This is a truly amazing Scripture when you look at it in context and think about the impact of it. Paul had gone to Jerusalem with Barnabus and Titus to discuss the issues facing the early church “the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles” . James, Cephas and John gave them the right hands of fellowship and commended them. They agreed with their ministry and gave their approval to Paul and Barnabas. They were discussing the very essence of the Christian message. We find an interesting response from James, Cephas and John that they should remember the poor and to which Paul responded that …”which very thing I was also eager (zealous-ASV) to do.”
Therefore, we must answer three questions here
First question: What were they asked to do?
Second question: Who are the poor?
Third question: What does it mean to “remember” them?
The answer to the first question is very clear that they should continue to preach among the Gentile unbelievers.
The answer to second question requires a little bit more of our attention. Here most of the commentators seem to agree that the “poor” in this context is referring primarily to the poor believers. This is evidenced in 1 Corinthians 16:1-3 where it says, “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also. On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come. When I arrive, whomever you may approve, I will send them with letters to carry your gift to Jerusalem;” So in this immediate context, “remembering the poor” would seem to imply taking up offerings and sending the offerings back to the believers in Jerusalem. It may very well be the poor who would come in their contact as they preach the Gospel.
One of my favorite verses is found in Galatians 6:10 “So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.” So this reinforces the idea that there should be a special emphasis in our remembering the poor within the church – the worldwide body of Christ.
But the rest of the Scripture expands on this, and many of the Scriptures clearly refer to the poor both in and out of the body of believers.(There are possibly 161 references to the poor). In addition, the word poor is used to refer to everyone from the destitute – those with virtually no material resources at all – to property owners who must sell a portion of their property to meet their immediate needs (Leviticus 25:25). So the poor could be one of the billion or so people who live on less than $2 a day, but they could also be your next door neighbor who lost their job and is temporarily living off their retirement funds!
Finally the answer to the third question lies in its tense and implication of “remember”, which implies a continuous action. We can’t
remember at a point in time – and then forget them. We need to keep on remembering the poor! This question also requires us to go back and reflect on Christ’s ministry. He was concerned about the spiritual need of the people and at the same time he was moved with compassion to see their physical need.
Remembering the poor also has implications on our evangelistic efforts. Jesus said that he came to proclaim the good news to the
poor (Luke 4:18). As we spread the Gospel, maybe we should take special care to include the poor in our efforts!