1. God's concern for the poor
In this section we are not yet concerned with what the believer should think or do for the poor, but with God's thoughts. Though we often forget poverty and oppression, it is clear from the Bible that they are always on God's mind.
You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat. For the breath of the ruthless is like a storm driving against a wall
But you, O God, do see trouble and grief; you consider it to take it in hand. The victim commits himself to you; you are the helper of the fatherless.
The poor and needy search for water, but there is none; their tongues are parched with thirst. But I the LORD will answer them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.
Lesson: I think it's fair to say that our attitudes toward the poor are mostly Uneasiness and fear. They're dangerous and different. Sometimes there's a suspicion that their condition is their own fault, that they're simply lazy or inferior. Some are more kind-hearted, but prefer not to look at the poor too closely; it's depressing, and they're surely not fun people to be with.
These attitudes are a world away from God's attitudes, as described in these verses. Neediness arouses compassion in God-- and God responds in ACTION.
We may think: "Of course God loves the poor; he loves everybody." But it's not so simple as that; God's character is presented as a model for our own. If God values the poor, we have to think about what that means for us.
2. God's commands concerning the poor
This section collects some specific commands from Old and New Testaments on serving the poor.
When you have finished setting aside a tenth of all your produce in the third year, the year of the tithe, you shall give it to the Levite, the alien, the fatherless and the widow, so that they may eat in your towns and be satisfied.
Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?
John answered, "The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same."
Lesson: The message here is really very simple: help the needy. It's not hard to understand; it's just hard to do.
And the message is continuous. It's in the Prophets and Psalms; it's in the Gospels; it's in the Epistles. How many churches emphasize serving the poor as much as the Bible itself does? Won't the world BE A BETTER PLACE if all believers followed these commands?
Another thing to note about these verses is the lack of excuses. None of them add "...once a year" or "...when you feel you can" or "...if they're moral " or ". We have plenty of reasons (I'm sure you can think of a dozen) why we can't go out and feed the hungry, why we have to turn away the needy borrower-- and God help us. But all those reasons belong to our sinful human nature, not to God. God just wants those needy people helped.
3. God's Blessings on those who serve the poor
Serving poor may be The Right Thing To Do; but the Bible also associates it with material and spiritual reward. Here we'll look at the benefits promised to those who serve the poor; in the next section we'll examine the consequences of not doing so.
A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor.
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 LORD.
He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward him for what he has done.
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.
12 Then Jesus said to his host, "When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid.
13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind,
14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."
Lessons : We are susceptible to religious quacks who promise riches to those who believe in God because we all need money. We like to hear such messages and preachings..
We do find promises of reward in the Bible-- to those who serve the poor. God's making a very simple proposal here: "You help the poor, and I'll repay it."
Jesus promises treasure in heaven. Jesus is asking us to go way past our comfort level in giving things away. And in not getting them back. God doesn't want to hear excuses; he specifically commands us to help the stranger, the beggar, the sick. Jesus' command on dinner parties couldn't be clearer: the people you need to help are not the people like you, the people you like, the people who can repay you.
Can you give too much? We believe in moderate giving in all things. Unfortunately, we get this idea from the wisdom of the world, not the Bible. Jesus asks for immoderate giving.
4. Consequences of not serving the poor
As there are blessings for those who serve the poor, there are consequences for those who oppress them... or who simply ignore them.
Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.
..and have grown fat and sleek. Their evil deeds have no limit; they do not plead the case of the fatherless to win it, they do not defend the rights of the poor.
19 "There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day.
20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores
21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man's table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
22 "The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried.
23 In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side.
24 So he called to him, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.'
25 "But Abraham replied, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony.
Lessons : Many So called Spiritual Leaders worry what might happen to our country , Youth, if Movies and advertisements promote sexual immorality. Now, the sexual morality the Bible tells us to be worried about is our own, more than others. A more serious worry is what will happen to us, our churches, our nation, if we don't serve the poor.
Obviously, adding to the misery of the poor is bad-- exploiting workers, oppressing immigrants, robbing the needy. But it doesn't stop there. Merely ignoring the poor is a crime. Sodom wasn't destroyed because of sexual immorality; it was destroyed because it "had arrogance, abundant food, and careless ease" and it "did not help the poor and needy".
There isn't the least suggestion that the rich man being punished in hell was responsible for Lazarus's condition... except in the most general sense: he was responsible as a fellow human being, as a man who was aware of the one suffering at his door and did nothing to help.
"Pleading the cause" of the poor, being their advocate and defender, is simply something a righteous person does. Are you someone who, when others are silent, advocates for the poor in your company, your church, your nation, your office?
Let us Help the Poor and Bring Glory to GOD.