Giving to the Poor
I. GOD’S COMMANDS AND PERSPECTIVE OF GIVING TO THE POOR
For the poor will never cease to be in the land; therefore I command you, saying, ‘You shall freely open you hand to your brother, to your needy and poor in your land’ (Deuteronomy 15:11).
He who oppresses the poor reproaches his Maker, but he who is gracious to the needy honors Him (Proverbs 14:31).
He who is gracious to a poor man lends to the Lord, and He will repay him for his good deed (Proverbs 19:17).
Is this not the fast which I choose . . . divide your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into the house; when you see the naked, to cover him . . . give yourself to the hungry . . . (Isaiah 58:6-10).
Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food, and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy (Ezekiel 16:49).
A. OLD TESTAMENT
1. Old Testament provisions for the poor
a. Laws of harvesting and gleaning
You shall sow you land for six years and gather in its yield, but on the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, so that the needy of your people may eat . . . do the same with your vineyard and your olive grove (Exodus 23:10-11).
Now when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very corners of your field, neither shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest. Nor shall you glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the needy (Leviticus 19:9-10).
When you reap the harvest of your land, moreover, you shall not reap to the very corners of your field, nor gather the gleaning of your harvest; you are to leave them for the needy (Leviticus 23:22).
When you reap your harvest in your field and have forgotten a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow . . . When you beat your olive tree, you shall not go over the boughs again; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow. When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not go over it again; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow (Deuteronomy 24:19-21).
b. Forgiveness of debts (see DEBT Scriptures)
c. Unlimited liability of meeting needs
If there is a poor man with you, one of your brothers . . . you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand from your poor brother; but you shall freely open your hand to him, and shall generously lend him sufficient for his need in whatever he lacks. Beware, lest there is a base thought in your heart, saying, ‘The seventh year, the year of remission, is near,’ and your eye is hostile toward your poor brother, and you give him nothing; then he may cry to the Lord against you, and it will be a sin in you. You shall generously give to him, and your heart shall not be grieved when you give to him . . . (Deuteronomy 15:7-10).
d. Celebration of Purim
. . . [during Purim celebration] gifts to the poor (Ester 9:22).
e. Tithe every third year
At the end of every third year you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in that year, and shall deposit it in your town. And the Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance among you, and the alien, the orphan and the widow who are in your town, shall come and eat and be satisfied (Deuteronomy 14:28-29).
When you have finished paying all the tithe of your increase in the third year, the year of tithing, then you shall give it to the Levite, to the stranger, to the orphan and to the widow, that they may eat in your towns, and be satisfied (Deuteronomy 26:12).
f. Year of Jubilee
. . . consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim a release through the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, and each of you shall return to his own property . . . (Leviticus 25:10).
2. Examples of giving to the poor
I [Job] delivered the poor who cried for help, and the orphan who had no helper. The blessing of the one ready to perish came upon me, and I made the widow’s heart sing for joy. I put on righteousness . . . I was eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame. I was a father to the needy (Job 29:12-16).
If I [Job] have kept the poor from their desire, or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail, or have eaten my morsel alone, and the orphan has not shared it . . . if I have seen anyone perish for lack of clothing, or that the needy had no covering, if his loins have not thanked me, and if he had not been warmed with the fleece of my sheep, if I have lifted up my hand against the orphan, because I saw I had support in the gate, let my shoulder fall from the socket, and my arm be broken off at the elbow (Job 31:16-23).
a. Righteous leader
May he [righteous king] vindicate the afflicted of the people, save the children of the needy . . . he will deliver the needy when he cries for help, the afflicted also, and him who has no helper. He will have compassion of the poor and needy . . . (Psalm 72:4, 12-13).
b. Excellent wife
An excellent wife . . . extends her hand to the poor; and she stretches out her hands to the needy (Proverbs 31:10, 20).
B. NEW TESTAMENT
1. John the Baptist
The multitudes were questioning him [John the Baptist], saying, “Then what shall we do?” And he would answer and say to them, “Let the man who has two tunics share with him who has none; and let him who has food do likewise” (Luke 3:10-11).
a. Jesus identifies with poor
But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angles with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. And all the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. The King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me, I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You drink? And when did we see you sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’ Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’ Then they themselves also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me (Matthew 25:31-45).
b. Jesus models giving to the poor
After the morsel, Satan then entered into him [Judas Iscariot]. Jesus therefore said to him, “What you do, do quickly.” Now no one of those reclining at the table knew for what purpose He had said this to him. For some were supposing, because Judas had the money box, that Jesus was saying to him, “Buy the things we have need of for the feast”; or else, that he should give something to the poor (John 13:27-29).
3. Formerly dishonest to give to the poor
Let him who steals steal no longer; but rather let him labor, performing with his own hands what is good, in order that he may have something to share with him who has need (Ephesians 4:28).
4. Other examples
All those who had believed were together, and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions, and were sharing them all, as anyone might have need (Acts 2:44-45).
[A prophet named Agabus] stood up and began to indicate by the Spirit that there would certainly be a great famine all over the world. And this took place in the reign of Claudius. And in the proportion that any of the disciples had means, each of them determined to send a contribution for the relief of the brethren living in Judea. And this they did (Acts 11:28-30).
In every thing I [Paul] showed you that working hard in this manner you must help the weak (Acts 20:35).
Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. Yes, they were pleased to do so, and they are indebted to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in their spiritual things, they are indebted to minister to them also in material things (Romans 15:26-27).
They [Peter, James and John] asked us to remember the poor – the very thing I [Paul] also was eager to do (Galatians 2:10).
III. BLESSINGS AND CURSES
A. BLESSINGS OF GIVING TO THE POOR
1. Blessing of knowing the Lord
“He pled the cause of the afflicted and needy . . . Is not that what it means to know Me?” declares the Lord (Jeremiah 22:16).
2. Blessing of life
“If a man . . . gives his bread to the hungry, and covers the naked with clothing . . . he is righteous and will surely live,” declares the Lord God . . . [a son who] gives his bread to the hungry, and covers the naked with clothing . . . will surely live (Ezekiel 18:7, 9, 16-17).
3. Blessing on family
His descendants will be mighty on earth . . . [who] has given freely to the poor . . . (Psalm 112:2, 9).
4. Blessing of needs met
He who gives to the poor will never want . . . (Proverbs 28:27).
5. Blessing of health
How blessed is he who considers the helpless . . . The Lord will sustain him upon his sickbed; in his illness, You restore him to health (Psalm 41:1-3).
6. Blessing of prayers answered and guidance
Is this not the fast which I choose . . . divide your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into the house; when you see the naked, to cover him; and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then your light will break out like the dawn, and your recovery will speedily spring forth; and your righteousness will go before you; the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call and the Lord will answer; you will cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’ . . . give yourself to the hungry, and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then your light will rise in darkness, and your gloom will become like midday. And the Lord will continually guide you, and satisfy your desire in scorched places, and give strength to your bones; and you will be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters do not fail (Isaiah 58:6-11).
7. Blessing of delivery and protection
How blessed is he who considers the helpless; the Lord will deliver him in a day of trouble. The Lord will protect him, and keep him alive (Psalm 41:1-2).
8. Blessing of honor
He has given freely to the poor . . . his horn will be exalted in honor (Psalm 112:9).
9. Blessing of wealth and blessings of work
You shall generously give to him [the poor], and your heart shall not be grieved when you give to him, because for this thing the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all your undertakings (Deuteronomy 15:10).
When you reap your harvest in your field and have forgotten a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow, in order that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands (Deuteronomy 24:19).
May he [righteous king will] save the children of the needy . . . he will deliver the needy when he cries for help . . . may the gold of Sheba be given to him . . . (Psalm 72:4, 12-15).
Wealth and riches are in his house . . . He has given freely to the poor (Psalm 112:3, 9).
He who gracious to a poor man lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his good deed (Proverbs 19:17).
He who increases his wealth by interest and usury, gathers it for him who is gracious to the poor (Proverbs 28:8).
[Nebuchadnezzar show] mercy to the poor, in case there may be a prolonging of your prosperity (Daniel 4:27).
10. Blessing of spiritual fruitfulness
And let our people also learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs, that they may not be unfruitful (Titus 3:13-14).
11. Blessings in general
He who is generous will be blessed for he gives some of his food to the poor (Proverbs 22:9).
12. Blessings of happiness
. . . happy is he who is gracious to the poor (Proverbs 14:21).
B. CURSES FOR THOSE WHO DO NOT GIVE TO THE POOR
1. Curse of unanswered prayer
He who shuts his ear to the cry of the poor will also cry himself and not be answered (Proverbs 21:13).
2. Curse of poverty
He who oppresses the poor to make much for himself . . . will only come to poverty (Proverbs 22:16).
3. Cursed in general
He who gives to the poor will never want, but he who shuts his eyes will have many curses (Proverbs 28:27).
III. MISCELLANEOUS ISSUES IN GIVING TO THE POOR
A. CORRECT ATTITUDE
Have I not wept for the one whose life is hard? Was not my soul grieved for the needy? (Job 30:25).
B. EXAMPLE OF INVESTIGATING THE NEEDS OF THE POOR
I [Job] was a father to the needy, and I investigated the case which I did not know (Job 29:16).
C. GODLY WRONGLY ACCUSED OF NOT GIVING TO THE POOR
Is not your [Job] wickedness great . . . the weary you have given no water to drink, and to the hungry you have withheld bread . . . You have sent widows away empty . . . (Job 22:5, 7, 9).
D. EXAMPLE IF GIVING GLORY TO GOD INSTEAD OF GIVING TO THE POOR
A woman came to Him with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume, and she poured it upon His head as He reclined at the table. But the disciples were indignant when they say this, and said, “Why this waste? For this perfume might have been sold for a high price and the money given to the poor.” But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you bother the woman? For she has done a good deed to Me. For the poor you have with you always; but you do not always have Me. For when she poured this perfume upon My body, she did it to prepare Me for burial. Truly I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done shall also be spoken of in memory of her” (Matthew 26:6-13).
There came a woman with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume of pure nard; and she broke the vial and poured it over His head. But some were indignantly remarking to one another, “Why has this perfume been wasted? For this perfume might have been sold for over three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.” And they were scolding her. But Jesus said, “Let her alone; why do you bother her? She has done a good deed to Me. For the poor you always have with you, and whenever you wish, you can do them good; but you do not always have Me” (Mark 14:3-7).
Mary therefore took a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of His disciples, who was intending to betray Him, said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii, and given to poor people?” Now he said this, not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box, he used to pilfer what was put into it. Jesus therefore said, “Let her alone, in order that she may keep it for the day of My burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have Me” (John 12:3-8).
E. CARE OF WIDOWS COMMANDED
A complaint arose on the part of the Hellenistic Jews against the native Hebrews, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily serving of food. And the twelve summoned the congregation of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables. But select from among you, brethren, seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task (Acts 6:1-3).
This is pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father, to visit orphans and widows in their distress . . . (James 1:27).
F. RESULTS OF PROPER PERSPECTIVE OF OWNERSHIP: NO POOR
The congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own; but all things were common property to them . . . there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales, and lay them at the apostles’ feet; and they would be distributed to each as any had need (Acts 4:32-33).
G. BECAUSE THE POOR HAVE LIMITED RESOURCES, PROVISION FOR THEM TO GIVE LESS
But if he cannot afford a lamb, then he shall bring to the Lord his guilt offering for that in which he has sinned, two turtledoves or two young pigeons . . . if his means are insufficient for two turtledoves or two young pigeons, then for his offering for that which he has sinned, he shall bring the tenth of an ephah of fine flour . . . (Leviticus 5:7, 11).
When the days of her purification are completed, for a son or for a daughter, she shall bring to the priest at the doorway of the tent of meeting, a one year old lamb for a burnt offering, and a young pigeon or a turtledove for a sin offering . . . if she cannot afford a lamb, then she shall take two turtledoves or two young pigeons (Leviticus 12:6,8)
But if he is poor, and his means are insufficient, then he is to take one male lamb for a guilt offering as a wave offering to make atonement for him, and one-tenth of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil for a grain offering, and a log of oil, and two turtledoves or two young pigeons which are within his means (Leviticus 14:21-22).
He shall then offer one of the turtledoves or young pigeons, which are within his means. He shall offer what he can afford . . . This is the law for him in whom there is an infection of leprosy, whose means are limited for his cleansing (Leviticus 14:30-32).
But if he is poorer than your valuation, then he shall be placed before the priest, and the priest shall value him; according to the means of the one who vowed, the priest shall value him (Leviticus 27:8)
1. Jesus’ parents in this category
When the days for their [Mary and Joseph] purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought . . . a sacrifice according to what was said in the Law of the Lord, “A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons” (Luke 2:22-24).
2. During census rich and poor gave same amount
When you take a census of the sons of Israel . . . Everyone who is numbered, from twenty years old and over, shall give the contribution to the Lord. The rich shall not pay more, and the poor shall not pay less than the half shekel (Exodus 30:12-15).
H. GIVING TO THE POOR CAN BE EVIDENCE OF SALVATION
Zaccheus stopped and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor . . . Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house (Luke 19:8-9).