Helping the Poor

How our personal experience affects our perspective.

Have you been poor?

Those who have been poor understand the feeling of hopelessness when they don’t have enough to feed their family, pay the bills, or go to the hospital.

Have you been rich?

Those who have not been poor, may not understand the seriousness of being without enough to pay the bills. They may think the problem is laziness, poor use of money, or bad decisions.

Have you become skeptical?

Those who have been lied to by beggars may wonder about everyone asking for help. Because some have lied about their need, were using the money for drugs, or were unbelievable, the skeptic doesn’t want to help anyone.

Have you become an enabler?

Those who have a big heart for the poor see the need despite the big stories and continue to give even when they find out there is a problem.

What does the OT say about poor people?

The Law

The OT law which was given to Moses is filled with commands about justice, worship, civil matters, etc. But does it say anything about the poor?

Ex. 22:25 – Lend to the poor without interest.
Ex. 23:3, 6 – Don’t be partial to or prejudiced against the poor.
Ex. 23:11 – Leave fields fallow the 7th year so poor can eat.
Lev. 19:10; 23:22 – Leave some field unharvested so the poor can glean.
Lev. 25:35; Deut. 15:7, 11 – Help your brothers.
Deut. 24:15 – Pay poor people daily.

The law commanded but also taught the Israelites to help poor people. Sometimes we need to be commanded to do things because we don’t have right thinking or are not often thinking about the poor.

Psalms

The psalms are songs. Why would the poor be mentioned in songs dedicated to God? Maybe it is because they often cry out to God in their distress.

Psalm 10:2 – The wicked persecute the poor.
Psalm 41:1 – You will be blessed for helping the poor.
Psalm 72:4, 12 – God gives justice to the poor.

David knew what being poor was like. When he fled from Saul, he often had very little. This kindled in him a love for the poor, a hatred for oppressors, and thankfulness to God for his provision.

Proverbs

The proverbs often contrast the rich and poor. Sometimes the poor are poor because of bad choices. Other times they are to be helped.

Prov 10:4 – Laziness leads to being poor.
Prov. 14:31 – Oppressing the poor reproaches our Maker.
Prov. 19:17 – Lending to poor is lending to God.
Prov. 21:13 – If you don’t listen to the poor, God won’t listen to your cries for help.
Prov. 21:17 – If you love pleasure, you will become poor.
Prov. 29:7 – The righteous consider the cause of the poor.

Warnings

Isa. 3:15 – God doesn’t want the poor abused.
Isa. 32:7 – God knows when poor people are lied to.
Ezek. 16:49 – Sodom ignored the poor.

What does the NT say about poor people?

Mark 12:42-43 – The poor widow gave all she had.
Luke 18:22 – The rich, young ruler was told to give to the poor.
Luke 19:8 – Zacchaeus showed change of heart by giving to the poor.
Luke 14:13 – Invite the poor to your feast.
John 12:6 – Some talk about helping the poor but just want money.
Rom. 15:26 – Some churches gave to the poor believers in Jerusalem.
1 Cor. 13:3 – Giving to the poor without love is empty.
2 Cor. 8:9 – Jesus became poor for us.
2 Cor. 9:6-9 – God loves cheerful giving and will take care of you.
Gal. 2:10 – Paul was reminded to help the poor.
James 2:2-3 – You should treat the poor and rich the same.

Principles for helping the poor

Offering work is helpful to poor people (2 Thess. 3:10).

Old Testament law required farmers to not harvest the edges of their fields so the poor would have something to eat (Lev. 19:9; 23:22; Deut. 24:19). The poor were given the opportunity to have food if they were willing to work. The principle is repeated in the New Testament (2 Thess. 3:10).

Some people just need immediate help (1 John 3:17).

This is not the answer to every problem, but it certainly makes sense. Helping people who are unwilling to work can enable laziness. But not all are in that situation. Those who are sick, elderly, overwhelmed, or working but unable to pay their bills should be helped out as we see the need if we are able to help.

Conclusion

Has this study changed your mind about the poor and your responsibility toward them? Hopefully, each of us will now consider how we can respond to poor people when they have a need. It won’t be easy, and we might get taken advantage of, but we should consider each situation carefully and wisely choose how to help.