The balance of true generosity

God reassures the faithful who truly help others.

Proverbs 11:25 – “The generous soul will be made rich, and he who waters will also be watered himself.”

This verse highlights the biblical principle of reciprocity. To the ancient Jewish way of thinking, there is balance in the universe and God is just; therefore, righteous actions will be balanced with righteous rewards in this life. If we are compassionate and generous with others in need, we will be dealt with compassionately and with generosity in return.

Yeshua also taught this principle in several different ways and through various parables.

Matthew 13:23 – “But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”
Matthew 19:29 – “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields because of my name will receive a hundred times more and will inherit eternal life.”
Luke 6:38 – “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”

The modern danger presented by this type of teaching is at the root of the prosperity gospel, where people are encouraged to give in order to get. If you want to get rich, give generously (to that specific ministry, of course) and God will abundantly bless you. This is a primary method in how false teachers rake in millions of dollars through their “ministries.” They prey on the covetousness of human nature, and through twisting of these passages they bilk innocent people of life savings and necessary subsistence, all in the name of God.

God hasn’t set this principle in place as a way of believers getting rich, but as a way of rewarding the righteous who faithfully provide for the needs of others. Those who look at this as some sort of God-ordained get-rich-quick scheme are simply lining the pockets of these purveyors of snake-oil.

Peter spares no words in denouncing these false teachers who were present even among the early believers:

2 Peter 2:1, 14, 18-19 – “…there will be false teachers among you. They will bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, and will bring swift destruction on themselves. … They have eyes full of adultery that never stop looking for sin. They seduce unstable people and have hearts trained in greed. Children under a curse! … For by uttering boastful, empty words, they seduce, with fleshly desires and debauchery, people who have barely escaped from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption, since people are enslaved to whatever defeats them.”

Even though these people exist even to this day, we should not be dissuaded from following the true principle of reciprocity by faithfully helping those in need. It is not just the giving that is important, but who and what the giving is for. God wants to reassure us that when we take the time, energy, and resources to help others who are truly in need, something we are commanded to do all through his word, we will be abundantly blessed in return. This should allow us to give joyfully when we know that we are playing a vital part in helping out others who will deeply and meaningfully benefit from our generosity.

2 Corinthians 9:6-7 – “But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.”


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 on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

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

The challenging discipline of obedient giving

Yeshua takes being nice to another level.

Core of the Bible podcast #57 – The challenging discipline of obedient giving

Today we will be looking at the topic of compassion, and how the principles of giving that are outlined throughout God’s word provide opportunities for believers to exhibit the love of God in practical and effective ways that can soften even our enemies.

Yeshua said it this way:

Luke 6:34-35 – “And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return. Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked.”

In a former essay, we have looked at the importance of being kind to our enemies, those who may act in adversarial ways towards us. But in this passage lies another aspect of being compassionate that may get overlooked because of our general unfamiliarity with the culture that this teaching arises out of.

In today’s American culture, we typically view “alms” or giving to the needy as something that is a direct donation to their welfare, just giving whatever you have in your pocket or your wallet to someone who is begging on the street or in a public place. This was certainly one form of giving to those in need. However, this passage is speaking to a more involved and challenging type of giving.

As far as giving to beggars is concerned, 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.

Peter and John were confronted with one such individual as they approached the temple complex, a favorite place for those who sought for handouts.

Acts 3:2-3  – “A man who was lame from birth was being carried [to the temple]. He was placed each day at the temple gate called Beautiful, so that he could beg from those entering the temple. When he saw Peter and John about to enter the temple, he asked for money.”

Clearly, the man did not have the ability to earn his own living through labor since he was unable to walk on his own, and his friends or family would carry him to the high-traffic area around the temple as a way of helping him to ask for donations to meet his needs. This was one type of alms-giving or beneficence. 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.

In regard to the man at the temple, Albert Barnes writes the following:

“The man had been always lame; he was obliged to be carried; and he was well known to the Jews. … his friends laid him there daily. He would therefore be well known to those who were in the habit of entering the temple. Among the ancients there were no hospitals for the sick, and no alms-houses for the poor. The poor were dependent, therefore, on the Charity of those who were in better circumstances. It became an important matter for them to be placed where they would see many people. Hence, it was customary to place them at the gates of rich men as illustrated in Luke 16:19-20 –

“There was a rich man who would dress in purple and fine linen, feasting lavishly every day. “But a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, was lying at his gate.”

Barnes: and they also sat by the highway to beg where many persons would pass, such as Mark 10:46 –

“They came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a large crowd, Bartimaeus (the son of Timaeus), a blind beggar, was sitting by the road.”

Also John 9:1, 8-9 –

“As he was passing by, he saw a man blind from birth. … [After Yeshua healed him] his neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar said, “Isn’t this the one who used to sit begging? Some said, “He’s the one.” Others were saying, “No, but he looks like him.” He kept saying, “I’m the one.”

Barnes continues: “The entrance to the temple would be a favorable place for begging; for: great multitudes were accustomed to enter there; and, when going up for the purposes of religion, they would be more inclined to give alms than at other times; and especially was this true of the Pharisees, who were particularly desirous of publicity in bestowing charity. It is recorded by Martial (i. 112) that the custom prevailed among the Romans of placing the poor by the gates of the temples; and the custom was also observed a long time in the Christian churches.”

All types of giving are 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.

However, in the middle Eastern culture of the Bible, giving of alms was actually more than just providing pocket change to beggars; in its wider sense in the New Testament writings it means any act of compassionate giving.

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  “After many years, I came to bring charitable gifts and offerings to my people.

While compassion is encouraged throughout the Bible, we should understand it is based on the eternal instruction of God throughout the Torah. God has always encouraged his people to be generous, and we will look at some of those ways as we dive deeper into the topic of giving.

—–

Since banks as we know them today did not exist in Bible times, there were only a few means for someone who had fallen on hard times to extricate themselves from dire financial circumstances.

Sometimes, individuals would be sold as servants of others in an effort to pay off debt or to help their families. This was a form of indentured servitude, a commitment to the benefactor to recoup their investment. This was widely practiced and is mentioned in several passages of the Bible in Exodus and Deuteronomy. (Unfortunately, it is usually misunderstood as the brutal, savage chattel slavery that we typically associate with that word).

However, these types of bond-servants were provided many rights for fair treatment under the gracious instruction of Torah, and many times had benefitted so much from their service to their masters that they desired to remain with their benefactor’s family even after their term of service had expired. To illustrate this, there was a process provided for in the Torah to identify those who had chosen to become servants for life by piercing their ear.

Deuteronomy 15:16-17  – “But if your slave says to you, ‘I don’t want to leave you,’ because he loves you and your family, and is well off with you, take an awl and pierce through his ear into the door, and he will become your slave for life…”

An additional measure of relief in the Torah for those who had become deep in dept was instituted in the release of all debts every seven years which is also described in Deuteronomy 15:9. In this way, no one would be able to get so far in over their heads financially that they couldn’t receive a fresh start.

But for those who had the ability to work but had simply gotten into financial straits, the Bible conveys that, by far, the most common way of helping others was the idea of loans from family and friends as legitimate assistance until they could get back on their feet.

Deuteronomy 15:7-8 – “If there is a poor man among your brothers within any of the gates in the land that Yahweh 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.”

This was a commendable deed on behalf of the giver, and a prompt repayment would be an indication of the honor of the one who had received the help. Those receiving charity were more likely to sense that trust is being established, and their self-worth is raised through this trust.

This process has more to do with the receiver than the giver. If someone encountered an individual in need, whether a friend or relative, to provide them assistance with the idea that they can pay the loan 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. A great measure of trust has been placed in them and they are more likely to be inclined to repay as a way of thanking their benefactor and demonstrating they are worthy of trust; a coveted value, indeed.

Unfortunately, as loans were given to those in need, sometimes those who were less honorable would gladly take these loans and never repay them, and it would cause bitterness between family members and friends. This is presented to us in the biblical texts and from other writings of that era.

There is a book called the Wisdom of Sirach, or Ecclesiasticus, a writing from around 150-200 BC that was included in the Septuagint, or the Greek version of the Scriptures.  This version of the Bible was widely known and referenced in the time of Yeshua and the disciples. In this book is a passage that explains this concept of private loans in a little more detail, some of the blessings of following the commandment of Moses from Torah, and also some of the downfalls of providing loans to others.

It begins with the blessings of obedience to the command of Torah:

Sirach 29

[1] He that shows mercy will lend to his neighbor, and he that strengthens him with his hand keeps the commandments.

[2] Lend to your neighbor in the time of his need; and in turn, repay your neighbor promptly.

[3] Confirm your word and keep faith with him, and on every occasion you will find what you need.

Here we can see how the idea of giving of loans and prompt repayment are both the qualities that are designed to reinforce the community and provide for ongoing needs. However, the text also speaks of the negative side of giving when someone lends with the best of intentions but the receiver is not willing to repay.

[4] Many persons regard a loan as a windfall, and cause trouble to those who help them.

[5] A man will kiss another’s hands until he gets a loan, and will lower his voice in speaking of his neighbor’s money; but at the time for repayment he will delay, and will pay in words of unconcern, and will find fault with the time.

[6] If the lender exert pressure, he will hardly get back half, and will regard that as a windfall. If he does not, the borrower has robbed him of his money, and he has needlessly made him his enemy; he will repay him with curses and reproaches, and instead of glory will repay him with dishonor.

[7] Because of such wickedness, therefore, many have refused to lend; they have been afraid of being defrauded needlessly.

This same negative perception of being taken advantage of is prevalent today and actually prevents people from being generous with those in need; no one wants to be taken advantage of. However, the text encourages faithfulness to the Torah command regardless of the outcome.

[8] Nevertheless, be patient with a man in humble circumstances, and do not make him wait for your alms.

[9] Help a poor man for the commandment’s sake, and because of his need do not send him away empty.

[10] Lose your silver for the sake of a brother or a friend, and do not let it rust under a stone and be lost.

[11] Lay up your treasure according to the commandments of the Most High, and it will profit you more than gold.

[12] Store up almsgiving in your treasury, and it will rescue you from all affliction;

[13] more than a mighty shield and more than a heavy spear, it will fight on your behalf against your enemy.

This is the same type of instruction that Yeshua provides in the Sermon on the Mount:

Matthew 6:19-21  – “Don’t store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Matthew 5:42  – “Give to the one who asks you, and don’t turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

What Yeshua is encouraging in both of these passages is a type of universal generosity toward those in need. If we are to give out of pocket, give cheerfully. If we are to lend, then we should lend without any hope of repayment; if we are repaid, then that is to be considered a bonus.

—–

Now we may understand and be willing to help friends and relatives who can’t help themselves, and lend to those who have fallen on hard times. But here is where this principle really gets challenging: according to Yeshua, the faithful disciple should also be willing to lend to their enemies, not just friends and acquaintances.

Remember our starting passage from Luke 6?

Luke 6:34-35 – “And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return. “Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked.”

This is a drastic diversion even from the cultural practice of the day, and highlights the extent of compassion believers should be willing to demonstrate at all times. It is one thing to forgive a friend or acquaintance of a debt, but to lend in the same fashion to an adversary? This would be a truly unorthodox and radical admonition to his followers. It is such a revolutionary and profound concept that it still shakes us to the core to this day, two thousand years later. True compassion is like that; it is profound, challenging, and requires real commitment and, many times, heart-wrenching, white-knuckled, gut-twisting sacrifice. This is the type of genuine life transformation believers are called to.

But in reality, if you, out of obedience to Yeshua and the Word, are extending generosity toward an adversary, are they really still an enemy? Don’t enemies need to be adversarial toward each other? If you, as a believer, are not acting in a reflexive way toward someone who is adversarial toward you, are the two of you really enemies? Isn’t it more likely that if only one is acting in an adversarial fashion but the other is extending an olive branch that this is not a description of two enemies, but only one? In this type of challenging obedience, adversarial overtones can be dissipated by the removal of escalation through the extension of friendship and value without obligation.

Are you up to the challenge of what it really means to be a follower of the Messiah and demonstrate true compassion? Hopefully, having a larger understanding of the context and social dynamic of biblical giving as we have looked at today 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. If we are giving advantage to those around us, even our enemies, then they cannot take advantage.

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 on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

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

It’s not about how much we have, but how much we care

The right attitude can always find a way to help.

Proverbs 21:25-26 – The desire of the sluggard kills him, for his hands refuse to labor. He covets greedily all day long; but the righteous give and don’t withhold.

In the Proverbs, we find many different contrasts laid out to assist our understanding and increase our knowledge: the righteous against the wicked; the rich against the poor; the proud against the lowly.

In this passage, however, is an interesting contrast: the one who is exhibiting compassion is not contrasted with one who hates, but is posited against the one who is lazy and covetous. Understanding this distinction helps us to recognize compassion for what it is.

Those who are lazy and covetous seek only what is beneficial to themselves. They refuse to work in order to have anything on their own, and yet they still desire to have that which is the result of physical labor and work. Therefore, they have no ability to help others because they don’t even have the ability to help themselves.

By contrast, the righteous person is one who is generous to a fault. This passage says they don’t withhold anything that can be of benefit to someone else. They have the ability to be generous because they have something to give based on their own industriousness and careful attention to the needs of others. Yet, it does not imply that they are only giving out of the excess of what they have, but that they give regardless of what they have.

This points out that the contrast is based not on what one has or doesn’t have, but on the attitude of the individual. The lazy person refuses to work and yet is covetous; they are concerned only with what affects them. The righteous can provide for themselves, yet they are still willing to not hold back anything if it can meet the need of someone else. They are constantly thinking of others.

The writer of Hebrews mentions a similar encouragement to the early believers in Messiah, as well.

Hebrews 13:16 But don’t forget to be doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.

Giving compassionately may still be a sacrifice because of what one doesn’t have, but the best way to ensure that we are doing the pleasing acts of sharing and doing good is by keeping the focus off of ourselves and always looking around to the needs of others.


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 on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

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

The believer’s role of enriching others

Stirring up the natural flow of generosity.

2 Corinthians 8:9 -“For you know the grace of our Lord Yeshua Messiah, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that you through his poverty might become rich.”

In one of the most protracted sections of the Bible on provision for others, the apostle Paul conveys the importance of the Corinthian congregation’s participation in assisting the poorer congregations in the Jerusalem area.

In his commentary, Albert Barnes provides the historical backdrop that prompted Paul’s gentle prodding of their support.

“The occasion of this distress which made the collection for the saints of Judea necessary, was probably the famine which was predicted by Agabus, and which occurred in the time of Claudius Caesar, Acts 11:28. Barnabas was associated with Paul in conveying the contribution to Jerusalem, Acts 6:30. Paul was unwilling to do it unless they particularly desired it, and he seems to have insisted that some person should be associated with him…”

Essentially, Paul was trying to be faithful in garnering support for fellow believers who were suffering due to lack. Congregations in other areas of the world where Paul was ministering had more resources to provide, and Paul was attempting to help out those early congregations that had sprung up in Judea. They were worthy of this assistance, since they were among the earliest of congregations that had led to the growing faith of the missionary congregations of Asia and Greece.

Romans 15:25-27 – “But now, I say, I am going to Jerusalem, serving the saints. For it has been the good pleasure of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor among the saints who are at Jerusalem. Yes, it has been their good pleasure, and they are their debtors. For if those among the nations have been made partakers of their spiritual things, they owe it to them also to serve them in fleshly things.”

Since the missionary congregations had benefited from the spiritual assistance of the Judean groups, Paul argues, the least they could do in return was to provide them assistance in their practical needs.

However, the motivation for doing so is contained in the work of Messiah. Paul writes “that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that you through his poverty might become rich.” Yeshua’s example of enriching others at his own expense was the touchstone for all righteous behavior. Yeshua had modeled true servanthood that was to be copied and exhibited by his followers in all things.

As believers, we should be compassionate because we have received compassion; we should love because we have been loved; we should give freely because we have received freely. Our motivation for assisting others experiencing spiritual or practical needs should be a spontaneous reflex, not an obligation.

Paul prays for their anticipated generosity with words that we can still take to heart today.

2 Corinthians 9:10-11 – Now may he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food, supply and multiply your seed for sowing, and increase the fruits of your righteousness, you being enriched in everything to all generosity, which produces thanksgiving to God through 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 on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

True compassion is not hypocritical

Our lives of faith should be based on genuine care and concern for others to meet their needs.

Matthew 6:2 – When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do–blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get.

We live in an age where everything we do gets posted online, from the clothes we wear to the food we eat, our family moments, and where we spend our vacations. We have become so accustomed to “sharing” everything we do, that sometimes even our good acts of helping others get brought into the limelight of social media, as well.

Yeshua is very particular about ensuring that if we are helping others, we are doing so from a genuine concern for their welfare, not for the opportunity to appear to others as being generous. He states this privacy in an unusual way, saying that the left hand shouldn’t even know what the right hand is doing. This is a hyperbolic way of stating how the privacy of our acts of charity to others should be viewed.

When we do things for others expecting to get rewarded for it in some way, whether from our social group or from God, then the act loses its honest intent. Suddenly we are simply doing things for our own benefit, and not truly for the benefit of others. At its root, this is hypocrisy.

Yeshua had no kind words to say about hypocrisy:

Matthew 6:5 – “When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get.
Matthew 6:16 – “And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get.
Matthew 23:23 – “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law–justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things.

The apostle Peter, following his Messiah’s lead, includes hypocrisy in a list of evil behaviors that believers should be done with.

1 Peter 2:1 – So get rid of all evil behavior. Be done with all deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy, and all unkind speech.

Our lives of faith should be based on genuine care and concern for others to meet their needs, not out of a selfish desire to appear righteous to others. Be sure to always check motives when you are in a position to help someone else, and that you are doing so out of a sincere desire to love and help them in their distress, not to benefit yourself.


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 on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube! Just getting started, but new videos will be added regularly on many different topics, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

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

Personal and private righteous actions for the sake of others

This is the authentic way that people receive the real help they need.

Matthew 6:1-2 – Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.

While this passage is typically employed in the service of condemning negative acts of hypocrisy, there is an interesting aspect that highlights the positive aspect of the believers life: practicing private righteousness.

Yeshua here equates giving to those in need as an act of righteousness. When believers are compassionate to others, they are exhibiting their righteousness. To exhibit righteousness is not wrong, in fact, we are supposed to be the “lights of the world” and the “salt of the earth.” However, if we are doing acts of righteousness only for the sake of being seen by others to show them how superior we are for being so righteous, then this steps over into the realm of hypocrisy. This is the main point that Yeshua is attempting to convey.

But I believe the term “practicing or doing righteousness” still carries a lot of beneficial cargo for the believer today. Just because it’s wrong to be an exhibitionist with our righteous acts does not mean we should not still do them. This is why Yeshua says if there is a chance they can be seen by others as hypocritical, to do them outside the purview of others; to do them in secret.

Matthew 6:3-4 – But when you give to the needy, do not 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.

We should attempt to help others and be compassionate in ways that don’t draw attention to ourselves, but that only give glory to God. The reassurance that Yeshua provides is that God still sees those genuine acts of charity, even if no one else does, and he honors the generous heart.

Proverbs 19:17 – Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will repay him for his deed.

While there have been many fine organizations and efforts over the years to assist the less fortunate, our ultimate goal should not be to join some charity organization as a means of adding to our “resume of righteousness.” We should find ways to simply give with a willing heart whenever a need arises, and when we are able to do so. This is the authentic way that people receive the real help they need. It is personal because it comes from the heart; it is sacrificial because it takes personal time, effort, and resources; and it is genuine because it is done solely for the benefit of another.

This is the type of righteous compassion that Yeshua encourages and which God blesses. Whenever we exhibit love to others simply for the sake of loving them, we honor God and bring glory to his name.


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 at https://core-of-the-bible.simplecast.com/ or your favorite podcast streaming service. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Obediently and joyfully assisting those in need

God loves a cheerful giver.

An ancient Jewish proverb states:

The merciful lend to their neighbors; by holding out a helping hand they keep the commandments.

Sirach 29:1

Regarding the commandments of God, one of the most comprehensive passages that was to influence the attitude of God’s people toward the poor among them is summed up in Moses’ declaration to the nation as they are about to cross over into the promised land of Canaan.

Deuteronomy 15:7-11 “If there is a poor man with you, one of your brothers, in any of your towns in your land which the LORD your God is giving you, 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 that there is no 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, because for this thing the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in all your undertakings. For the poor will never cease to be in the land; therefore I command you, saying, ‘You shall freely open your hand to your brother, to your needy and poor in your land.’

In these commands, Moses encourages them to give generously to the poor, and to not let their hearts be grieved when doing so. Many times, we can follow a command, but we instead do it grudgingly and with the wrong attitude. God desires us to not only be obedient, but cheerfully so.

The intent of Moses’ instruction is echoed by the apostle Paul centuries later:

2 Corinthians 9:6-8 – The point is this: The person who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the person who sows generously will also reap generously. Each person should do as he has decided in his heart ​– ​not reluctantly or out of compulsion, since God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make every grace overflow to you, so that in every way, always having everything you need, you may excel in every good work.

Though the Jewish proverb is lengthy and covers many aspects of the benefits of lending to those in need, in one place it makes the following salient point:

Help the poor for the commandment’s sake, and in their need do not send them away empty-handed. Lose your silver for the sake of a brother or a friend, and do not let it rust under a stone and be lost.

Sirach 29:9-10

In a time when there were no banks or ways of securing money, it was not uncommon to simply bury it. The proverb advises, “don’t let your silver rust under a stone and be lost.” Rather than storing it for future use where it may not last, or may get stolen, let it get some use by those in need of it. It is much more preferable to “lose” your silver for the sake of a brother or a friend than to lose it to someone who may find it under your stone and steal what you were storing for yourself.

Yeshua taught the same principle in his parable about greed and accumulation of wealth.

Luke 12:15-21 – He then told them, “Watch out and be on guard against all greed, because one’s life is not in the abundance of his possessions.” Then he told them a parable: “A rich man’s land was very productive. “He thought to himself, ‘What should I do, since I don’t have anywhere to store my crops? “I will do this,’ he said. ‘I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones and store all my grain and my goods there. “Then I’ll say to myself, “You have many goods stored up for many years. Take it easy; eat, drink, and enjoy yourself.” ‘ “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is demanded of you. And the things you have prepared ​– ​whose will they be? ‘ “That’s how it is with the one who stores up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”

Helping those in need is not only a commandment of compassion to be obeyed, but a privilege and honor in the stewardship of the resources and blessings that God has provided us. Our faithfulness in being happily and freely “rich toward God” rather than rich toward ourselves brings honor to his name, and witnesses that we are truly his disciples abiding by his commandments.


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 at https://core-of-the-bible.simplecast.com/ or your favorite podcast streaming service. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

How the Golden Rule teaches simple respect and compassionate giving

As we review the Golden Rule in its original context, we can learn how simple respect for others helps us demonstrate compassion.

Core of the Bible podcast #36 – How the Golden Rule teaches simple respect and compassionate giving

Today we will be exploring the topic of compassion, and how compassionate actions stem from a root of simple respect for others based on the respect and compassion we have received from God.

Yeshua stated it this way: “Therefore whatever you desire for men to do to you, you shall also do to them; for this is the law and the prophets.” Matthew 7:12

Of course, we know this as the Golden Rule. Certainly, anything that you wish others would do for you, do in the same manner for them, for this summarizes God’s teachings regarding others.

Applying what we know about ourselves to others

The simplicity and practical wisdom of this maxim is unsurpassed. We are, after all, self-focused by nature, relating to all other things outside of ourselves as to how we are affected or influenced by them. We know what we like, and we know what is offensive to us. We know when we believe our rights have been violated. We believe we know how we should be treated by others.

Since we are so familiar with ourselves and what we believe we deserve, Yeshua uses this innate familiarity with our own perceived deservedness and turns it on its head by suggesting that is the same way we should treat others. Our actions towards others should be based on our own internal sense of justice, fairness, and equity. This is the essence of compassion. Yeshua’s admonition focuses on the positive aspect of doing good for others based on what we know is acceptable, fair, and just in our eyes.

The fact that this teaching also summarizes the torah or instruction of God is of no small importance. Yeshua here defines the role and universality of the Bible message by summarizing its intent: the instruction and example of God should cause us to be equitable and compassionate in all of our relationships.

In the Greek Septuagint version of the scriptures is contained an interesting corollary to this admonition of Yeshua. It is essentially the opposite of his positive focus which reads like this: “What you hate, do not do to others,” (Tobit 4:15). Just like Yeshua’s teaching focuses on the positive, in the same way this idea of not doing to others what you yourself hate focuses on prevention of poor behavior that you recognize is unacceptable to you. If you don’t like being talked over in conversations, don’t do that to others. If you don’t like it when someone cuts you off in traffic, then don’t do that to others. If you don’t like when people talk about you behind your back, then don’t do that to others. What you hate, don’t do to others.

What we can glean from both of these complementary aspects of this teaching (do good to others, and don’t do what you yourself hate) is this: the things we like to experience and the things we feel negatively about can operate as a basic guide of God’s desires for our interactions with other people.

While there are many commands within the Word, or Torah, of God, if there were a command for every single possible error we could commit, the Bible would be a much bigger collection of books than it currently is. The simple fact is, God has built-in a sense of equity and fairness within the human condition. Even if we were to do nothing more than abide by the sense of what we believe inherently is right and wrong  behavior (based on how we would like to be perceived and treated by others), then we will be miles down the road of doing what is right in God’s eyes.

Then, for believers seeking to learn more about God and his expectations for us, our expectations should continually be adjusted and refined to match his, and this feedback loop of doing what’s right in his eyes is enacted. As our actions then become more in tune with his will, we exhibit more compassion with others when we learn and observe just how compassionate God really is with us. It is meant to become a cycle of positive reinforcement, thereby expanding the reach of God’s kingdom and ultimately glorifying him.

Respecting the context of the Golden Rule

The logic of this wisdom of the Golden Rule, “doing unto others as you would have them do unto you,” has been mocked by some who would take a literal rendering to the extreme. “What about individuals who enjoy being harmed by others? Should they go and harm others, because that’s how they would want to be treated?” The folly of this is self-evident: beginning with the premise of a non-universal aberration (those who enjoy harm) leads to a faulty non-universal conclusion.

As is typically the case, this type of flawed reasoning stems from isolating this verse from its surrounding context, which gives a broader understanding of how it is intended to be applied in the first place.

In this passage (Matthew 7:7-12), Yeshua is admonishing his hearers about the benefits of being persistent “askers” when it comes to opportunity and meeting of needs.

Matthew 7:7-8 – “Ask, and it will be given to you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

This is a simple progression of logic: Ask-receive, seek-find, knock-receive access. Yeshua is setting up his hearers to understand that just as this is the natural order of things in God’s kingdom, God is willing to provide whatever is needed if only we are persistent in asking. This is exhibited through what can be readily seen in their lives already.

Matthew 7:9-11 – “Who among you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? “Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him.

Yeshua’s argument continues, “Since you can see that even unrighteous people know how this system works, then don’t you think God will do the same for us when we we ask? And if God is willing to assist us when we ask, then shouldn’t we do the same with others?”

Matthew 7:12 – “Therefore, whatever you want others to do for you [i.e., when you ask], do also the same for them [when they ask], for this is the Law and the Prophets.

Yeshua is saying that this request-response method is a summary of basically the entire Bible when it comes to compassionate actions. Somebody has a need and makes a request (asking, seeking, knocking) and the need is met (they receive, find, and gain access). This is the very definition of compassion. God does it with us, and we should do it with each other.

Yeshua says, “therefore” because his statement of the Golden Rule summarizes his previous line of reasoning. It’s as if he is saying, “Therefore, because of the examples I just gave you, you should practice the same level of compassion with others.”

That’s why the Golden Rule isn’t meant to be some stand-alone, hypothetical, philosophical statement that can be hijacked for alternative philosophy. It is meant to summarize a simple respect for others when they are in need, which is God’s method for helping all who are in need and asking for assistance. Living by the Golden Rule demonstrates a compassion for others based on the compassion that God himself demonstrates for us.

Our compassion is owed to those in need

To delve a little further into our connection with others and exhibiting compassion in their time of need, we can explore some other passages that deal with a biblical understanding of the Golden Rule and its application.

Proverbs 3:27-28 – When it is in your power, don’t withhold good from the one to whom it belongs.  Don’t say to your neighbor, “Go away! Come back later. I’ll give it tomorrow” ​– ​when it is there with you.

The example here is that a person in need is asking for assistance, and the respondent instead pushes them away and delays providing the need. This may be due to inconvenience at the time, or just a desire to brush them off.

This is very similar to the admonition of the apostle James when he writes:

James 2:15-16 – If a brother or sister is without clothes and lacks daily food and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, stay warm, and be well fed,” but you don’t give them what the body needs, what good is it?

James is basically saying that if we are not meeting someone’s need when they ask, whether today or tomorrow, what’s the point of our faith?

The Hebrew terms in the Proverbs passage here are interesting, because it implies that the good that is being withheld actually belongs already to the other person, it is due them. The good intention or action you have to offer someone in need is something that in actuality belongs to them already. The passage says they are the “lord” or “owner” of that good which you can bestow. You, therefore, by refraining to do the good, are keeping them from something that is rightfully theirs. When it is in your power to do good to others, you essentially owe it to them. In God’s eyes, they rightfully deserve the good that you can do for them.

Albert Barnes: The precept expresses the great Scriptural thought that the so-called possession of wealth is but a stewardship; that the true owners of what we call our own are those to whom, with it, we may do good. Not to relieve them is a breach of trust.

Pulpit Commentary: We are to do good to those who are in need or deserving of it, whenever we have the means and opportunity…The owners of good are those to whom good is due or belongs either by law or by morality, whether by desert or need…what we possess and is seemingly our own is in reality to be regarded as belonging to others. We are only stewards of our wealth…The meaning of the phrase is, “While it is practicable, and you have the opportunity and means of doing good, do it.” Do not defer, but do good promptly.

This ties in with what Paul writes in Galatians 6:9-10 – Let us not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us work for the good of all, especially for those who belong to the household of faith.

If this is the real state of our obligation in this life, that everything we have is potentially owed to others in need, this should provide a monumental shift in how we interact with those around us.

What capacities and resources do we have that can truly help others?

Do we have talents or skills that can help others? Perhaps we can help to repair things around the home that they are unable to do. We may be able to simply mow the lawn, or run to the grocery store for an elderly neighbor who is unable to do either.

Do we have the financial ability to assist someone else? Whether assisting someone with a utility bill that they can’t pay, or helping them with money towards the purchase of a necessary appliance, if we have the ability to help, we should! According to Proverbs 3:27, we already owe it to them! The Bible teaches us when we do so, we are not really giving just to them, we are ultimately giving to God.

Proverbs 19:17 – Kindness to the poor is a loan to Yahweh, and he will give a reward to the lender.

The word for poor here doesn’t necessarily mean a beggar. The word literally means those who are “dangling, weak or thin.” Certainly, while these words can describe beggars, they imply those who cannot help themselves due to their own weakness or perhaps financial leanness and are hanging by a thread. The word for loan means to join (as with Yahweh) in lending to those in such need, and their need becomes our own. Our participation in true acts of compassion means that we are co-laboring with God in his Creation to see his good kingdom come about. Many times our generosity and provision to others is in reality God’s way of providing for them, and we are merely the instruments of his provision.

Conversely, it is not in our power to give what we don’t have.

Acts 3:6 – But Peter said, “I don’t have silver or gold, but what I do have, I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, get up and walk! “

Peter said, “What I do have, I give you.” He didn’t have silver or gold, what the beggar was asking for, but he had something better: he could help him walk! This should be our guide for being compassionate with others. They may be asking for a specific need, but we may only be able to assist in another, perhaps greater, way that helps them even more! This just continues to highlight how we need to learn to get our focus off of ourselves, and learn to perceive the real needs of those around us when they ask us for help.

We shouldn’t be concerned with our lack of ability to give substantially due to the necessity of providing for our own needs. God does not expect us to bankrupt ourselves for the sake of others, otherwise, other people would then need to provide for us. The goal, then, is that our assistance of others comes from the good that we can do, what opportunities we do have, not the ones we don’t.

The future of compassion

Paul writes: 2 Corinthians 8:13-15 – It is not that there should be relief for others and hardship for you, but it is a question of equality. At the present time your surplus is available for their need, so that their abundance may in turn meet your need, in order that there may be equality. As it is written: The person who had much did not have too much, and the person who had little did not have too little.

In this type of scenario, all believers work together, not to a base of uniformity, but from a base of unity. We all have a commitment to the kingdom first, and therefore our personal resources become secondary to the needs of those in the kingdom, those to whom our good is “due.”

The equality of needs would all be met in God’s type of economy. Consider the unity and equality of the early believers:

Acts 4:32-35 – Now the entire group of those who believed were of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but instead they held everything in common. With great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was on all of them. For there was not a needy person among them because all those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the proceeds of what was sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet. This was then distributed to each person as any had need.

Wow, this is a bold example for us. Consider the possibilities if congregations today practiced this type and level of commitment to compassionate provision of others. Those who had multiple homes or additional land or resources would sell them. Those who had income above their needs would cheerfully provide it to the congregation leadership. All of those surplus funds would then be distributed to those in need within the fellowship of believers.

In a capitalist economy with a reliance on self-ownership of property and goods, this can seem like a crazy, left-wing, socialist type of proposition. And yet, as you can see by this very passage in Acts, this is the biblical design for the people in God’s kingdom. One of the primary reasons it seems so strange to us is because we have been raised in a culture that is in many ways fundamentally and diametrically opposed to this type of communal participation and care.

But I’m not talking here about the type of national government system that we should be promoting, not at all. The early believers lived in the Roman economy with all of its faults and shortcomings, and yet “there were no needy among them.” What I am presenting is the biblical model of congregational governance. For this type of system to work, you would really have to trust God and trust your leaders. This is why it can only work with true believers who are committed to following God’s Word by living beyond reproach, and according to his Word.

But I can guarantee you that congregations who truly and faithfully practiced this would explode in growth. As people’s needs would be met, they would become more available to help the needs of others, and so on. Poverty rates would drop and standards of living would rise. Just like those early days in the believers’ congregations, outsiders would take notice and respect their commitment to help one another.

Acts 5:13-14 – No one else dared to join them, but the people spoke well of them. Believers were added to the Lord in increasing numbers ​– ​multitudes of both men and women.

The kingdom of God could be advanced with amazing rapidity, all through the faithfulness of men and women willing to trust God and one another with true acts of compassion.

Summary

Ultimately, since it is God’s design for his kingdom to increase and fill the earth, we can look with eager anticipation toward its fulfillment while continuing to lay its foundations in our current generation. While we may struggle today with our own needs and the needs of others in our current society, we can still demonstrate biblical compassion by abiding by the principles of common respect contained within the Golden Rule. If you like people being nice to you, be nice to them first. If you enjoy being congratulated by others, then look outside your own perspective and do the same to others. If you desire that others provide help to you in your time of need, then find opportunities to do so for others when you are able to do so. If you want people to respect your views, then respect theirs. While you may disagree with their conclusions, they still have the same right to hold their views as you do with your own.

Simple respect solves all interpersonal relationships. Compassionate giving solves the needs of the community. While we may not be able to immediately solve all of the social ills of our current society, this type of simple respect and compassionate giving is how God implores all of us to love one another. When we do so, others will take notice of how our lives are based on different standards, higher standards. And that may be all that’s needed to open a door to sharing the message of the kingdom with them when they ask. And once they ask, and we faithfully respond, then they just need to be willing to receive.


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 at https://core-of-the-bible.simplecast.com/ or your favorite podcast streaming service. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Steps to reducing anxiety that are founded on trusting God

God is the great Provider in many different ways, sometimes even through you.

Core of the Bible Podcast #34: Steps to reducing anxiety that are founded on trusting God

Today we will be exploring the topic of trust or faith, and how God is faithful to provide for all of our needs, reducing our anxiety over that which is unknown when we place our trust in him and follow some simple biblical directives .

Yeshua stated it this way:

“Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.” Matthew 6:26-32

Your life is more valuable to God than all the beauty and provision represented in his Creation; he knows all of your needs.

As believers, we are easily and constantly distracted from what is truly important by our bodily needs and desires. Living on this earth presents us with challenges and struggles that can pull our focus away from God.

REDUCING ANXIETY THROUGH TRUST IN GOD

Trust is about perspective. When we focus on the things of this world more than God, then we have lost our true perspective. Yeshua calls this condition “little faith.”

Yet, the simplicity of trusting God can restore us to the correct spiritual perspective and emotional “center.” A sincere understanding of God and his ability to provide for our basic needs gives us a foundation of trust that we can then build on. When this reality seeps deep inside to our core, it becomes a tap-root that can sustain us through the most adverse conditions.

According to Yeshua’s instruction here in Matthew 6, God cares for what he creates. Whether birds, flowers, grass, or people, he has built into his Creation practical mechanisms for sustenance that allow his universe to thrive. Seeing this provision and beauty within his Creation is his evidence to us, his proof, that he has the ability to provide for our needs. All we have to do is recognize this, and rest safely and securely within his care.

We are urged by Yeshua to ponder these evidences for ourselves. “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.”

When we see birds, we should consider how they can find the food they need without any type of farming or storage of goods. The contrast he makes is stark: day to day provision vs. constant toil and storage which is subject to disaster or thieves.

Is there really a way that we can live day to day, and is this what Yeshua is encouraging all of us to do, to be vagabonds and travelers?

As romantic and idealistic as that sounds, my belief is that Yeshua is emphasizing how we many times will tend to focus on the process and methods of provision so hard that we lose sight of who is the One who is the ultimate Provider.

This is a lesson that I constantly need to be reminded of. As a husband and father of four, I have spent the majority of my adult life concerned with providing for myself and my family. Ultimately, I have known that whatever job or place that I worked was a provision from God, but many times the stress became dominant when I took my focus off of him and sought to provide my own security and provision, or when the demands of the work seemed to overwhelm me.

In those moments, I found that all I had to do was focus on one day at a time, one issue at a time. As I did so, I would find that each new day brought a little clearer perspective and a little more insight, and pretty soon things would be working out.

While this may seem simplistic and a bit naive, it is a method that has allowed me to successfully maintain a career of twenty five years and provide (as well as could be expected) for my family in that time.

That has been my path so far, but it may not be yours. God may be calling you to do any number of things in any number of places; maybe several different places, or hundreds of places, for that matter. The primary thing for believers is to not focus on thinking that you are somehow providing for your own needs all this time, and that whatever you are currently doing is what is expected for the rest of your time here on this earth.

REDUCING ANXIETY THROUGH PRAYER

“And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?”

Anxiety over things we cannot control not only cannot add any time to our span of life, but actually has been scientifically proven to shorten it. The more we stress over things that have not happened yet, the more we tax our immune and nervous systems to where actual damage can be done to the working of our physical bodies.

Philippians 4:6-7 – Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Another lesson I continue to learn is on the benefits of ongoing prayer throughout the day, asking for God’s involvement and giving over my stress and anxiety to him.

While I have a pretty good routine of praying first thing in the morning to set my mind on the things of God before setting my mind on the things of the world, I confess, my prayer life throughout the rest of the day is practically non-existent. I become consumed in the responsibilities and requirements of my family, my home, and my work, and the things of God easily slide to the periphery of my experience.

However, I am learning that if I maintain an attitude of thanksgiving and continue to present requests to God throughout the day, real requests about real things, he is faithful to relieve my anxiety on those things, and to provide real evidence of his working through those things I have given over to him.

And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?”

If we are to truly take Yeshua’s words to consider the lilies and let this line of thinking sink deep into us, we can find that we have the ability to look past the latest trends and fashions and know that if we are trusting in God, we will have the clothing we need to do whatever it is we need to do. Whether it is clothing for normal use, work clothing, or specialized outfitting for unique environments, God is able to provide whatever we need.

Recall the provision of the ancient Israelites wandering in the wilderness for forty years, as even Moses reminded them.

Deuteronomy 8:4 – “Your clothing did not wear out, and your feet did not swell these forty years.

While my clothing may not be the latest style, I certainly have what I need, and more. God has been faithful with me and my family.  Now, while I have never had clothing that lasted for forty years it definitely illustrates for me that if God is able to do that, then he is certainly able to provide whatever our possible needs may be. My trust and faith in him is strengthened when I consider the lilies of the field.

“Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.”

This admonition was directed to an audience that for the most part did not know where their next meal might come from. They were an agrarian society that depended on the weather, the success of the local crops, and the avoidance of conflict. Warfare could interrupt that food cycle. Drought could interrupt that cycle. Pest invasions could interrupt that food cycle. Food was a precious commodity that hung by a thread on any given day of any month. With no refrigeration or collective grocery commerce, this was a real and daily concern that faced the majority of the population at that time.

However, for most of us today, food and drink are merely distractions that we toy with as to the newest cuisine or latest fad food. In our American culture at least, we have idolized food and food preparation, food consumption, restaurants, chefs, nutrition, food plans. We have TV channels dedicated just to food and food preparation and consumption. Restaurant eating has become a pastime and an adventure.

The variety and volume of food available to the average American consumer is mind-boggling in the context of historical comparison with past cultures and civilizations. And yet, even though we have plenty of necessary food available, we still spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about different kinds of food and what we will be eating.

Ironically, and quite sadly, with all of this food available, we still have a large problem with hunger and need in America. We have become so lop-sided in our thinking that we are missing the forest for the trees. If we were to simplify our food obsession, reduce our available portion sizes, and focus on focusing in on the quality natural food that God originally intended for us, we would be much better off and our national health and outlook would improve greatly. With the right motivation and logistical preparation, this could also allow for some of that surplus to make it to those who are in real need.

Yeshua is encouraging us to look at nature, these natural examples of birds and flowers to remind us that these necessary things are part of existence in this world. Just as birds need to eat and flowers exhibit their God-given splendor, Yeshua prods us to consider these provisions amidst the many unnecessary cares we carry for these things in this world. We can express the wonder at how God makes it all work, and keeps his people provided for among the seeming chaos of this life.

The ancient believers expressed a similar amazement at the care that God bestows upon mankind within the vastness of his Creation:

“O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. … When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” Psalm 8:1, 3-4

God cares for us, not because we desire him to, but because that is his role as a parent. Just as we always want to ensure our own children are provided for, how much more God wants to do the same for his own children! One of the main aspects of this provision is expressing trust in God that he will do so.

When we know and trust God, we are considered righteous, certainly as we grow and seek to follow his commands and live according to his Word. We exhibit this faith by praying and requesting for God to be active and involved in our lives, and the lives of those around us. This is where the peace that passes understanding resides, in true faith and recognition of God’s all-encompassing provision for his Creation.

REDUCING ANXIETY THROUGH GIVING

Psalm 37:18-19, 25  – The LORD watches over the blameless all their days, and their inheritance will last forever.  They will not be disgraced in times of adversity; they will be satisfied in days of hunger.  … I have been young and now I am old, yet I have not seen the righteous abandoned or his children begging for bread.

Where we need to exhibit care is in not condemning those who are hungry and in need, as if somehow they are the cause of their own misfortune by not trusting in the God of the Bible. That may only be a small part of a larger context of areas of the world where they are living through the same issues their ancient progenitors faced: drought, famine, and conflict. As a measure and enactment of our trust and faith in God, we should honor him by sharing with those in need to the best of our ability, whether through personal, hands-on assistance, to local agencies or organizations that are working in those areas to provide assistance to those in need.

Psalm 82:3-4 – “Provide justice for the needy and the fatherless; uphold the rights of the oppressed and the destitute.  Rescue the poor and needy; save them from the power of the wicked.”

Just as it was the responsibility of the ancient Israelite judges to act justly with their own people, it may so happen to be that we are the ones whom God will use to provide the justice and rescue that those in need are desperate for. Sometimes, we may be the answer to the prayers of others.

There is no doubt that food and clothing are essential for life; about these necessities, Yeshua even taught that “your heavenly Father knows that you need them.” As we have opportunity amidst our own wealth and abundance, it may be that God is prompting us to share our resources with those who have none.

As we begin to see the larger picture of provision in the world in general, it allows us to get our eyes off of our own needs and anxieties and instead look for answers and solutions to helping others. Our anxiety can be relieved not only by trusting for God’s provision for us personally and through diligent prayer throughout each day. We can also become less anxious as we find ways to helping others in the way we would want to be helped, were we in the same situation.

Matthew 7:12 – “Therefore, whatever you want others to do for you, do also the same for them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

Our faithfulness in meeting the needs of others is the surest way to reduce our own anxiety over these needs for ourselves. That, in and of itself, is also a provision 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 at https://core-of-the-bible.simplecast.com/ or your favorite podcast streaming service. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Giving with intention and love

What does Yeshua really teach about giving to help those in need?

Core of the Bible podcast #29 – Giving with intention and love

In this episode we will be exploring the topic of compassion, and how our giving to the needs of others should stem from an intentional purpose of assistance and a heart of love, and not from a place of financial reciprocation.

Yeshua stated it this way:

Give to everyone who asks from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. … And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Luke 6:30-31, 34-35

In these verses, Yeshua appears to be saying that believers should give and loan freely to whoever asks of us, expecting nothing back from them. The distinctive aspect of how believers are supposed to model giving is to go outside the normal boundaries of the culture; to willingly give to those who would be considered unlikely recipients: those who can’t repay, even those who could be considered enemies.

This is not a practice for the faint of heart. Giving as God intends requires mettle and resolve. This is not “feel-good” giving. In fact, this type of giving can be painful because it seems so contrary to common sense.

First, it would be helpful if we were to identify what type of giving is being talked about here. An interesting dynamic is raised by the parallel of this teaching of Yeshua in Matthew 5:42

Matthew 5:42 Give to him that asks of you, and him that would borrow from you turn not away.

I am becoming of the opinion that, in our rush to exhibit compassion to others, we may have missed the actual intent of Yeshua’s teaching on this matter. As always, we need to remember that Yeshua’s teachings are all based on the torah of God.

Matthew 5:17, 19 “Don’t think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. … “Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commands and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever does and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

As we review the commands of God, we find basis for this teaching of Yeshua which may shed additional light on our giving practices.

Exodus 22:25 If you lend money to one of My people among you who is poor, you must not act as a creditor to him; you are not to charge him interest.

Leviticus 25:35-37 Now if your countryman becomes destitute and cannot support himself among you, then you are to help him as you would a foreigner or stranger, so that he can continue to live among you. 36Do not take any interest or profit from him, but fear your God, that your countryman may live among you. 37You must not lend him your silver at interest or sell him your food for profit.

Deut 15:4-6: “However there shall be no poor with you (for Yahweh will surely bless you in the land which Yahweh your God gives you for an inheritance to possess it) if only you diligently listen to Yahweh your God’s voice, to observe to do all this commandment which I command you today. For Yahweh your God will bless you, as he promised you. You will lend to many nations, but you will not borrow. You will rule over many nations, but they will not rule over you.”

Deut 15:7-11: “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. Beware that there not be a base thought in your heart, saying, “The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand”; and your eye be evil against your poor brother, and you give him nothing; and he cry to Yahweh against you, and it be sin to you. You shall surely give, and your heart shall not be grieved when you give to him; because that for this thing Yahweh your God will bless you in all your work, and in all that you put your hand to. For the poor will never cease out of the land. Therefore I command you to surely open your hand to your brother, to your needy, and to your poor, in your land.”

Deuteronomy 23:19-20 “You shall not charge interest to your countrymen: interest on money, food, or anything that may be loaned at interest. 20“You may charge interest to a foreigner, but to your countrymen you shall not charge interest, so that the LORD your God may bless you in all that you undertake in the land which you are about to enter to possess.

Based on these passages, it is apparent that in the days of ancient Israel, with no established banks or other forms of credit, it was a common practice for those who might have fallen on hard times to request loans from family and friends to get back on their feet.

Ellicott’s commentary states the following on Matthew 5:42 regarding someone who would borrow from you:

From him that would borrow.—The force of the precept depends on its connection with the Jewish Law, which forbade not only what we call usury, i.e., excessive interest, but all interest on loans where debtor and creditor alike were Israelites (Exodus 22:25; Leviticus 25:37; Deuteronomy 23:19-20). From our modern point of view that law cannot be regarded as in harmony with the present order of society, nor consistent with our modern views of financial justice. It is not the less true, however, that in the education of a family or nation, such a prohibition may be a necessary and useful discipline. We should look with scorn on boys who lent on interest to their brothers or their schoolfellows, and the ideal of the Law of Moses was that of treating all Israelites as brothers brought under the discipline of the schoolmaster. As if with a prescient insight into the besetting temptation of the race, the lawgiver forbade a practice which would have destroyed, and eventually did destroy, the sense of brotherhood (Nehemiah 5:1-13), leaving it open to receive interest from strangers who were outside the limits of the family (Deuteronomy 23:20). The higher law of Christ treats all men as brothers, and bids us, if it is right to lend as an act of charity, to do so for love, and not for profit.

The intent of these torah commands, coupled with Yeshua’s teaching, seems to imply that there should not be discrimination in whom you lend to, whether close associate whom you know will repay, versus a faint acquaintance whom you recognize may never repay you. The issue was not the repayment, but the generous giving in love.


I believe we can learn much, both good and bad, from contemporaneous writings from ancient Israel. I like reading the apocrypha, or the additional books of the Bible that are found in Orthodox and Catholic versions of the Bible, because they provide historical perspective on how the Tanakh, or Old Testament, was being interpreted by the culture in the time period between the Old and New Testaments.

For example, in the apocryphal book of the Wisdom of Sirach, which is very similar to the book of Proverbs, there’s an insightful teaching that corresponds with Yeshua’s mentality in our current passage under discussion, explaining the benefits of unrestricted generosity.

Sirach 29: 1-13 He that shows mercy will lend to his neighbor,  and he that strengthens him with his hand keeps the commandments. Lend to your neighbor in the time of his need; and in turn, repay your neighbor promptly. Confirm your word and keep faith with him, and on every occasion you will find what you need. Many persons regard a loan as a windfall, and cause trouble to those who help them. A man will kiss another’s hands until he gets a loan, and will lower his voice in speaking of his neighbor’s money; but at the time for repayment he will delay, and will pay in words of unconcern, and will find fault with the time. If the lender exert pressure, he will hardly get back half, and will regard that as a windfall. If he does not, the borrower has robbed him of his money, and he has needlessly made him his enemy; he will repay him with curses and reproaches, and instead of glory will repay him with dishonor. Because of such wickedness, therefore, many have refused to lend; they have been afraid of being defrauded needlessly. Nevertheless, be patient with a man in humble circumstances, and do not make him wait for your alms.9 Help a poor man for the commandment’s sake, and because of his need do not send him away empty. Lose your silver for the sake of a brother or a friend, and do not let it rust under a stone and be lost. Lay up your treasure according to the commandments of the Most High, and it will profit you more than gold. Store up almsgiving in your treasury, and it will rescue you from all affliction; more than a mighty shield and more than a heavy spear, it will fight on your behalf against your enemy.

Here we can see how generosity with those in need is encouraged. But we also see the type of giving that is being discussed; it is not so much donating to someone’s needs, but rather providing them a generous loan. We can see the language of lender and borrower and repayment of loans being discussed.

This is absolutely in accord with the torah teachings we looked at earlier;

Exodus 22:25 If you lend money to one of My people among you who is poor, you must not act as a creditor to him; you are not to charge him interest.

The other torah passages we looked at had a similar emphasis. So as we look for the ancient understanding of giving to those in need, we find that the primary method of accomplishing that, and the method that God encourages, is to freely lend, without interest, to those who are in need.

This is the same thing Yeshua is teaching

Luke 6:35 ESV – … lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.

Matthew 5:42 Give to him that asks of you, and him that would borrow from you turn not away.

Based on this broad ancient context, we can see that the type of giving God desires believers to practice is intentional and generous loans to those in need, all the while expecting nothing in return. While a loan with no expectation of return is essentially a gift, the idea remains that the receiver of the loan has been thoughtfully tended to without the stigma of charity or a handout. God’s intent is that their needs have been duly assessed, and a reasonable measure of assistance has been provided in love. Most would repay the loan/gift, and this is to be counted as a bonus to the lender, as many simply would not repay.

All of this seems pretty straightforward as far as torah teaching and the cultural context of the day. So if this is the case, why was it necessary for Yeshua to provide additional insight to his followers about loving, and possibly even lending to, those who could be considered enemies?


While the teaching on generosity does appear reasonably clear, we find that Yeshua felt it was necessary to dig in deeper to the concept in his day and age for his audience. Whenever we see Yeshua doing this, it is typically to overcome the wrong perspectives that were exemplified in his day.

For example, in Matthew 23, there are a lot of condemnations that Yeshua leveled against the hypocrisy and unrighteousness of the religious leaders.  Here are a few of those

Matthew 23:16, 23 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ …

23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.

Matthew 23:25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.

Yeshua is condemning them for building up and enforcing exclusive and harmful traditions around godly things: creating nonsensical rules for oaths concerning the holy temple; demonstrating exacting minuteness in tithing, but foregoing true justice conveyed in God’s torah; obsessively minding cleanliness commands while ignoring the intent and spirit of those commands.

This is the work Yeshua had to do in the process of calling out the remnant of true believers away from the hypocritical religious establishment. He had to make sure he was reestablishing them on the correct spirit and intent of God’s torah.

This extended also to ungodly traditions that had grown up like weeds around the clear teachings of God on giving and loaning to those in need. An historical example of this type of wrong perspective can also be found in the apocryphal book of Sirach, as it discusses who is “worthy” of receiving favor.

Sirach 12:4-7 Give to the godly man, but do not help the sinner. Do good to the humble, but do not give to the ungodly; hold back his bread, and do not give it to him, lest by means of it he subdue you; for you will receive twice as much evil for all the good which you do to him. For the Most High also hates sinners and will inflict punishment on the ungodly. Give to the good man, but do not help the sinner.

I believe this is the type of thinking that Yeshua was trying to overcome. Passing judgment on who would receive your alms or your loan was keeping truly needy people from being helped. Rather than promoting a society of generosity, as the torah had intended, the command had turned into a system of condemnation and refusal to help those who were not considered worthy. This only served to cause further division and corruption within the religious system of his day.

So Yeshua’s directive to give or loan to everyone, good or bad, or even someone considered an enemy, was a radical departure from the ideas of giving that had come into vogue among the elite. A believer’s generosity should not be based on the perceived worthiness of an individual, but through the careful assessment of the need and a loan free of interest or any other catch.


Okay, so if we understand that this principle of giving revolves around the idea of loans, then how does that affect our response with those who approach us on the street corners for handouts?

Does this mean that we shouldn’t give to every beggar on the street corner, or whomever we pass on the sidewalk who approaches us for money? After all, Yeshua did teach to “give to whomever asks of you…”

Let’s see how this has been classically interpreted over the centuries.

Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

Give to every man that asketh of thee] Literally, “be giving implying a habit, not an instant act. Here again we have a broad, general principle of unselfishness and liberality safely left to the common sense of mankind, Deuteronomy 15:7-9. The spirit of our Lord’s precept is now best fulfilled by not giving to every man that asks, because in the altered circumstances of the age such indiscriminate almsgiving would only be a check to industry, and a premium on imposture, degradation, and vice. By ‘giving,’ our Lord meant ‘conferring a boon;’ but mere careless giving now, so far from conferring a boon, perpetuates a curse and inflicts an injury. The spirit of the precept is large-handed but thoughtful charity. Love must sometimes violate the letter as the only possible way of observing the spirit (Matthew 15:26; Matthew 20:23).

This is a really interesting perspective and not a popular view that is heard preached from the pulpits. These commentators are suggesting that indiscriminate handouts to those who approach us are actually a careless, rather than a caring, action. They go so far as to say that this “perpetuates a curse and inflicts injury” upon the receiver, because it not only prevents them from desiring to earn a wage, it also reinforces a culture of degradation and vice. In this view, handouts actually go against the spirit of the principle of intentional and generous giving that Yeshua is teaching about.

Matthew Poole’s Commentary

Matthew hath much the same passage, only he saith, “Give to him that … asketh of thee;” and for the latter clause, he hath, “from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away,” which seems more agreeing to the precept. Deu 15:8. These precepts of our Saviour must be interpreted, not according to the strict sense of the words, as if every man were by them obliged, without regard to his own abilities, or the circumstances of the persons begging or asking of him, to give to every one that hath the confidence to ask of him; but as obliging us to liberality and charity according to our abilities, and the true needs and circumstances of our poor brethren, and in that order which God’s word hath directed us; first providing for our own families, then doing good to the household of faith, then also to others, as we are able, and see any of them true objects of our charity.

Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers

(42) Give to him that asketh.—Here again our Lord teaches us by the method of a seeming paradox, and enforces a principle binding upon every one in the form of a rule which in its letter is binding upon no man. Were we to give to all men what they ask, we should in many cases be cursing, not blessing, them with our gifts. Not so does our Father give us what we ask in prayer; not so did Christ grant the prayers of His disciples. That which the words really teach as the ideal of the perfect life which we ought to aim at, is the loving and the giving temper that sees in every request made to us the expression of a want of some kind, which we are to consider as a call to thoughtful inquiry how best to meet the want, giving what is asked for if we honestly believe that it is really for the good of him who asks, giving something else if that would seem to be really better for him. Rightly understood, the words do not bid us idly give alms to the idle or the impostor; and St. Paul’s rule, “If a man will not work, neither let him eat” (2Thessalonians 3:10), is not a departure from the law of Christ, but its truest application and fulfilment.

Wow. In looking at these classic commentaries I find it amazing how they have arrived at similar conclusions to each other, yet the principle they are espousing is so far removed from what we see actually promoted among God’s people today.

In my opinion, when the words of Yeshua are maintained within the context of all scripture, and not cherry-picked to support a specific ideologies or a denominational bias, a comprehensive and consistent view arises that can provide very practical insights for all.

For the topic at hand, if we understand it is a principle for regulating generous and intentional loaning for assistance in hard times, this causes us to take time to lovingly and caringly assess someone’s real needs and provide real help. Simply providing small handouts to those who would beg from us, while not wrong in and of themselves, don’t really solve the person’s situation and typically only make us feel better about ourselves. Of course we should always be willing to share food and resources with those in need, but we would do well to be thoughtful and intentional so that the individual is truly helped.


So, considering all of this wide perspective on giving, if we return to the teaching of Yeshua, why should we give anything to those whom are unable to repay? Along those lines, why should we be commanded by Yeshua to give generously even to those who could be considered adversarial?

There are at least five reasons that immediately come to mind, but many more could be added as well.

First of all, as we have just seen in the words of Yeshua, because this type of intentional giving is what is expected of us by God: “Give to those who would ask of you.” He quite simply expects us to be generous in helping others.

Secondly, because everything we have is temporary at best.

2 Corinthians 4:18 So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Thirdly, because everything we have has been provided by God, so why should we hold back what has been freely given to us?

Psalm 37:26 [The righteous] is always generous, always lending, and his children are a blessing.

Proverbs 22:9 A generous person will be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor.

2 Corinthians 9:10-11 Now the one who provides seed for the sower and bread for food will also provide and multiply your seed and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way for all generosity, which produces thanksgiving to God through us.

Fourthly, because believers are supposed to be distinctive in this world, not to follow the conventions of the existing culture.

Matthew 5:13-16 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt should lose its taste, how can it be made salty? It’s no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.  “You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. “No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

Fifthly, because God is kind to the ungrateful and evil, and our goal is to be like him, and to exemplify his character of compassion in this world.

Matthew 5:44-45, 48 “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, “so that you may be children of your Father in heaven. For he causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. … “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

According to Yeshua, giving in this manner also carries a promise of reward: you will be considered a child of the Most High. I can think of no higher honor or greater decoration to be bestowed upon us than for God to call us his own children.


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.