Neglecting our duty to help others has consequences

If a poor man, one of your brothers, is with you within any of your gates in your land which Yahweh your God gives you, you shall not harden your heart, nor shut your hand from your poor brother; but you shall surely open your hand to him, and shall surely lend him sufficient for his need, which he lacks.

Deuteronomy 15:7-8

Here at the Core of the Bible, I will typically focus on the positive aspects of the qualities that we should be exhibiting as believers. On the quality of compassion, we are commanded to ensure our hearts are not hardened to the needs of those around us. However, the Bible is also very clear that the intentional neglecting of caring for the less fortunate has consequences.

Proverbs 21:13 Whoever stops his ears at the cry of the poor, he will also cry out, but shall not be heard.
Proverbs 28:27 One who gives to the poor has no lack; but one who closes his eyes will have many curses.

It’s as if God has created an environment that works against those who make a point of avoiding help to others in need. Yeshua also confirms a similar principle in his teachings.

for I was hungry, and you didn’t give me food to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me no drink; I was a stranger, and you didn’t take me in; naked, and you didn’t clothe me; sick, and in prison, and you didn’t visit me. … ‘Most certainly I tell you, because you didn’t do it to one of the least of these, you didn’t do it to me.’ These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Matthew 25:42-43, 45-46

If we claim to be believers in the God of the universe, we have an obligation to those around us who can many times appear invisible. Sometimes we avoid involvement because we feel helpless to provide substantive, long-term solutions; a handout just doesn’t seem to make any real difference. But, while we should indeed be looking at ways to make long term changes, we should also not neglect immediate needs.

What good is it, my brothers, if a man says he has faith, but has no works? Can faith save him? And if a brother or sister is naked and in lack of daily food, and one of you tells them, “Go in peace. Be warmed and filled;” yet you didn’t give them the things the body needs, what good is it?

James 2:14-16

We should always want to help from the heart; however, we should also be aware that there are consequences when we do nothing. Let’s seek ways that we can help, even if they are only small ways to start. It all makes a positive difference in the eyes of God.

If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Charitable deeds from a sincere heart are always recognized by God

There was a believer in Joppa named Tabitha (which in Greek is Dorcas). She was always doing kind things for others and helping the poor.

Acts 9:36

Being compassionate towards those in need is a hallmark of believers. Providing charitable actions for others is something that is encouraged by Yeshua.

“Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Make money-bags for yourselves that won’t grow old, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.

Luke 12:33

Thanks to the Elizabethan English of the King James Bible, generosity with those in need has been historically come to be known as the giving of “alms.” That word has lost a lot of its meaning in our current age, but the underlying Greek word implies pity and mercy; according to one dictionary: “compassionateness (as exercised towards the poor), beneficence, or (concretely) a benefaction.”

In the New Testament writings, we see individuals who were recognized for their charitable actions and giving: Tabitha, as mentioned above, and Cornelius, a benefactor of the Jews.

There was a man in Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment. He was a devout man and feared God along with his whole household. He did many charitable deeds for the Jewish people and always prayed to God.

Acts 10:1-2

While both of these individuals are mentioned because of the extraordinary events that accompanied the recognition of their giving (Tabitha was brought back from the dead, and Cornelius received a heavenly vision), the important thing is that their giving was recognized by God. They were not giving to be praised by others (although that ended up coming about), but they were simply individuals who were motivated by sincere compassion to help those in need.

Yeshua was clear that this type of charitable giving and assistance should in no way be motivated by public recognition.

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. Otherwise, you have no reward with your Father in heaven. “So whenever you give to the poor, don’t sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be applauded by people. Truly I tell you, they have their reward. “But when you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, “so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Matthew 6:1-4

The examples of Tabitha and Cornelius should be a great encouragement to us because they are each direct fulfillments of this very promise from Yeshua: “your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” Each of them received amazing blessings from God, not because they were looking to be blessed, but because they were simply and sincerely concerned about the welfare of others.

These two individuals should not be looked at as examples of testing God to see if he will come through with some amazing blessing for us when we give; they are examples of the honor that can be bestowed on individuals whom God chooses to honor when they are faithful to his Word and his principles. Neither one of these individuals was giving to get, and yet they received an abundance of blessing and honor. The Word of God and the words of Yeshua are validated in their fulfillment in these individuals’ lives.

“Give, and it will be given to you; a good measure ​– ​pressed down, shaken together, and running over ​– ​will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”

Luke 6:38

It’s this type of sincere generosity and compassion that God has demonstrated that he sees and recognizes. While we may never receive a wondrous miracle due to our charitable compassion, it is because of these examples that we can be confident that our heavenly Father recognizes our actions and is pleased with our obedient giving. That in itself should be more than enough reward for us.

If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Instead of sectarianism, edifying one another

Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each one of us please his neighbor for that which is good, to be building him up.

Romans 15:1-2

This admonition from Paul comes within the context of sorting through the varieties of opinions and traditions that were evident within the burgeoning Messianic community. Some had traditional fasting days each week, others would not eat meat from the markets because it had been sacrificed to idols. All of these collective variations in practice were coming together in the body of Messiah to become one people.

A similar equivalent in Christianity today might be to have Methodists, Lutherans, Quakers, Catholics, along with any other non-denominational Protestant group gather together for a pot-luck each week, and all get along and be united. This was the type of challenge that Paul was attempting to overcome in this passage.

Sectarian differences are evident within all religions, and Christianity is no different (in fact, dare I say, it excels) in that regard. We have allowed ourselves to become extremely fragmented and isolated from one another rather than strengthened by one another in the unity of the instruction of God.

Therefore let’s not judge one another any more, but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling block in his brother’s way, or an occasion for falling. … Yet if because of food your brother is grieved, you walk no longer in love. Don’t destroy with your food him for whom Christ died.

Romans 14: 13, 15

The exhibition of love and compassion among believers is to not put stumbling blocks in each others’ way. Rather than focus on our differences, Paul is saying, let’s put our personal opinions aside and focus on encouraging and building one another up.

I, therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to walk worthily of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and humility, with patience, bearing with one another in love, being eager to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, even as you also were called in one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in us all.

Ephesians 4:1-6

For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus…

1 Timothy 2:5

If we could start there in our communication with each other (one God, the Father, and one Lord, the Messiah), we can begin to realize the unity that God envisions for his people. Regardless of our opinions about non-essential things, we could become peacemakers who seek to honor our Lord by edifying one another and strengthening one another.

If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.

Proactive compassion is honest and doesn’t hide or refrain from helping

“If you come upon your enemy’s ox or donkey that has strayed away, take it back to its owner. If you see that the donkey of someone who hates you has collapsed under its load, do not walk by. Instead, stop and help.

Exodus 23:4-5

“If you see your neighbor’s ox or sheep or goat wandering away, don’t ignore your responsibility. Take it back to its owner. If its owner does not live nearby or you don’t know who the owner is, take it to your place and keep it until the owner comes looking for it. Then you must return it. Do the same if you find your neighbor’s donkey, clothing, or anything else your neighbor loses. Don’t ignore your responsibility. “If you see that your neighbor’s donkey or ox has collapsed on the road, do not look the other way. Go and help your neighbor get it back on its feet!

Deuteronomy 22:1-4

Most people will typically be available to help friends and loved ones in their time of need. However, one of the easiest things to do when a need from an anonymous individual becomes apparent to us is to pass by, turn the other way, or to simply ignore it. We can justify this by any number of ways saying we are not qualified to help, or not capable, or more commonly, on a schedule with no time for distractions.

But the torah or instruction of God makes no such distinctions. God removes anyone’s justifications with a couple of choice phrases. In the Exodus passage regarding one’s enemies, God says the Israelites should not refrain from or leave undone the thing that needs to be done. In the Deuteronomy passage regarding a brother, God says that one should not hide or conceal oneself from their need.

Regardless if one is an enemy or just an anonymous person in need, the honest response that God expects of his people is that those individuals would not be ignored.

Yeshua confirms this instruction by illustrating an ideal response with the story of the Good Samaritan. The righteous Israelites passed by the man who had been assaulted by robbers, but the Samaritan, considered an “enemy” by the Jews of the day, was the hero of the story and did what God expects of all of us. Yeshua made it personal for his audience in his day, certainly highlighting how any person, even an enemy, is valued significantly more highly than a donkey.

Admittedly, this type of proactive assistance was much more necessary in the day and age when emergency services were not available, as it was up to the individuals in a community to watch out for one another’s needs and not to rely on local agencies to address those types of situations. Even so, the local agencies can only help so much because the needs vary so greatly among regional populations.

Since it is God who makes this type of involvement personal and required, we should be honest and not neglect our response to the individual needs that become apparent to us. Many times, in an effort at charitability, we instead choose to focus on the anonymous movements to “save the world” in one fashion or another. Those endeavors may also be helpful in different ways, but they do not relieve us of our obligations to help proactively in personal ways with the immediate needs of those around us, friend and foe alike.

“Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked. The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.” Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”

Luke 10:36-37

If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week I take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

The balance of practicing cautious compassion

Show mercy to those who have doubts. Save others by snatching them from the fire. Show mercy to others, even though you are afraid that you might be stained by their sinful lives.

Jude 1:22-23

The admonitions of Jude revolve around contending for “the faith which once and for all God has given to his people.” The reason this had become necessary was due to the growth of the believers’ assemblies and the mixing in of others who were not true believers.

For some godless people have slipped in unnoticed among us, persons who distort the message about the grace of our God in order to excuse their immoral ways, and who reject Jesus Christ, our only Master and Lord.

Jude 1:4

According to Jude, the baseline for belonging within the believers’ assembly is accepting Yeshua as Lord and Master; i.e., recognizing his unique role as the leader of God’s kingdom on earth, and abiding by his teachings. He recognized that individuals who did not hold those basic tenets had begun to infiltrate their assemblies.

  • v. 8 “[they] have visions which make them sin against their own bodies; they despise God’s authority and insult the glorious beings above.”
  • v. 10 “these people attack with insults anything they do not understand; and those things that they know by instinct, like wild animals, are the very things that destroy them.”
  • v. 16 “These people are always grumbling and blaming others; they follow their own evil desires; they brag about themselves and flatter others in order to get their own way.”
  • v. 19 “These are the people who cause divisions, who are controlled by their natural desires, who do not have the Spirit.”

How the assemblies of that day had come to admit such individuals, especially in such an apparent widespread manner, is the topic of another study on vigilance. However, the admonition of Jude is to remain cautiously compassionate, even with these types of individuals. He encourages the true believers to “show mercy” to such as these, and any who might be seduced by their selfish doctrines.

This is reminiscent of Paul’s admonition to Timothy

The Lord’s servant must not quarrel, but be gentle towards all, able to teach, patient, in gentleness correcting those who oppose him: perhaps God may give them repentance leading to a full knowledge of the truth…

2 Timothy 2:24-25

The caution principle comes in as Yeshua instructs us there is a point where we should recognize that some individuals will unfortunately remain resistant to the truth and possibly become harmful to us as individuals and to the kingdom objectives.

“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

Matthew 7:6

Paul also cautions Titus:

Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them. You may be sure that such people are warped and sinful; they are self-condemned.

Titus 3:10-11

However, our initial response to those who oppose the message of the kingdom is to remain cautiously compassionate, to reach out and offer to assist and answer concerns, because through these gentle initial overtures, many may have had their eyes opened to their own sinful ways and have been encouraged to repent and truly follow the Messiah.

If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Outward strength through internal compassion and unity

Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be compassionate, and keep a humble attitude.

1 Peter 3:8-14

According to Peter, being compassionate is simply one of many expected traits believers should exhibit. The compassion he is speaking of here is extended not just to those outside of the faith, but to one another. If we cannot be compassionate with one another, how can we be truly compassionate towards others who are not believers?

For us to be truly compassionate with others, we should be operating from a base of harmony with one another, and recognizing one another’s needs sympathetically. Once we are able to show brotherly love to each other through humility and compassionate actions, we can then have a united purpose with those outside the faith.

Once he establishes their base actions with one another, Peter expands his directives to their attitude toward others who did not agree with their positions or their beliefs.

Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will bless you for it. For the Scriptures say, “If you want to enjoy life and see many happy days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies. Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it. The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right, and his ears are open to their prayers. But the Lord turns his face against those who do evil.” Now, who will want to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats.

1 Peter 3:9-14

This was a very real assessment of the social status of the early believers. They were always in danger not only from the civil strife of their day, but from the religious antagonism and persecution of their Jewish brothers and sisters. Additionally, they were challenged with resisting the influences of the pagan society. Through all of this, Peter encourages them to repay evil with blessing and seeking to maintain the peace, because “this is what God has called you to do.”

In like fashion, for us to fulfill our calling, we should mimic their harmony, humility and compassionate actions with one another so we may be able to effectively stand together for God’s purpose and kingdom in a hostile world.

If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Being quietly intentional and genuine in our compassionate giving

Core of the Bible podcast #15 – Being quietly intentional and genuine in our compassionate giving

In this episode we will be exploring the topic of Compassion, how central it is to the Bible message, along with some practical ways to demonstrate compassion, specifically compassionate giving, in ways that honor God according to his word.

Yeshua stated it this way:

Matthew 6:1-4 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees [what is done] in secret will reward you.”

While the main context of Yeshua’s comment is in deriding acts of hypocrisy, within this pronouncement is a nugget of wisdom as it comes to helping others in need. While he denounces the proud and their showy acts of helping others, he is effectively saying that we should be privately and sincerely compassionate toward those in need. The need is real and when we give we should be quietly genuine in our acts of helping others. That is the type of compassionate giving that God honors.

In Hebrew the term for the poor describes those who are in want and have needs that cannot be met on their own. In the Greek of the NT, the term describes those who crouch and cower, as beggars are seen to do. As we will see, the Bible describes several specific groups of individuals within the Hebrew culture who were singled out as primarily falling among the poor of the land.

Helping others who are unable to help themselves should be a cornerstone of the practices of all believers. It is here commanded by Yeshua, but is also evident throughout other areas of the Bible and by other writers.

Deuteronomy 15:10-11 Give generously to the poor, not grudgingly, for the LORD your God will bless you in everything you do. There will always be some in the land who are poor. That is why I am commanding you to share freely with the poor and with other Israelites in need.

Psalm 82:3-4 “Give justice to the poor and the orphan; uphold the rights of the oppressed and the destitute. Rescue the poor and helpless; deliver them from the grasp of evil people.

Proverbs 31:9, 20 Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice. … She extends a helping hand to the poor and opens her arms to the needy.

Zechariah 7:10 Do not oppress widows, orphans, foreigners, and the poor. And do not scheme against each other.

2 Corinthians 9:9 As the Scriptures say, “They share freely and give generously to the poor. Their good deeds will be remembered forever.”

Galatians 2:10 Their only suggestion was that we keep on helping the poor, which I have always been eager to do.

Throughout the torah, or instruction of God, there are various blessings and curses related to how the poor are treated by individuals.

Blessings

Proverbs 19:17 If you help the poor, you are lending to the LORD–and he will repay you!

Prov 22:9 Blessed are those who are generous, because they feed the poor.

Luke 18:22 When Jesus heard his answer, he said, “There is still one thing you haven’t done. Sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

Curses

Proverbs 21:13 Those who shut their ears to the cries of the poor will be ignored in their own time of need.

Proverbs 22:6  A person who gets ahead by oppressing the poor or by showering gifts on the rich will end in poverty.

Both blessings and curses

Proverbs 28:27 Whoever gives to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to poverty will be cursed.

In typical Biblical fashion, a topic is presented with two sides: positive and negative. Clearly, acts of compassion are a positive principle in this world, and overlooking the needs of others is a negative principle to be avoided. If we have been blessed with abundance, then God is conveying our responsibility as his children to share those resources with those in need.

The plight of the poor is an ongoing one. Yeshua and the biblical writers agree that there will always be poverty that needs to be supported.

Matthew 26:11 You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.

Mark 14:7 You will always have the poor among you, and you can help them whenever you want to. But you will not always have me.

John 12:8 You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”

Deuteronomy 15:11 There will always be some in the land who are poor. That is why I am commanding you to share freely with the poor and with other Israelites in need.

We should not let the perpetual nature of poverty dissuade us from helping others. Let’s take a look at a story that helps us understand this a little more clearly.

——-

You may have heard a story that illustrates in vivid fashion this principle of helping the many others who are always in need. I’ve seen various versions of the story, but in general, it goes something like this:

A young boy was walking along the beach when he noticed a large amount of sand dollars had washed up on the beach during the high tide. Seeing their only hope of survival as being transferred out into the retreating water, he went about picking up the sand dollars one by one and was dropping them back into the ocean.

A man walking on the beach noticed the furious efforts of the child, and the overwhelming number of sand dollars still left stranded. Seeing a sand dollar in his small hand, the man called out to the boy, “Son, there are too many sand dollars that are still on the beach. What possible difference can you make?”

“Well, it will make a big difference for this one,” the boy replied, as he returned the sand dollar to the water.

I think this story has been variously told as involving sea stars, or some other sea creature, but the message is the same: we may not be able to help everyone, but we can meaningfully help some, or even one.

It can seem overwhelming when we look at the vast number of poor in the world, and our natural reaction is to think, “how can we solve poverty?” We look at the issue as if it’s a math problem that just needs the application of the correct formula, and then all will be resolved. But the roots of poverty are deep and varied, and depend on many conditions that are unique to specific cultures and ideologies.

We typically tend to think of poverty as being “out there” in third world countries (which is not untrue). However, even here in the US we have large swaths of our population who live below what is considered the “poverty line.” As of the most recent studies in 2021, there are currently over 38 million Americans considered impoverished, between 9-10% of the entire country.

The reasons for poverty, whether in America or anywhere else, vary by region and type of need, but do have some basic drivers. Poverty can be caused by lack of jobs, poor local infrastructures, poor education, social injustice, violent communities or warfare; the list goes on. If we solve one problem, sometimes another rises to take its place. If we overcome one injustice, another one becomes evident.

All of this is by no means to say the situation is hopeless. However, it illustrates the depth and complexity of the state of the poor, and its ongoing tendency to be evident within cultures around the world. This evergreen nature of poverty ensures that it will be a continuing challenge to varying degrees in every generation.

If there were no point to helping others, then it would not be such an oft-stated requirement within God’s word. Clearly God wants us, no, commands us, to help others. But he does not lay out a specific strategy of how to do so, only that we do so.

We can get some hints, though, by looking at the past record. Within God’s natural kingdom of ancient Israel, God laid out a structure for the corporate welfare of those less fortunate, to include:

  • leaving the gleaning of the harvest for the poor
  • providing offerings for the poor every third year
  • providing private loans for those in need

If these were methods of assisting the poor in God’s natural kingdom, I believe they can provide a balanced basis for his spiritual kingdom as well.

Let’s look at the first one: gleaning the harvest.

Deuteronomy 24:21 “When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, do not glean what is left. What remains will be for the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow.

The process of gleaning allowed the poor and needy to enter into the landowners’ fields after the harvesters had reaped the initial ripe produce. There would be some late-ripening fruit that could be gleaned for the benefit of the poor. This might work well in an agrarian society, but what is a similar process we could use today?

Since a gleaning is essentially a process of using up “leftovers,” perhaps setting aside any leftover change from a store purchase can mimic this process. Some financial institutions provide this as a savings plan for their members: when a purchase is made, the purchase amount is “rounded up” to the nearest dollar, and that “leftover” amount is deposited into a savings account. So if we were to use this money to give to those in need would be one way of exhibiting the principle of gleaning in our non-agrarian society.

The second method was providing offerings for the poor every third year.

Deuteronomy 26:12 “When you have finished paying all the tenth of your produce in the third year, the year of the tenth, you are to give it to the Levites, resident aliens, fatherless children and widows, so that they may eat in your towns and be satisfied.

The tithe was the firstfruits of the produce of the land. It was provided to the priests on a regular basis for their support in their work in the Temple, since the priests had no inheritance in the land. But every third year, it would be divided between the Levites and the poor of the land.

This may be updated to a process such as setting aside a third of any regular charitable giving you may be currently providing your ministry or religious organization as to be used more specifically for the poor and needy.

The third method was through loaning money or resources to those who needed a leg up.

Deuteronomy 15:7-8 “If there is a poor person among you, one of your brothers within any of your city gates in the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother. “Instead, you are to open your hand to him and freely loan him enough for whatever need he has.

Loans were used as a way of helping those who had fallen on hard times, but otherwise could work. However, they would be expected to repay the assistance when they were back on their feet. Yeshua instructs us in Luke 6 that we should “lend, expecting nothing in return.” However, having an intentional loan fund to help out family friends and others might be one way of fulfilling this aspect of torah.

Now many believers may bristle at the idea of tithes, and allowances, and loans, saying all of this is OT information that only applied to Israel under the Old Covenant. All we should do is give freely and give cheerfully, because according to Paul in 2 Corinthians 9, God loves a cheerful giver.

That’s all well and good and I would never dissuade someone from doing just. However, if we area to take all of God’s word into account, it can be demonstrated that within the economy of God’s kingdom, being intentional with our finances is a requirement of being a good, contributing member of the community. If we only gave when we wanted to, our giving would be spontaneous and erratic. However, if, like ancient Israel, we were basing our assistance to the poor on intentional principles from God’s torah, then we will be more engaged and productive in the process. And we can still be cheerful about it, and mean it from the heart! Putting forethought into the process should not make us any less happy about providing for others because we have been abundantly blessed! In fact, in doing so, we may be that much more aware of just how blessed we are!

——–

Who should our efforts be focused on? I mentioned earlier that there were some specific groups that were singled out within the culture of ancient Israel that might provide us some insight.

For example, we know there was a special emphasis on widows and orphans because their primary source of income (the husband or father) was no longer around.

Job 31:16, 18 “Have I refused to help the poor, or crushed the hopes of widows? … No, from childhood I have cared for orphans like a father, and all my life I have cared for widows.

Psalm 68:5 Father to the fatherless, defender of widows–this is God, whose dwelling is holy.

Isaiah 1:17 Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.

James 1:27 Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.

Foreigners were also among the poor in ancient Israel, as they would typically have less opportunity among the established rights within each tribe. God encourages helping the foreigner just about as much as helping widows and orphans.

Deuteronomy 24:20 When you beat the olives from your olive trees, don’t go over the boughs twice. Leave the remaining olives for the foreigners, orphans, and widows.

Deuteronomy 26:12 “Every third year you must offer a special tithe of your crops. In this year of the special tithe you must give your tithes to the Levites, foreigners, orphans, and widows, so that they will have enough to eat in your towns.

Deuteronomy 27:19 ‘Cursed is anyone who denies justice to foreigners, orphans, or widows.’ And all the people will reply, ‘Amen.’

Jeremiah 22:3 This is what the LORD says: Be fair-minded and just. Do what is right! Help those who have been robbed; rescue them from their oppressors. Quit your evil deeds! Do not mistreat foreigners, orphans, and widows. Stop murdering the innocent!

Psalm 146:9 The LORD protects the foreigners among us. He cares for the orphans and widows, but he frustrates the plans of the wicked.

Levites were also among the poor. As being set apart for the service of God’s temple and the ministry, they were not provided an allotted inheritance, and had to rely on the sacrificial offerings and kindness of their tribal counterparts.

Numbers 3:9 Assign the Levites to Aaron and his sons. They have been given from among all the people of Israel to serve as their assistants.

Numbers 8:11 Raising his hands, Aaron must then present the Levites to the LORD as a special offering from the people of Israel, thus dedicating them to the LORD’s service.

Deuteronomy 12:19 And be very careful never to neglect the Levites as long as you live in your land.

Deuteronomy 14:27, 29 And do not neglect the Levites in your town, for they will receive no allotment of land among you. … Give it to the Levites, who will receive no allotment of land among you, as well as to the foreigners living among you, the orphans, and the widows in your towns, so they can eat and be satisfied. Then the LORD your God will bless you in all your work.

Deuteronomy 18:1 “Remember that the Levitical priests–that is, the whole of the tribe of Levi–will receive no allotment of land among the other tribes in Israel. Instead, the priests and Levites will eat from the special gifts given to the LORD, for that is their share.

Deuteronomy 26:12 “Every third year you must offer a special tithe of your crops. In this year of the special tithe you must give your tithes to the Levites, foreigners, orphans, and widows, so that they will have enough to eat in your towns.

All of these admonitions was for the kingdom participants to be as equitable as possible in all of their dealings with others. These principles were miles ahead of any such societal guidelines in the surrounding cultures, and as such, Israel gained successive power and influence in the region culminating in the expansive reign of Solomon.

So if we are to consider a place to start, it might be with those who have no income or limited income and are struggling because of the loss of the primary breadwinner, or unfamiliarity with the culture, or those who have dedicated themselves to ministering to others.

For all others who have fallen on hard times, assistance can also be provided until they can get back on their feet. These allowances were designed to assist, not solely provide for, those less fortunate. It was expected that everyone work for their meal, and begging was looked down upon as something to be ashamed of (for those who could otherwise work). But assistance was available for an occasional boost when needed.

And, one final thought: while there are areas and people groups everywhere in various need of assistance, there is wisdom in beginning with helping your neighbor, those closest to you.

Proverbs 27:10 Never abandon a friend–either yours or your father’s. When disaster strikes, you won’t have to ask your brother for assistance. It’s better to go to a neighbor than to a brother who lives far away.

If everyone is helping those nearest themselves, than huge international efforts would not be as necessary. Not that it’s wrong to contribute to these groups, but many efficiencies can be gained by us merely taking control of our own compassionate giving by being faithful with those around us.

Compassion is not a business transaction where we may assist another with the hope of some sort of gain for ourselves or our organization. Real compassion is demonstrated when there is no chance of benefit to oneself. A true act of kindness rests within the act itself, solely for the benefit of another.

God in his wisdom, knowing the potential for inequity within the various classes of the society of the kingdom, designated a set of allowances for those who were sure to be overlooked due to the personal interests of those productive members of the various tribes.

Much like today, philanthropic efforts were considered noble but were also typically reduced to a low level of priority for the affluent. That is why God set commands relative to specific groups of people whom he knew would always need help. Because being intentional about compassionate giving makes all the difference.

While these different ways of expressing compassion to the poor are personal decisions for every believer, I am merely attempting to point out biblical principles  of compassionate giving from the torah, or the instruction of God. If we are to honor him in all things, including our finances, why not do it based on principles and patterns he has authorized as being valid methods in the past?

Well, once again, I hope I’ve been able to provide you some ideas and concepts to meditate on further. We need to keep in mind that as we seek to exhibit the private and genuine compassion requested of Yeshua, we can seek out those around us who have the greatest needs and start there. Yeshua relates that there is a lasting spiritual power in the sincere acts of compassion that are done for the benefits of others with no outward recognition. These are the actions that God “sees,” that are accounted as vital human interactions with real, eternal worth.

Be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Principles of biblical charity that can make us more responsible givers

If there is a poor man among your brothers within any of the gates in the land that the LORD your God is giving you, then you are not to harden your heart or shut your hand from your poor brother. Instead, you are to open your hand to him and freely loan him whatever he needs.

Deuteronomy 15:7-8

The concept of giving to those in need is all through the biblical writings. This has come down to us through the ages as giving “alms.” This ideas stems primarily from a passage in Acts 3 where the Greek phrase was interpreted as giving alms or giving charity to a beggar at the temple.

One afternoon Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour.a And a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those entering the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money.

Acts 3:1-3

But the term in its wider use really means any act of compassionate giving of all types.

Acts 9:36 There was a believer in Joppa named Tabitha (which in Greek is Dorcas). She was always doing kind things for others and helping the poor.


Acts 10:1-2 There was a man in Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment. He was a devout man and feared God along with his whole household. He did many charitable deeds for the Jewish people and always prayed to God.


Acts 24:17-18 “After many years, I came to bring charitable gifts and offerings to my people. “While I was doing this, some Jews from Asia found me ritually purified in the temple, without a crowd and without any uproar.

However when it comes to giving to those in need as mentioned in our passage in Deuteronomy above, the idea of helping the poor is depicted as lending to them, not outright giving. Why make this distinction?

Well it has more to do with the receiver than the giver. If you encounter someone who is need, whether a friend or relative, to provide them assistance with the idea that they can pay you back whenever they are able to allows for a sense of dignity in providing that assistance. Many times, people will struggle to accept outright handouts because of their pride. They don’t want to be made to feel they are unable to do meet their needs on their own. This is actually an emotionally good and healthy response for anyone who is otherwise able to provide for themselves but may have just fallen on hard times. It happens.

Those who would beg for handouts were those who had no other means of income: the lame or blind who could not work, widows and orphans (who had lost their husband/father as the provider). In the Hebraic culture, these were considered legitimate reasons for true charity, and helping and giving donations to these individuals is highly commended.

However, for those who had the ability to work but had simply gotten into financial straits, the Bible conveys the idea of loans from family and friends as legitimate assistance until they could get back on their feet. In our passage above, Moses is urging that the Israelites would open their hearts to those who were poor, and lend freely. This was because many times people would take these loans and never repay them, and it would cause bitterness between family members and friends.

Now, having that background, the words of Yeshua have even more meaning when he relates how believers should be viewing acts of giving and loaning to others:

“But love [even] your enemies, do what is good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High. For he is gracious to the ungrateful and evil.

Luke 6:35

Even if our intent is to genuinely help others by providing them a loan of some sort, Yeshua says if you are doing so, don’t expect anything in return. This accomplishes two purposes: it maintains the dignity of the receiver, and it removes any chance of hard feelings for not being repaid in the future. If you are “loaning” to someone in need, you should treat that loan as a donation and any repayment as a bonus.

All types of giving is highly recommended in the Bible, as we know that “God loves a cheerful giver,” (2 Cor. 9:7). Giving freely is a required dynamic within the economy of the kingdom of God.

Having a larger understanding of the context and social dynamic of biblical giving can make us more responsible givers. In outwardly loaning to those who have need, we can allow them dignity. Inwardly considering these helper loans as outright donations, not expecting anything in return, we free ourselves from any negative ties to those relationships if the money is never repaid in the future.

God is honored when we honor and respect him in all things, including how we manage our finances and our relationships with others. By being willing to give and loan freely, we demonstrate we are his children by operating by the same principles he provides to us.

If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Compassion is helping those who cannot help themselves

…he is kind toward the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, even as your Father is also merciful.

Luke 6:35-36

In our English Bibles, sometimes verses that express compassion will mention mercy or kindness; sometimes compassion is equated with forgiveness. However it is expressed, we are commanded by Yeshua to be like God in regard to his mercy and compassion. What does that look like?

Ezekiel 16:5 No eye pitied you, to do any of these things to you, to have compassion on you; but you were cast out in the open field, for that your person was abhorred, in the day that you were born.

Psalm 78:36-39 But they flattered him with their mouth, and lied to him with their tongue. For their heart was not right with him, neither were they faithful in his covenant. But he, being compassionate, forgave iniquity, and didn’t destroy them. Yes, many times he turned his anger away, and didn’t stir up all his wrath. He remembered that they were but flesh, a wind that passes away, and doesn’t come again.

Micah 7:18-19 Who is a God like you, who pardons iniquity, and passes over the disobedience of the remnant of his heritage? He doesn’t retain his anger forever, because he delights in loving kindness. He will again have compassion on us. He will tread our iniquities under foot; and you will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.

Jeremiah 12:15 It shall happen, after that I have plucked them up [from their land due to their disobedience], I will return and have compassion on them; and I will bring them again, every man to his heritage, and every man to his land.

God’s compassion has been evident in choosing to take care of Israel as caring for an abandoned baby. His compassion is evident in forgiving them when they were consistently unthankful and disobedient to him. His compassion is evident in restoring Israel to their land after their captivity for disobedience.

If we are to be merciful and compassionate like our Father, we need to recognize that the examples he sets for us is teaching us that compassion is all about helping those who are unable to help themselves.

Yeshua exhibited this same type of compassion by teaching his people who were like lost sheep without a shepherd, but also by filling their bellies when they were in need in a deserted location. Just like his Father, his compassion helped those who could not help themselves.

If someone has wronged you, the relationship cannot be restored unless you extend compassion; you are helping someone who cannot get help themselves get past some misunderstanding or offense. This is equally as compassionate as providing food or clothing to those who have none, or very little.

If we are to imitate our Father, it has to be in relentlessly building bridges between those who are unyielding in their positions or those whose circumstances will not be changed without some sort of intervention. Our compassion is designed to be the catalyst that drops barriers, opens doors, and sparks understanding. Compassion is building bridges to others who are unable to get from where they are to where God wants them to be.

This is the goal of the command for us to be merciful and compassionate with others. When we exhibit the characteristics of our Father, then people who may never have picked up a Bible will still be able to see him in action, and be helped in the process.

The most effective instruction is based on compassionately meeting the needs of others

Jesus came out, saw a great multitude, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he began to teach them many things.

Mark 6:34

Yeshua’s compassion here is expressed through a recognition of the general population of Israel’s lack of correct doctrine, and their eagerness to learn.

The context of this  verse is set as Yeshua and his disciples have been tirelessly ministering and are now attempting to find a secluded place to be refreshed. Yet, thousands of people find out where they are going across the lake of Galilee and end up waiting for them on the shore when they arrive. Seeing these crowds, Yeshua is moved with compassion, and decides to continue to provide instruction.

Whenever a text mentions Yeshua has compassion on someone, he immediately does something to help them.

Matthew 14:14 Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.

Matthew 15:32 Then Jesus called his disciples and told them, “I feel sorry for these people. They have been here with me for three days, and they have nothing left to eat. I don’t want to send them away hungry, or they will faint along the way.”

Matthew 20:34 Jesus felt sorry for them and touched their eyes. Instantly they could see! Then they followed him.

Mark 1:41 Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!”

In this case in Mark 6:34, his response is to provide them instruction. Instructing others in the way of God is an act of compassion toward those who are willing to hear. The most willing disciples are those who are hungry to learn. This is symbolized through the story immediately following this verse: the miraculous feeding of the five thousand. Although Yeshua and his disciples had limited resources, God provided enough food to satisfy everyone with more left over.

This metaphorically reinforced his act of compassion to begin with: instructing them in the way of God. The crowds’ hunger for truth was not only satisfied, but there was so much more left over. In like fashion, we can be sure that when we act compassionately in faith, whatever our response, God will be faithful to fill that need through us.

Instructing others in the way of God should be motivated by compassion for others who are willing to hear. Teaching only for the sake of prestige, or wealth, or obligation will rob that form of instruction of its power and purpose. But teaching that is coming from a heart of true compassion will be blessed with multiplication and fulfillment.