Responding to the Needy

What does a good person look like? One of the most recognizable and consistent characteristics of the god person , as most people who define him, is the willingness to give to the poor. Almost everyone recognize the morality of helping those in need. The Bible certainly teaches this responsibility.

a.  Ironically, and tragically, some Christians have overlooked this important good work as an obligation and a responsibility before God. Of all the people on the planet we should be motivated to give and be benevolent. The Lord has been good to us.

I.   The Command to be Benevolent. The English word, benevolence means “desire to do good to others; goodwill; charitableness” or “an act of kindness; a charitable gift” (Random House Dictionary).  Certainly we can see that this is by definition something that we should practice.

  • Gal 6:1010 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith. God has always commanded benevolence. He has always championed the cause of the poor, especially those who could not help themselves (widow, orphan).

A . Notice the command of benevolence in the Law of Moses and the prophets:

  • Deuteronomy 15:1111 For the poor will never cease from the land; therefore I command you, saying, ‘You shall open your hand wide to your brother, to your poor and your needy, in your land.’

1.  How were the Israelites to treat the poor in the land?

  • Charge no interest – Ex. 22:25-27
  • Leave the gleanings in the field – Lev. 19:9-15
  • Do not sell food at a profit to the poor, or enslave him – Lev. 25:35-43
  • Cancel all debts every 7 years – Deut.  15:1-3

2.  Additional admonitions to benevolence in the law.

  • Prov 14:21 –  He who despises his neighbor sins, but blessed is he who is kind to the needy.
  • Prov 22:9– He who has a generous eye will be blessed, For he gives of his bread to the poor.
  • Prov 22:22 – Do not rob the poor because he is poor, Nor oppress the afflicted at the gate;
  • Prov 31:9 –  Open your mouth, judge righteously, And plead the cause of the poor and needy.
  • Isa 58:5-8 – God calls on Israel to keep a true fast before him, not of selfishly oriented deprecation, but of a true benevolence toward others.  – 6 “Is this not the fast that I have chosen: To loose the bonds of wickedness, To undo the heavy burdens, To let the oppressed go free, And that you break every yoke?  7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; When you see the naked, that you cover him, And not hide yourself from your own flesh?  8 Then your light shall break forth like the morning, Your healing shall spring forth speedily, And your righteousness shall go before you; The glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
  • Zech 7:9-10 – “Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Execute true justice, Show mercy and compassion Everyone to his brother.  10 Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, The alien or the poor. Let none of you plan evil in his heart Against his brother.’

B .  What exactly is the Christian’s duty to give to those in need? Three types of benevolence are described in the N.T.

1) . Churches helping  other churches who are in need.

  • Example: Paul and his companions came to Jerusalem “to bring alms to my nation and to present offerings” (Acts 24:17)   Romans 15:25-27 – 25 But now I am going to Jerusalem to minister to the saints. 26 For it pleased those from Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor among the saints who are in Jerusalem. 27 It pleased them indeed, and they are their debtors. For if the Gentiles have been partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister to them in material things. NKJV
  • Acts 11:27-30 – 27 And in these days prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar. 29 Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea. 30 This they also did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.

2. The local church helping their own members in need

  • Acts 2:42-45 – 42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. 43 Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. 44 Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.
  • Acts 4:32-35 –32 Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. 33 And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all.  34 Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold,  35 and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need.

a.   There were parameters of this benevolent work.  1 Tim. 5:5-10 describe the widows that were to become enrolled as the recipients of support from the church. Some were to be supported by their respective families, that the church be not burdened.

b.   There is no N.T. example of a local church using its funds to provide general benevolent relief for the community.

3. Individual Christian responsibility to help the needy. . Genuine Christianity is demonstrated when disciples of Christ fulfill their responsibilities to help those in need

  • James 1:2727 Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.

a.  Visit (piskeptomai)  means much more than to drop by for a chat. It carries the ideas of caring for others, exercising oversight on their behalf, and of helping them in whatever way is needed. It is from the same root as episkopos (overseer, bishop).  It is used to describe God helping his people and being concerned about their welfare.

  • Hebrews 2:6 – 6 But one testified in a certain place, saying: “What is man that You are mindful of him, Or the son of man that You take care of him?  (kjv – “visits him”)
  • Matthew 25:35-36 –  35 for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in;  36 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ To visit in a way that is pleasing to our God and Father is to meet as best we can all the needs of orphans and widows and any others in their distress.

b.  Matthew 5:16 – 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. We must recognize as well that food and clothing were never offered by the apostles as the means of getting people to listen to the gospel message. Although it is a vital part of our work to let our light shine, and bring glory to God, it is never viewed as a legitimate enticement.

  • Those who followed Jesus because He fed them, quickly turned away when they were confronted with the implications of Jesus message. (John 6:66)

II.  The Absolute Essential Character Trait – generosity.   Galatians 2:8-10  – 8 (for He who worked effectively in Peter for the apostleship to the circumcised also worked effectively in me toward the Gentiles), 9 and when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that had been given to me, they gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. 10 They desired only that we should remember the poor, the very thing which I also was eager to do.

A.  As Paul defends his equal apostleship with Peter and the others (pillars) he says they gave him the right hand of fellowship to go to the Gentiles. Just one thing was requested by the original apostles toward Paul as he went to preach the same gospel – remember the poor. Without this the message was incomplete.

1.  To take care of the poor is not only a practical but a spiritual responsibility, because to forsake that responsibility is to disobey God’s Word.

  • 1 John 3:17 – 17 But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?
  • James 2:15-16 – 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?

2. The willingness to do good with our resources and be generous to others is a true characteristic of a changed life. A true fruit or repentance.

  • Luke 3:8-11 8 Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. 9 And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”  10 So the people asked him, saying,”What shall we do then?”  11 He answered and said to them,”He who has two tunics, let him give to him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise.”

3.  Let us not overly concerned about being taken advantage of.  Undoubtedly, there are many crooks, scam-artists. But  giving to others will always involve risk. We must maintain compassion and a willing and generous spirit. We must go beyond justice and practice mercy. Matthew 5:38-42 – 38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’  39 But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.  40 If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also.  41 And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two.  42 Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.

a.   Giving to others cannot cause us to participate in or condone sin. Paul said that if a man will not work, neither shall he eat  (1 Thes. 3:10)

Conclusion: “It is More Blessed to Give Than to Receive” (Acts 20:35) Jesus words provide the principle behind the action. We are naturally turned to being takers, but Jesus teaches us how to be givers.

Jesus promise is not that we will get repaid in some material way. He tells us to do good to those who cannot repay us. But we are laying up treasures in heaven .  Matthew 6:19-2119 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal;  20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

  • What does God want me to do with my money?  Invest it for the future.  1 Timothy 6:17-1917 Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. 18 Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, 19 storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.

The world will notice our generous spirit. It is so contrary to the world they cannot ignore it. Do not ignore God’s generosity. 

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