As with many principles in the sacred Word of the Father we must rightly divide His truth. We humans are very gifted in taking many things to the extreme right or left of what the Father actually said. Everyone has their view and it is usually based on their personal experiences, traditions and emotional makeup. Allow me from my experiences working among the poor to express in a small degree what I believe is the will of the Father.
1. The Lord God expects all of those that belong to His Kingdom to give out of their substance. We are to give without fanfare and as unto the Lord. There are no strings attached and we boast to no one when we give. If we took Leviticus 23:22 and read it in the context of today’s culture I believe it would command us to not withhold for ourselves all of our personal substance but always set aside a portion of our daily life to give to someone in need. Giving means much more than just financial but includes possessions and even our personal time. We need to understand as one person stated, that when the Father blesses His children it is not so we can increase our standard of living but rather to increase our standard of giving.
2. We should give to all but especially to the household of faith. We are commanded to give to everyone including the stranger, but in both the Torah and the New Testament there is a special emphasis on giving to our brothers and sisters in the family of God.
“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…”
Many times by nature we tend to feel compassion for the stranger much deeper than a family member. We also tend to feel deeper compassion for those overseas then the poor right in our own nation or city. This is most likely due to familiarity with circumstances connected with those close to us and it can effect our degree of compassion. In spite of how we may feel we have a greater responsibility to our family of faith and where the Father has planted us to offer help in any way we can. As Paul wrote in his letter of Galatians, “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”
3. We need to be wise in our giving. We are told to ask for the wisdom from above in our daily living and this would include giving as well as all the other aspects of life.
The Greek language basically has two words for “poor” : penes and ptochos. In simple terms penes refers to a person who does manual labor or as we might call them today, the working poor. These were people who needed to work in shops or in the fields and consequently did not have the leisure characteristics of the rich.
A ptochos, however, refers to a person reduced to begging. Someone who is destitute of all resources, especially farm and family. This was someone who had lost many if not all of his family and social ties. The “begging poor” person is without all social support as well as all means of support.
Blind Bartimaeus begging on the road, Lazarus begging at the gate of the house of the rich man and the crippled beggar at the Beautiful Gate are all examples of the degradation of the “begging poor” that were forced out of the cities and towns and were labeled in the social scale, the unclean outcasts, the “begging poor.” These are the worst of the poor that Jesus made a concerted effort to help. Jesus used this terminology in His parable of the great banquet.
In addition anyone with a family who might carry them to Jesus is not classified as the “begging poor.” It was only those that had no social or material resources such as those Jesus spoke about in Matthew 25: 36-45. In our culture today the strong young capable men and women holding a sign at the stoplight would not be considered the “begging poor.”
The basic principle of giving should exemplify the great giver Himself, our Father in Heaven. He gives and yet He also takes away. He leads but He also disciplines. The Father is love but His love is benevolent and unconditional in nature. Benevolence holds a deeper meaning as it also works to provide exactly what we need and not all that we want. As an example, “God so loved the world that He gave…” It was exactly what the world needed but in essence it was not what the world wanted.
Jesus also taught that we are managers of the Father assets. The Father expects us to take His assets and use them for His purposes not just ours. The Father gladly gives us exactly what we “need” in our daily life to function, have our daily bread and enjoy the basics of life, otherwise we are to be faithful stewards with all that God has placed in our care. One of those duties as stewards is to do our part to take care of the widows without families, the orphans and the begging poor. There will also be times that the working poor will need temporary help or a need will arise due to some unexpected circumstance.
4. Do not enable a poor person in their poverty. This is where it may be difficult for some to understand. I have learned through many years working among every status of the poor that there is more to helping the poor than handing a twenty dollar bill through the window. There are a good percentage of the poor that have no desire to escape the clutches of poverty. They are content with their circumstances and living off of the social support system, food pantries and charities. You will discover this individually as you take them into your personal world and offer them mentoring opportunities to become self supporting. They will reject any attempt or will start the process and drop out quickly as the discipline and effort needed is found wanting.
Much of poverty today is even generational and going back several generations within a family. Children grow up learning this is how you live and survive and it is difficult to find one member of the family to stand up and take the hard path to break the stronghold of poverty.
In recent years studies have found that outside of disasters, mental illness, innocent children and the begging poor – charities worldwide are many times enabling the poor to remain in poverty rather than helping them improve their situation by training them to become self supported. This will take each of us giving much more than a sandwich with chips or a morning of volunteering at the local charity. It will demand each of us to take a personal interest in someone that is stuck in poverty and help walk them through the long hard road to recovery. Yes you will experience many who will drop out and disappear into the darkness of poverty and you will feel wasted and drained but as we emulate and follow Jesus we are empowered to do our part for the poor and that includes giving ourselves away.
5. It is okay to say no and walk away. As with every area of human life there are the scammers, the hypocrites and the unteachable on both sides of the isle. We have people who give and volunteer primarily because they want others to see how much they are giving and at the same time it eases their conscience concerning the commands of God. On the other side we have some healthy, capable and lazy individuals that are content in their poverty that use all the charities, organizations and government resources without conviction.
Jesus noted that there will always be weeds among the wheat. It is not our job to separate them but the light of Christ, the integrity of God’s Word, personal interaction and living in community with each other will sooner or later reveal the true motives of the heart. As we look at the life of Jesus there were many who walked away from His teachings, His life and even His miracles. Whether at church, an organization or taking time with an individual as we endeavor to give ourselves away with the desire to see good fruit, we will have many walk away. This may cause us to grieve and even want to give up but we have to understand that this is a part of giving. The only alternative is to go and give ourself away to another in prayerful hope that they will take hold of the truths of God, receive freely any help and over time break free from the cycle of poverty.
The take away is this:
⋅ As children of God the Father expects His children to give.
⋅ When we give it is not to boast or ease our own conscience in the sight of God.
⋅ Giving is much more than just financial it is giving from all the substance of our life.
⋅ As God blesses His children He does so that His purposes and plans might be accomplished and not to increase our standard of living.
⋅ We should give to all but especially to our brothers and sisters in Christ. They are at the top of the list in the Father’s eyes.
⋅ Give yourself away where God plants you, in your own family, church, and community without forgetting those in other nations.
⋅ Be wise in our giving. Understand and discern how God defines the poor.
⋅ Stop enabling those in poverty that have no desire to understand or learn how to walk in a self sustaining life.
⋅ As you discover that giving yourself away to someone is producing no fruit and their intent is never to change it is okay to say no.
⋅ Do not become discouraged as you invest in people for it must be expected that some will walk away as you help them.
There is so much more that needs addressed concerning the issue of the poor but my hope today is that you will take these simple thoughts and learn for yourself how you can further help the poor in a more biblical way.