Help the Poor! Who, Me?

When only 2% of the church attendees tithe, is it any wonder that the government takes care of the poor?  God’s only requirement of government as to the poor was that they guard the poor from those who would take advantage of them (Proverbs 30:14) and make sure they get fair treatment from the courts (Exodus 23:6, Psalm 82:3-4).  The government was never supposed to care for the poor, God left that to us.

God commanded us to (1) open wide our hands to the poor (Deuteronomy 15:11), (2) to loan at no interest (Exodus 22:25), (3) to leave crops in our field for gleaning (Leviticus 19:10, 23:22) and (4) in the seventh year, allow the poor to have all the crops they plant or which grew from seeds that fell on the ground during the prevous year’s harvest (Exodus 23:11).  Many will say, “That’s the Old Testament” but we are also reminded in the New Testament.  Luke 6:38, 2 Corinthians 9:6-8.  God makes is plain that when you give you gain, what you keep you lose. (Proverbs 11:24-25) The English Standard Version translates that as “One gives freely, yet grows all the richer, another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.”

God has promised those who help the poor that they will be rewarded.  Psalm 41:1-3 states “Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the Lord will deliver him in the time of trouble.  The Lord will preserve him, and keep him alive; and he shall be blessed upon the earth: and thou will not deliever him unto the will of his enemies.  The Lord will strengthen him upon the bed of languishing: thou wilt make all his bed in his sickness.”  Look at God’s blessing for those who help the poor—He will deliver us out of trouble, He will preserve us and keep us alive, He will bless us upon the earth, He will keep us from falling prey to our enemies and He will bring healing to us when we are sick.  In Proverbs 28:27 we are told that if we give to the poor we will not lack.  Psalm 112:9 indicates that by giving to the poor, our righteousness will endure for ever and our horn will be exalted. [When God exalts the horn of an individual, the meaning is that he confers great power and prosperity.]

God has clearly put the responsibility for helping the poor on those of us who proclaim that we are followers of Christ.  Even John the Baptist when he spoke to the people about bringing forth good fruit worthy of repentance was asked by the people “What shall we do then?”  “He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise.”  Luke 3:11.  James stated in 2:15-16, “If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled: notwithstanding ye gave them not those things which are needful to the body; what does it profit?”  The Message Bible translates James 2:17 in part as “Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?” John addressed this issue in I John 3:17, “but whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?”

Paul expected that the poor was not to have a ‘freeloader’ mentality, nor were we to support slothfulness.  Unlike the government who stepped in to provide for the poor in such a way as to discourage working for a living, Paul was quick to remind the Thessalonians as to their duty.  II Thessalonians 3:10, “For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.”   I believe Paul was following the admonition in Proverbs 19:15, “Slothfulness casteth into a deep sleep; and an idle soul shall suffer hunger.” We are to help those who are unable to help themselves or those who are striving to help themselves, but we are not to enable those who choose to be lazy.  When God provided  gleaning opportunities for the poor, it required them to go into the fields and pick up the crops that were left for them, the crops were not picked and delievered to them.

God provided a pretty straight forward directive to us “For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy in the land.” (emphasis supplied) Deuteronomy 15:11.  God gave direction with a blessing, “If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren within any of thy gates in thy land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother: But thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth……Thou shalt surely give him, and thine heart shall not be grieved when thou givest unto him: because that for this thingthe Lord thy God shall bless thee in all thy works, and in all that thou puttest thine hand unto.”  Deuteronomy 15:7-8, 10.  (Emphasis supplied)  God wants us to be a ‘cheerful giver”. II Corinthians 9:7  As an extra incentive to give to the poor, Solomon noted that “He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord; and that which he hath given will he pay him again.”  Proverbs 19:17.   Solomon was saying that the money we give the poor will be viewed by God as a loan to Him which he will repay us later.  The New Living Translation states “If you help the poor, you are lending to the Lord—and he will repay you!” So we are not permanently deprived of those gifts.  “Cast thy bread upon the waters: for you shalt find it after many days.”  Ecclesiastes 11:1. The Message Bible translates that as “Be generous: Invest in acts of charity. Charity yields high returns.”

The reason we have what we have is so that we can bless those who are less fortunate than us.  God didn’t bless us so we could accumulate toys, he blessed us so we would provide others with the necessities of life.  “We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.”  Romans 15:1.  Paul reminded us “I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.”  Acts 20:35 (emphasis supplied)

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