For lack of anything to do while on language study, my friend and fellow missionary went around the market and asked people: "What do they think of Christianity?" Most of the people replied that "Christianity are for the poor people only." And because he is a faithful Christian himself, he was offended by this answer.
Admittedly, I was also offended at first when I heard about it. But what can I expect. Here in the mission field along the Mekong region missionary activities are focused on the unreached people group and these are mostly tribal people. So even if there are churches in the city, their membership are composed of tribal people and are considered to belong among the poorest of the poor. There are no churches and missionary activities that I know at this moment that are focused to the people who belong to the middle and upper classes who reside in the city.
People here tend to identify Christianity with the poor. But of course this is not true in global perspective. Most of the rich countries are those we considered to be Christian. Even though the majority of the people are just nominal Christians. The statement is usually made by people who have very limited global awareness and perhaps they belong to the underprivileged themselves.
Why is it that many Christians are offended if their religion is being identified with the poor? With the popularity of the prosperity gospel, more and more Christians feel uncomfortable being poverty-stricken. Other believers would even accused other Christians as lacking in faith because they are poor.
I believe our Lord Jesus Christ wanted to identify his kingdom with the poor. The synoptic writers present Jesus as the "One who brings good news of the expected end times. He preaches the gospel of the kingdom to the poor and sets the captives free of the coming kingdom (Isaiah 61:1-2). As far as I know, Jesus never commanded the believers to preach the gospel to the rich, but there are many instances when Jesus specifically commanded his disciples to preach the gospel to the poor. Even he himself said that he was tasked to preach the gospel to the poor.
My favorite theologian Moltmann gives us a good idea what the poor are as the Scripture would mean it. "The poor are those who have to endure acts of violence and injustice without being able to defend themselves. The poor are all who have to exist physically and spiritually on the fringe of death, who have nothing to live for and to whom life has nothing to offer. The poor are all who are at the mercy of others, and who live with empty and open hands. Poverty therefore means both dependency and openness. are describe as the opposite of the poor. The rich is the man of violence who oppresses the poor, forces them into poverty and enriches himself at their expense.
Moltmann hit it on the head again when he says that…"Riches" are equally multi-dimensional and extends from economic exploitation, by way of social supremacy, to the complacency of the people who look after themselves in every sector of life, ignore the right of others and do not want to have to say thank-you to anyone for anything.The rich are those whose concern is only for themselves. They think that they don't need to depend on others much more on God. They are neither dependent on others nor open for others.
I was saddened that Philippine churches are becoming more and more detached in ministering or being identified with the poor. They are more concern about themselves. They boast of their thousand of attendance they are having every Sunday. The million of incomes they gather in their tithes and offering. They boast of the popularity of their pastors and leaders. The church wants to be rich and they think that identifying with the rich they are being victorious and successful.
The church exist for missions. It is from mission and in the light of mission that the church has to be understood. Mission does not come from the church but it was the mission of Christ that creates the church. And whether we accept it or not, Christ's mission is always concern with the poor. I don't need to quote scripture verses to prove my point. Christ wants the church to be identified with the poor… or be poor itself for the sake of the gospel (2 Cor. 8:9. Don't be sorry that your church is poor or is identified with the poor instead feel very sorry if your church is being identified with the rich or being so amazingly rich itself.