Jesus is clear. I am to give directly to the poor. If they ask, I am to give. If they don’t ask, I am to give. There is no doubt about this at all.
Then why don’t we do it? Why do we treat the poor with contempt? Where is our sense of justice?
- James suggests strongly it is we like to make distinctions among ourselves. We think we are better than they are. Why don’t the just work?
- We have evil motives. We are just not as good as we think we are.
- We are very judgmental.
There is no doubt that poverty’s reach is both widespread and devastating. God’s people cannot be indifferent toward those in need, because His expectations for us in regard to taking care of the poor are woven throughout the entirety of Scripture. For example, look at the Master’s words about the goodness of King Josiah in Jeremiah 22:16:
“He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me, declares the MASTER?”
And Moses instructed his people how to treat the poor and needy:
“Give generously to [them] and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the MASTER your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to” (Deuteronomy 15:10).
This sentiment is perfectly captured in Proverbs 14:31:
“Whoever is kind to the needy honors God.”
Let’s dig deeper:
- James 2:2–4 —For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives?
- Exodus 23:6 — “You shall not pervert the justice due to your needy brother in his dispute.”
- Leviticus 25:35–37 — ‘Now in case a countryman of yours becomes poor and his means with regard to you falter, then you are to sustain him, like a stranger or a sojourner, that he may live with you. ‘Do not take usurious interest from him, but revere your God, that your countryman may live with you. ‘You shall not give him your silver at interest, nor your food for gain.
- Deuteronomy 24:14–15 — “You shall not oppress a hired servant who is poor and needy, whether he is one of your countrymen or one of your aliens who is in your land in your towns. “You shall give him his wages on his day before the sun sets, for he is poor and sets his heart on it; so that he will not cry against you to the Master and it become sin in you.
- 2 Samuel 12:1–4 —Then the Master sent Nathan to David. And he came to him and said, “There were two men in one city, the one rich and the other poor. “The rich man had a great many flocks and herds. “But the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb Which he bought and nourished; And it grew up together with him and his children. It would eat of his bread and drink of his cup and lie in his bosom, And was like a daughter to him. “Now a traveler came to the rich man, And he was unwilling to take from his own flock or his own herd, To prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him; Rather he took the poor man’s ewe lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.”
- Job 24:1–4 — “Why are times not stored up by the Almighty, And why do those who know Him not see His days? “Some remove the landmarks; They seize and devour flocks. “They drive away the donkeys of the orphans; They take the widow’s ox for a pledge. “They push the needy aside from the road; The poor of the land are made to hide themselves altogether.
- Proverbs 22:22 — 22 Do not rob the poor because he is poor, Or crush the afflicted at the gate;
- Proverbs 29:7 — 7 The righteous is concerned for the rights of the poor, The wicked does not understand such concern.
- Jeremiah 22:2–3 —and say, ‘Hear the word of the Master, O king of Judah, who sits on David’s throne, you and your servants and your people who enter these gates. ‘Thus says the Master, “Do justice and righteousness, and deliver the one who has been robbed from the power of his oppressor. Also do not mistreat or do violence to the stranger, the orphan, or the widow; and do not shed innocent blood in this place.
- Jeremiah 22:16 — “He pled the cause of the afflicted and needy; Then it was well. Is not that what it means to know Me?” Declares the Master.
- Ezekiel 18:10–13 — “Then he may have a violent son who sheds blood and who does any of these things to a brother (though he himself did not do any of these things), that is, he even eats at the mountain shrines, and defiles his neighbor’s wife, oppresses the poor and needy, commits robbery, does not restore a pledge, but lifts up his eyes to the idols and commits abomination, he lends money on interest and takes increase; will he live? He will not live! He has committed all these abominations, he will surely be put to death; his blood will be on his own head.
- Amos 2:6–7 —Thus says the Master, “For three transgressions of Israel and for four I will not revoke its punishment, Because they sell the righteous for money And the needy for a pair of sandals. “These who pant after the very dust of the earth on the head of the helpless Also turn aside the way of the humble; And a man and his father resort to the same girl In order to profane My holy name.
- Zechariah 7:10 —Do not oppress the widow or the orphan, the stranger or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.’