They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised. All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along.
The poor mentioned in the passage were of the believers in Judea, who were Jewish. Paul was to be an evangelist and apostle to the Gentiles, but the Jewish believers who were poor were not to be forgotten.
Scripture from cover to cover with a special emphasis on this from Jesus is concerned about the plight of the poor. And with that there’s a warning to the rich, neither to neglect the poor, nor to imagine that they are well off themselves, just because they have material wealth. In fact that wealth tends toward poverty of soul, even though that does not necessarily need to be the case.
The church for centuries was at the forefront of helping the poor both informally and formally. And at the Reformation, this concern perhaps gained a new emphasis of helping the poor to help themselves by providing the means by which they could, while also putting into place a safety net for those who couldn’t. (See this helpful article.) Of course just because people are poor doesn’t mean they don’t need accountability. But they do indeed need mercy. And we can’t forget that scripture tells us that the poor of this world tend to be (more) rich in faith, and thus heirs to the riches God promises through Christ.
I believe that every Christmas, along with the Christmas story from scripture, and the prophecies connected with it, we would do well to read, and perhaps watch a film of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. Something of the heart of Christmas is conveyed in that story. Christ became poor so that we through his poverty might become rich (2 Corinthians 9). And we in him are to extend that grace of God to others in down to earth ways, as well as through the gospel. Something important to remember, not only this Christmas season, but every part of the year.