the street, living by means of picking up food in the garbage, selling anything I can pick up in the street like recyclable materials. I’m from a broken family. At the age of 18, an old woman adopted me. She brought me to church. The Gospel was shared to me, growing up in faith.

    Year 1993, after 7 years being saved, I started a home bible study and become a big congregation now a church in the slum area. I am feeding regularly 500 children every week, but the very focus of this ministry is bringing Jesus to them. The ministry itself is not the Gospel, the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ is the gospel.

    • Pastor Regina Baldwin

      Praise God for what you do!! and the message of hope you bring!

    • greg stier

      Roy, I praise God for your response. You know the meaning of poverty way more than I ever have and your words say in much more clear and powerful words what I was trying to communicate in this article. Thank you for your ministry to the body and the soul of the poor! May God bless your efforts!

  • jairo Rodriguez

    what an amassing story. Thanks for your testimony. I had no idea of how Jesus throughout your poverty, give you hope. I am ashamed that I am one of those Christians that while providing food food from the church to the need it. I didn’t preach God’s Word. Shame on me

  • Mar Komus

    Very well said. And this is definitely 1 of those “both-and” cases. As James wrote, if we only well-wish our brothers and sisters who are in need and do nothing about those needs we haven’t helped them. In the same way if we don’t acknowledge Jesus we haven’t done them any favor either.

  • Deborah Spencer

    Awesome article to help us be about it.

  • Scott Dossett

    I grew up American rural poor and I also remember the hope that was communicated to me, not simply by a preached message, but by the acceptance, love and grace shown me by people who represented Jesus. The message of God’s love in the cross of Jesus was overwhelming, but apart from the from the hands and voices of those who loved in his name, I’m not sure it would have had the same effect. The gospel is certainly more, but not less than helping the poor, the broken and the hurting.

    Unfortunately, it was in the “preached” message of similar communities that I learned of an wrathful God who only loved people who ascribed to particular doctrinal statements, who loves people only when they behave and who looked more like the Roman goddess Dike or Justitia meting out “justice” with a sword and a scale than Jesus on the cross.

  • joy

    A touching story!

  • Joe McKeever

    Love this, Greg. Thanks!

  • Ayeoribe

    Rev James Smith is on his way to India to give Jesus heart-life to rural communities and bring Jesus hands-ministry to them. I leave in Lagos nigeria and would like to give $100 to partner with him. This is my email-, he should sent me detail on how to participate from outside USA.

  • Rosie

    Hmm…The Lord speak of these certain kind of peoples..ones who have to see it in order to believe and the other who believe even though they haven’t had to have gone through it..I like the young man answers he reconized something about the kingdom a lot of us has missed..still in all The Lord said feed the poor first so that they want be listening with a hungrey stomach first the Lord matthew..I think the young man has a very Blessed furture ahead of him .And I hope the Lord continue with this young warrior..

  • Kendall Fortner

    Very good points brother. Just returned from visiting an orphanage in Mexico. Those children are fortunate because there is a church and pastor on site. Thank you for your wise words.

  • Bro Steve

    Wow!!!! What a great story!!!!!
    I try to convey that same message to those around me, and you’ve sown me how.
    Thank you