Saturday, September 12, 2009


“If you have two shirts,
give one to the poor.
If you have food,
share it with those who are hungry.”
Luke 3:11 NLT
Like many of you, I am reading through the Bible again this year. I have been struck with how often the subject of “the poor” comes up. Mainly two issues are dealt with –we are to protect them against injustice, and help them out materially. In this post today we will just consider giving to the poor.

I’m sure you have noticed the Lord’s instruction to the farmers to not harvest the corners of their fields, but to leave them for the poor. The olive and grape growers were not to pick all the fruit, but leave some for the poor. There are many references both in the Old and the New Testament calling on people of every level of income to give to the poor. In fact John the Baptist said, “If you have two shirts, give one to the poor. If you have food, share it with those who are hungry.” That standard doesn’t leave any of us out.

O.T. passages tell us to give generously to the poor, not grudgingly, and God will bless us in everything we dorescue us when we are in troublerepay uswe will lack nothing. In the N.T. Jesus told the rich young ruler, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.” In Acts Luke tells the story of Cornelius who gave generously to the poor and regularly prayed to God. An angel appeared to him and said, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have been received by God as an offering!”

Our giving to the poor is something God definitely takes note of and blesses when it is done with the right motive. While God promises good things to us for giving to the poor, that must not be our primary reason for giving. Paul reminds us “If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.”

As Jesus said, “you will always have the poor with you.” There are countless individuals and agencies we could be giving to, but we can’t be giving to everyone. We need the guidance of the Lord to know whom we are to help. “Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.”

Let’s Pray-
Father you make provision for the poor through those who obey your word. Help us to be sensitive to your Spirit so we will faithfully give to those whom you have chosen to bless through us.

1 comment:

Jim Walter said...

Iver -- thanks for the encouragement about giving to the poor. Our congregation has as one of its goals to provide opportunities for those in poverty to become self-sustaining. While poverty references financial situations it also references spiritual and other non-material forms of poverty.

In that context I would add one other dimension. One of the characteristics of persons in poverty is they often are marginalized within the community. Here, the story of Ruth is instructive. Boaz following God's commands about harvesting so the poor can glean from the fields also acted to protect her from mistreatment at the hands of his workers (they were not to in anyway denigrate or demean her; in fact they were to take stalks out of sheafs and put them on the ground); and he carried out his responsibilities as redeemer kinsman. When the story ends, Ruth, a Moabitess, is fully incorporated in the Jewish town of Bethlehem.