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Should Christians Help the Poor?

Should Christians help the poor? Throughout Proverbs we find that God tells us to be merciful and kind to the poor, yet I’ve also been told that if we do not couple that with the Gospel our efforts are in vain. I like to take the Word literally and say that we as Christians have an obligation to help the poor – especially in our communitites and churches because we love God and want to show His compassion. If we are walking in the Spirit, we will be a living example of what God can do for a person and our lives will point them to Christ. Of course we need to open our mouth and testify of Him, and that will happen if we make it our practice to testify of Him whenever we are given the opportunity. Our responsibilty is to “show” and “tell” by our actions and words. God will take care of the rest.

Below is part of an article that I found on a church website about how their church helps the poor.

It does not make sense to do mercy work overseas and not at home.    This point was profoundly made over 100 years ago by a man named William Booth.    In 1890 the Christian explorer Henry Stanley published a book called In Darkest Africa. It told of the massive Africa civilizations untouched by the Christian West. The church was brimming with excitement over the foreign work, and many brave souls were leaving the comforts of their homeland to go and reach these forgotten people for Christ.     The same year, another man few people had heard of, William Booth, wrote a book called In Darkest . In it he painted a picture of the wretched conditions of the slums, the poor and working class in London, and the relative apathy of the English churches for the forgotten right outside her doors. ‘It doesn’t make sense to care for one and not the other,’ he said. In the introduction to the book he said,  This summer the attention of the civilised world has been arrested by the story which Mr. Stanley has told of Darkest Africa and his journeyings across the heart of the Lost Continent… But while brooding over the awful presentation of life as it exists in the vast African forest, it seemed to me only too vivid a picture of many parts of our own land.

As there is a darkest Africa is there not also a darkest England?… think for a moment …strange it is that so much interest should be excited by a narrative of human squalor and human heroism in a distant continent, while greater squalor and heroism not less magnificent may be observed at our very doors.   If this were the first time that this wail of hopeless misery had sounded on our ears the matter would have been less serious. It is because we have heard it so often that the case is so desperate… It rises unceasing, year in and year out, and we are too busy or too idle, too indifferent or too selfish, to spare it a thought. … it is time, and high time, that the question were faced… with a resolute determination to make an end of the crying scandal of our age.   What a satire it is upon our Christianity and our civilisation that the existence of these colonies of (lost men and women) in the heart of our capital should attract so little attention! …  Why all (these ornate churches) to save men from a (hell) in a world which is to come, while never a helping hand is stretched out to save them from the inferno of their present life? Is it not time that… to rescue some at least of those for whom they profess to believe their Founder came to die?’    

Booth became the founder of the Salvation Army.    What then, do we then cease doing international missions? Not at all! It means we develop a missional mindset at home. Following the pattern of Acts 1:8, every church should have a strategy for church planting and mercy ministry that starts in her local area and extends around the world.  Our church recently took its first ‘mission trip’ to Durham. We modeled it like almost every international trip we’ve taken. We asked people to get off work. We formed teams. We raised money. We built houses. We partnered with other Christians. We’re a long way from causing ‘much joy’ in our city, but that is where we are headed.  Members of our church have begun to look at themselves as ‘chaplains’ assigned to their schools, neighborhoods and places of work. They are there when someone dies. They are there when someone has a need. Each is trying to discover how they can give signs of the Kingdom to their local communities.  Some of our members are ‘relocating’ to mission-fields right in Durham. A few members have sold their houses and moved into lower-income districts to have a ministry there. One member recently turned down a substantial promotion because he didn’t feel that God called him to move away from those to whom he was currently ministering at work. Retirees are asking how they can use their golden years not for golf but for ministry. One retiree recently said to me, ‘People keep telling me to move to the beach because I’ve earned it. At no point in my Christian life have I earned the right to live for myself.’”

Go to the Summit Church web page to read the rest of this article.

I challenge all Christians to show the love of God in whatever way the Holy Spirit directs. This may be lending a helping hand to an older saint, the neighbor who lost his job, or a small child who has no family. We must be atune to the Holy Spirit’s leading every moment of the day so we do not miss opportunities to serve God by meeting the needs of the poor. 

Prov. 14:21  “He that despiseth his neighbour sinneth: but he that hath mercy on the poor, happy is he.”
Prov. 14:31  “He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker: but he that honoureth him hath mercy on the poor.”

Prov. 19:17  “He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the LORD; and that which he hath given will he pay him again.”  
Prov. 21:13 “Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard.”

Prov. 28:27  “He that giveth unto the poor shall not lack: but he that hideth his eyes shall have many a curse.”
Prov. 29:7  “The righteous considereth the cause of the poor: but the wicked regardeth not to know it.”

Prov. 31:9 “Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy.”

The last one I dedicate to all those who are a friend to the poor and needy child (Though it is generally considered by most commentaries to be directed to Jesus’ disciples):

Matthew 10:42 “And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.”

Spurgeon commented on this passage, “He looked away from the apostles to some of the least and youngest of those who followed him, end he declared that the very least kindness shown to them should have its recompense. There may be a sea of warm love in ‘a cup of cold water.’  Much loyalty to the King may be expressed by little kindnesses to his servants, and perhaps more by kindness to the little ones among them than by friendship with the greater sort.

To love a poor and despised child of God for Christ’s sake shows greater love to Christ than if we love the honorable, and amiable, and rich members of his church. Acts of love are divinely estimated rather by motive than by measure. ‘A cup,’ and that ‘of cold water’, may mean as much from one as banquet from another. Cold water has a special value in a hot climate; but this text makes it precious anywhere. Giving refreshment may be made a choice means of fellowship with holy men, if we give it because they are disciples; and specially so when persecuting governments make it penal to succor the saints in any way.
 
Though every kindly deed is its own reward, yet the Lord promises a further recompense. What we give for Christ’s sake is insured against loss by the promise of the text, by the ‘Verily, I say unto you,’ which confirms
it, and by the use of the negative ‘in no wise,’ which shuts out all possibility of its being otherwise.”

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2 Responses

  1. Can we define the word “help”? I think that being Christians, it’s just part of what we do, help those around us. Does that mean a mission of some kind? Does that mean we must do something highly structured and organized (soup kitchen, food pantry etc.). I think people get overwhelmed by the big things and how they feel the should be helping out and tend to just say, “I don’t have the time”. We ALL have the time to be kind, to lend a hand in our daily lives. I know many people who are poor, not all of them need as much “help” as the other. Some have grown up poor and instead of seeing all of the generosity that has been bestowed on them by good Christians, they bemoan the fact that they have so little and the ones helping them have so much. I have a hard time with that.

    • Of course we need to use discernment when serving others, but if we are in tune with the Holy Spirit’s leading, we’ll have ample opportunity to show God’s love where it will have the most profit. It can range from letting someone know you were thinking of them through a card or phone call to what you have done, Lisa, adopting a bunch of special needs children. I liked the ways the people of Summit Church helped those in their community. I think we too often forget why we are here – to bring glory to God. What better way than to reach out to others and show that we really are different because of Him?

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