“If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be….For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’ (Deuteronomy 15:7-8, 11)
“For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them.” (Mark 14:7)
We will continue to narrow our study of wise biblical financial management to kingdom stewardship. Many people living in developed countries have no practical understanding of poverty. They have hardly ever gone to bed hungry, have never known a day when water wasn’t available, haven’t had to survive in the cold without adequate clothing, and been unable to get medical care when it was required. However, most people live in the majority world, where 80% of humanity lives on $10 a day or less. They have experienced all those situations and many other trials such as not having money to travel, get married, or conduct funerals. Poverty is a fact of life but not one to be neglected, minimalized, or disparaged. “Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered” (Prov. 21: 13).
Because we are commanded to attend to the poor, how we care for them will be the subject of these devotions over the next few weeks. This study will not only serve the well-to-do. There have been times in my life when I ate beans and rice to afford to pay off debts. There have been other times when I went without any “extras.” Since those times I have always lived on a budget; even now, living in a retirement community, my budget determines my spending. Perhaps when you were young, or even now, you are trying to get by on less than is comfortable in order to stick to a budget. Budgeting in order to give to the poor should be a consistent characteristic of a Christian’s lifestyle, regardless of our class or wealth.
When Jesus told his disciples that they should attend to him, since the poor would always be with them (Mark 14:7), he was stating a fact of life in this world. We will never be able to eradicate poverty. Humanists are disturbed by this, saying things like, “There is enough food in the world to feed everyone, if only we would share it.” What most people don’t realize is that Humanism in this respect is a religion that puts its faith in people rather than in God. God’s Word clearly states that we cannot solve this problem, but that we should help those who are victims of it. Rather than address the “issue” of poverty, we are to help impoverished people. Christianity is God-centered faith that wells up in us, by the work of the Spirit, to overflow into the lives of others.
In the Old Testament God made it abundantly clear to Israel that they should help the poor by giving them work to do, honoring God’s designated observances for forgiveness of debt, and showing hospitality to aliens, widows, and orphans. James gave us this excellent definition: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (James 1:27)
Today when we attend church we will have the opportunity to give, and hopefully our giving will be shared with the poor, through our local churches’ commitments. We always have the opportunity to give, since there are innumerable NGO’s and ministries doing great work in the majority world. What might you be willing to forgo to help the poor?