Where Is Helping The Poor In Your Priorities?
Here is an interesting trivia question? How many Bible verses talk about the poor? The answer is over 2000! That is an astronomical number and when we delve into the details, the realization is this is one of the most important issues to God.
For openers, believers are commanded, yes commanded to help the poor. This is how Psalm 82:3 puts it, “defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed.” In referencing to help poor Christians, 1 John 3:17-18 states “But if anyone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need and refuses to help – how can God’s love be in that person? Dear children, let us stop just saying we love each other; let us really show it by our actions.”
In Galatians, chapter 2, Paul talks at length about his first meeting with the leaders of the church in Jerusalem and the great debate they had about Gentile believers and what should be required of them, since most Christians were Jewish. At the end of this long recounting of their meeting they came to an agreement of Peter continuing to preach to the Jews and Paul to the Gentiles. But then Paul adds this, “The only thing they suggested was that we remember to help the poor, and I have certainly been eager to do that” (Galatians 2:10).
Why is this last statement so important? Let’s talk about what Paul could have added. He could have said “the only thing they suggested is remember to love our enemies, or pray every day, or be good citizens.” But, no, he says they want me to remember to help the poor, which he heartily endorses. I think if this is the one thing that they universally emphasize, then it shouts loud and clear, the absolute importance of it.
One more thing is that Paul sees helping the poor as essentially being like Jesus. Look at what is said in Acts 20:34-35. “You know that these hands of mine have worked to pay my own way, and I have even supplied the needs of those who were with me. And I have been a constant example of how you can help the poor by working hard. You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than receive.’”
Did you catch the phrase “how you can help the poor by working hard?” I usually think of working hard to provide for me and my family, which certainly is the right thing to do. I also think of working hard to be a responsible citizen and to help out the economy. But working hard for the express purpose of helping the poor? This is something that I have never done or even thought about.
But here is another aspect of helping the poor that is a wonderful by-product: we receive all kinds of special benefits!
Here are just a few:
· Deliverance from trouble, protection, prosperity, healing (Psalm 41:1-3)
· Blessings of happiness (Proverbs 14:17)
· We are lending to the Lord and he will repay us (Proverbs 19:17)
What also can be the most dramatic benefit of all is when the entire body of Christ pools their resources, poverty itself can be eliminated. Look at this passage in Acts 4:32-35, “All the believers were of one heart and mind, and they felt that what they owned was not their own; they shared everything they had. And the apostles gave powerful witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s great favor was upon them all. There was no poverty among them, because people who owned land or houses sold them and brought the money to the apostles to give to others in need.”
Of course like any principle, there are exceptions. Examples would be if people are able bodied, but refuse to work and are looking for a handout, do we still help them? The answer is no, from the standpoint of giving them financial assistance. This is what Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 3:10, “Even while we were with you, we gave you this rule: ‘Whoever does not work should not eat.’”
Years ago I worked for the Salvation Army, and we were taught this concept. If someone is in genuine need, help them. If they are not in genuine need, then don’t help them. If you are not sure, then help them. Better to err on the side of love and compassion then suspicion and judgment. Great advice indeed!
While this is not an exhaustive discussion on helping the poor, hopefully it is enough to encourage you do something regularly. In the past couple of years, my wife and I have decided each year to budget a small amount to help a poor church and their community in Mexico. In addition, we also budget an amount to have on hand, so when physical needs of others come up, we are in a position to help.
My strong suggestion is on a consistent basis help the poor financially, but if you don’t have the money right now, then volunteer to help those in need. It is what Jesus desires us to do, we have many benefits, and others are helped. Who knows what you do might even save a life physically and spiritually, and that my friends is what our faith is all about!