In spite of all our relief and national and international relief programs, the poor are still among us. The battle of poverty goes on and on. Most of us, however, are among the prosperous. What should Christians do regarding the poverty of so many others?
The latest Census Bureau data indicates that one in every ten Americans are considered poor. Overseas, the conditions are even worse. “The World Food Council tells us that a third of the children in the world die of malnutrition and disease before they have five birthdays.” Time Magazine The Chicago Tribune report states, “each year 100,000 children go blind because of lack of vitamin A in their diets.”
I. Why do we have the poor?
The Bible seems to say that God allows the poor among us to test our compassion for our fellow men. Our response to the suffering and inhumanity of others reveals our true Christian spirit.
Some have wrongly assumed that to be poor is a sign of God’s disfavor. This is not true for God loves the poor and hears their cries. He sees and judges those who wrong them. Psalms 14:6.
The Word teaches us that God will bless those who reach out to help the poor. Psalms 41:1. On the other hand, we invite God’s judgment if we ignore the needs of the poor. Proverbs 21:13. We, as Christians, have a duty and obligation to help those in poverty.
II. How can we help the poor?
There are many different views of helping the poor. The Government contends that we should find a way to redistribute wealth and thus wipe out ALL poverty. The Christian principle suggests that we share. The Scripture does not indicate that we can or should change the world’s economic structure. Jesus clearly taught that poverty exists in this present evil world....”ye have the poor with you always,” Mark 14.
Christ’s ministry to the poor was one of genuine compassion. He would say (on the Sermon on the Mount), “when, not if.” Christian compassion should be exemplified without glory or fanfare. Sharing of self demands a realization of the needs to others.
Anyone willing to work was assured of food to feed their family. The Old Testament story of Ruth and Naomi portrays both women working in the fields to gather gleanings, which was deliberately left for them. In the New Testament, the duty of giving alms was acknowledged and encouraged. Jesus often spoke of giving to the poor.
Widows without family support were cared for by the church, as read in Acts 6:1 and I Timothy 5:9, 16. Paul mentions the poor in Galatians 2:10...”that we should remember the poor.” Christian congregations have always been God’s channel of mercy to the poor.
III. Why should we help the poor?
First, the presence of the poor prompts us to exercise compassion. We are truly selfish and self-centered when we think only of our needs. I John 3:17
Second, the presence of the poor gives us opportunity to prove that Christ has touched our hearts and made it new. Old sin nature prompts us to look the other way and ignore the pleads of others. Compassion is an evidence of an inner work of grace. James spoke of faith and works. Our acts are proof of faith.
Third, the poor give Christians an opportunity to lay up heavenly treasures...Proverbs 19:17 and James 2:15-16.
Fourth, there is a practical side to helping the poor. The church is to be a haven for those in its congregation who lack food and housing, who are suffering sickness, financial hardship, lack of clothing and medical care for their children.
Expect a blessing when you help the poor. Jesus said, “Freely ye have received, freely give.” Our first obligation is to share the Bread of Life - salvation. We cannot withhold the Bread of
Sustenance to those with genuine need.
We are commanded to be Good Samaritans.