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.”
Jesus drives the point home. Jesus expects us to give and to give directly to the poor.
“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” ~Jesus Source: Matthew 6:2-4 (ESV)
There are a number of challenges here for me to pay attention to. Jesus changes how I think and act on giving when I listen to Him directly. This is a good thing since I have spent most of my career raising money for charitable causes. Yikes!
The first imperative of Jesus is that I need to give. Jesus say “when you give”. I should be very generous, even if all I have is a little (see the story of the widows mite).
The second imperative is that I need to give to the needy. I am struck that Jesus didn’t say give to the church (synagogue) or government or some other charity. I am not thinking that was inadvertent on the part of Jesus. This challenges me to rethink how I give.
The third is the giving should be a secret and not for the benefit of looking good in front of others. Now that shoots a hole in our whole culture of giving. What, no more shaming at offering time at church?
The fourth is that my reward comes from God directly and not the IRS. I think I and others are of the subtle thinking that when I give, I will benefit, perhaps even directly. Jesus is clear that my reward comes from God and God alone.
- “Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.” ~ Jesus | Matthew 5:42
- “So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.” ~Jesus | Matthew 6:2
- “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Master, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 39 When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’” | Matthew 25:34-40