We will not grow fruit for God if we are not performing the purpose for which we have been created in him.
1 John 3:16-18 – This is how we have come to know love: He laid down his life for us. We should also lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has this world’s goods and sees a fellow believer in need but withholds compassion from him – how does God’s love reside in him? Little children, let us not love in word or speech, but in action and in truth.
Messiah’s example should motivate us to think about and act on the needs of individuals in our community. The highest gift one can give to another is to lay down one’s life, symbolically or literally. This is the life-principle we are called to as followers of Messiah, and this is the example we should set for everyone around us. When we aid people in need at the sacrifice of our own comfort and resources, we are laying down our life, i.e., putting our own selfish needs aside to meet the needs of others. This is the essence of Yeshua’s appeal for compassion and kindness from his disciples.
Matthew 5:7 – Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
When we are obedient in this fashion, we open ourselves up to the same mercy to be shown to us by God and others.
Acts 9:36-41 – In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which is translated Dorcas). She was always doing good works and acts of charity. About that time she became sick and died. After washing her, they placed her in a room upstairs. Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples heard that Peter was there and sent two men to him who urged him, “Don’t delay in coming with us.” Peter got up and went with them. When he arrived, they led him to the room upstairs. And all the widows approached him, weeping and showing him the robes and clothes that Dorcas had made while she was with them. Peter sent them all out of the room. He knelt down, prayed, and turning toward the body said, “Tabitha, get up.” She opened her eyes, saw Peter, and sat up. He gave her his hand and helped her stand up. He called the saints and widows and presented her alive.
When this woman died, she was recognized for her deeds of kindness, producing and distributing clothing to those in need. Mercy was shown to her because of her merciful actions towards others.
Matthew 5:13 – “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.
The aim of salt, according to Yeshua’s metaphor, is to fulfill a purpose; otherwise, it would be thrown aside as useless. We will not grow fruit for God if we are not performing the purpose for which we have been created in him, and we risk being thrown aside as idle vessels while he seeks others to work through.
We should not only declare that we believe in Messiah; instead, we should follow his example of laying down his life to aid others with whatever skills and abilities God has bestowed upon us.
1 John 3:18 – Little children, let us not love in word or speech, but in action and in truth.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
We should not be neglecting the immediate needs of those around us.
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.
Here at the Core of the Bible, I will typically focus on the positive aspects of the qualities that we should be exhibiting as believers. On the quality of compassion, we are commanded to ensure our hearts are not hardened to the needs of those around us. However, the Bible is also very clear that the intentional neglecting of caring for the less fortunate has consequences.
Proverbs 21:13 Whoever stops his ears at the cry of the poor, he will also cry out, but shall not be heard. Proverbs 28:27 One who gives to the poor has no lack; but one who closes his eyes will have many curses.
It’s as if God has created an environment that works against those who make a point of avoiding help to others in need. Yeshua also confirms a similar principle in his teachings.
for I was hungry, and you didn’t give me food to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me no drink; I was a stranger, and you didn’t take me in; naked, and you didn’t clothe me; sick, and in prison, and you didn’t visit me. … ‘Most certainly I tell you, because you didn’t do it to one of the least of these, you didn’t do it to me.’ These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Matthew 25:42-43, 45-46
If we claim to be believers in the God of the universe, we have an obligation to those around us who can many times appear invisible. Sometimes we avoid involvement because we feel helpless to provide substantive, long-term solutions; a handout just doesn’t seem to make any real difference. But, while we should indeed be looking at ways to make long term changes, we should also not neglect immediate needs.
What good is it, my brothers, if a man says he has faith, but has no works? Can faith save him? And if a brother or sister is naked and in lack of daily food, and one of you tells them, “Go in peace. Be warmed and filled;” yet you didn’t give them the things the body needs, what good is it?
We should always want to help from the heart; however, we should also be aware that there are consequences when we do nothing. Let’s seek ways that we can help, even if they are only small ways to start. It all makes a positive difference in the eyes of God.
If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at email@example.com.
Tabitha and Cornelius received amazing blessings from God, not because they were looking to be blessed, but because they were simply and sincerely concerned about the welfare of others.
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.
Being compassionate towards those in need is a hallmark of believers. Providing charitable actions for others is something that is encouraged by Yeshua.
“Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Make money-bags for yourselves that won’t grow old, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.
Thanks to the Elizabethan English of the King James Bible, generosity with those in need has been historically come to be known as the giving of “alms.” That word has lost a lot of its meaning in our current age, but the underlying Greek word implies pity and mercy; according to one dictionary: “compassionateness (as exercised towards the poor), beneficence, or (concretely) a benefaction.”
In the New Testament writings, we see individuals who were recognized for their charitable actions and giving: Tabitha, as mentioned above, and Cornelius, a benefactor of the Jews.
There was a man in Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment. He was a devout man and feared God along with his whole household. He did many charitable deeds for the Jewish people and always prayed to God.
While both of these individuals are mentioned because of the extraordinary events that accompanied the recognition of their giving (Tabitha was brought back from the dead, and Cornelius received a heavenly vision), the important thing is that their giving was recognized by God. They were not giving to be praised by others (although that ended up coming about), but they were simply individuals who were motivated by sincere compassion to help those in need.
Yeshua was clear that this type of charitable giving and assistance should in no way be motivated by public recognition.
“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. Otherwise, you have no reward with your Father in heaven. “So whenever you give to the poor, don’t sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be applauded by people. Truly I tell you, they have their reward. “But when you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, “so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
The examples of Tabitha and Cornelius should be a great encouragement to us because they are each direct fulfillments of this very promise from Yeshua: “your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” Each of them received amazing blessings from God, not because they were looking to be blessed, but because they were simply and sincerely concerned about the welfare of others.
These two individuals should not be looked at as examples of testing God to see if he will come through with some amazing blessing for us when we give; they are examples of the honor that can be bestowed on individuals whom God chooses to honor when they are faithful to his Word and his principles. Neither one of these individuals was giving to get, and yet they received an abundance of blessing and honor. The Word of God and the words of Yeshua are validated in their fulfillment in these individuals’ lives.
“Give, and it will be given to you; a good measure – pressed down, shaken together, and running over – will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”
It’s this type of sincere generosity and compassion that God has demonstrated that he sees and recognizes. While we may never receive a wondrous miracle due to our charitable compassion, it is because of these examples that we can be confident that our heavenly Father recognizes our actions and is pleased with our obedient giving. That in itself should be more than enough reward for us.
If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Believers are not exempted from helping with the needs of those around them.
“If you come upon your enemy’s ox or donkey that has strayed away, take it back to its owner. If you see that the donkey of someone who hates you has collapsed under its load, do not walk by. Instead, stop and help.
“If you see your neighbor’s ox or sheep or goat wandering away, don’t ignore your responsibility. Take it back to its owner. If its owner does not live nearby or you don’t know who the owner is, take it to your place and keep it until the owner comes looking for it. Then you must return it. Do the same if you find your neighbor’s donkey, clothing, or anything else your neighbor loses. Don’t ignore your responsibility. “If you see that your neighbor’s donkey or ox has collapsed on the road, do not look the other way. Go and help your neighbor get it back on its feet!
Most people will typically be available to help friends and loved ones in their time of need. However, one of the easiest things to do when a need from an anonymous individual becomes apparent to us is to pass by, turn the other way, or to simply ignore it. We can justify this by any number of ways saying we are not qualified to help, or not capable, or more commonly, on a schedule with no time for distractions.
But the torah or instruction of God makes no such distinctions. God removes anyone’s justifications with a couple of choice phrases. In the Exodus passage regarding one’s enemies, God says the Israelites should not refrain from or leave undone the thing that needs to be done. In the Deuteronomy passage regarding a brother, God says that one should not hide or conceal oneself from their need.
Regardless if one is an enemy or just an anonymous person in need, the honest response that God expects of his people is that those individuals would not be ignored.
Yeshua confirms this instruction by illustrating an ideal response with the story of the Good Samaritan. The righteous Israelites passed by the man who had been assaulted by robbers, but the Samaritan, considered an “enemy” by the Jews of the day, was the hero of the story and did what God expects of all of us. Yeshua made it personal for his audience in his day, certainly highlighting how any person, even an enemy, is valued significantly more highly than a donkey.
Admittedly, this type of proactive assistance was much more necessary in the day and age when emergency services were not available, as it was up to the individuals in a community to watch out for one another’s needs and not to rely on local agencies to address those types of situations. Even so, the local agencies can only help so much because the needs vary so greatly among regional populations.
Since it is God who makes this type of involvement personal and required, we should be honest and not neglect our response to the individual needs that become apparent to us. Many times, in an effort at charitability, we instead choose to focus on the anonymous movements to “save the world” in one fashion or another. Those endeavors may also be helpful in different ways, but they do not relieve us of our obligations to help proactively in personal ways with the immediate needs of those around us, friend and foe alike.
“Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked. The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.” Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”
If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week I take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at email@example.com.
God wants us to give to those in need on purpose, from the heart.
In this episode we will be exploring the topic of Compassion, how central it is to the Bible message, along with some practical ways to demonstrate compassion, specifically compassionate giving, in ways that honor God according to his word.
Yeshua stated it this way:
Matthew 6:1-4 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees [what is done] in secret will reward you.”
While the main context of Yeshua’s comment is in deriding acts of hypocrisy, within this pronouncement is a nugget of wisdom as it comes to helping others in need. While he denounces the proud and their showy acts of helping others, he is effectively saying that we should be privately and sincerely compassionate toward those in need. The need is real and when we give we should be quietly genuine in our acts of helping others. That is the type of compassionate giving that God honors.
In Hebrew the term for the poor describes those who are in want and have needs that cannot be met on their own. In the Greek of the NT, the term describes those who crouch and cower, as beggars are seen to do. As we will see, the Bible describes several specific groups of individuals within the Hebrew culture who were singled out as primarily falling among the poor of the land.
Helping others who are unable to help themselves should be a cornerstone of the practices of all believers. It is here commanded by Yeshua, but is also evident throughout other areas of the Bible and by other writers.
Deuteronomy 15:10-11 Give generously to the poor, not grudgingly, for the LORD your God will bless you in everything you do. There will always be some in the land who are poor. That is why I am commanding you to share freely with the poor and with other Israelites in need.
Psalm 82:3-4 “Give justice to the poor and the orphan; uphold the rights of the oppressed and the destitute. Rescue the poor and helpless; deliver them from the grasp of evil people.
Proverbs 31:9, 20 Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice. … She extends a helping hand to the poor and opens her arms to the needy.
Zechariah 7:10 Do not oppress widows, orphans, foreigners, and the poor. And do not scheme against each other.
2 Corinthians 9:9 As the Scriptures say, “They share freely and give generously to the poor. Their good deeds will be remembered forever.”
Galatians 2:10 Their only suggestion was that we keep on helping the poor, which I have always been eager to do.
Throughout the torah, or instruction of God, there are various blessings and curses related to how the poor are treated by individuals.
Proverbs 19:17 If you help the poor, you are lending to the LORD–and he will repay you!
Prov 22:9 Blessed are those who are generous, because they feed the poor.
Luke 18:22 When Jesus heard his answer, he said, “There is still one thing you haven’t done. Sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
Proverbs 21:13 Those who shut their ears to the cries of the poor will be ignored in their own time of need.
Proverbs 22:6 A person who gets ahead by oppressing the poor or by showering gifts on the rich will end in poverty.
Both blessings and curses
Proverbs 28:27 Whoever gives to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to poverty will be cursed.
In typical Biblical fashion, a topic is presented with two sides: positive and negative. Clearly, acts of compassion are a positive principle in this world, and overlooking the needs of others is a negative principle to be avoided. If we have been blessed with abundance, then God is conveying our responsibility as his children to share those resources with those in need.
The plight of the poor is an ongoing one. Yeshua and the biblical writers agree that there will always be poverty that needs to be supported.
Matthew 26:11 You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.
Mark 14:7 You will always have the poor among you, and you can help them whenever you want to. But you will not always have me.
John 12:8 You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”
Deuteronomy 15:11 There will always be some in the land who are poor. That is why I am commanding you to share freely with the poor and with other Israelites in need.
We should not let the perpetual nature of poverty dissuade us from helping others. Let’s take a look at a story that helps us understand this a little more clearly.
You may have heard a story that illustrates in vivid fashion this principle of helping the many others who are always in need. I’ve seen various versions of the story, but in general, it goes something like this:
A young boy was walking along the beach when he noticed a large amount of sand dollars had washed up on the beach during the high tide. Seeing their only hope of survival as being transferred out into the retreating water, he went about picking up the sand dollars one by one and was dropping them back into the ocean.
A man walking on the beach noticed the furious efforts of the child, and the overwhelming number of sand dollars still left stranded. Seeing a sand dollar in his small hand, the man called out to the boy, “Son, there are too many sand dollars that are still on the beach. What possible difference can you make?”
“Well, it will make a big difference for this one,” the boy replied, as he returned the sand dollar to the water.
I think this story has been variously told as involving sea stars, or some other sea creature, but the message is the same: we may not be able to help everyone, but we can meaningfully help some, or even one.
It can seem overwhelming when we look at the vast number of poor in the world, and our natural reaction is to think, “how can we solve poverty?” We look at the issue as if it’s a math problem that just needs the application of the correct formula, and then all will be resolved. But the roots of poverty are deep and varied, and depend on many conditions that are unique to specific cultures and ideologies.
We typically tend to think of poverty as being “out there” in third world countries (which is not untrue). However, even here in the US we have large swaths of our population who live below what is considered the “poverty line.” As of the most recent studies in 2021, there are currently over 38 million Americans considered impoverished, between 9-10% of the entire country.
The reasons for poverty, whether in America or anywhere else, vary by region and type of need, but do have some basic drivers. Poverty can be caused by lack of jobs, poor local infrastructures, poor education, social injustice, violent communities or warfare; the list goes on. If we solve one problem, sometimes another rises to take its place. If we overcome one injustice, another one becomes evident.
All of this is by no means to say the situation is hopeless. However, it illustrates the depth and complexity of the state of the poor, and its ongoing tendency to be evident within cultures around the world. This evergreen nature of poverty ensures that it will be a continuing challenge to varying degrees in every generation.
If there were no point to helping others, then it would not be such an oft-stated requirement within God’s word. Clearly God wants us, no, commands us, to help others. But he does not lay out a specific strategy of how to do so, only that we do so.
We can get some hints, though, by looking at the past record. Within God’s natural kingdom of ancient Israel, God laid out a structure for the corporate welfare of those less fortunate, to include:
leaving the gleaning of the harvest for the poor
providing offerings for the poor every third year
providing private loans for those in need
If these were methods of assisting the poor in God’s natural kingdom, I believe they can provide a balanced basis for his spiritual kingdom as well.
Let’s look at the first one: gleaning the harvest.
Deuteronomy 24:21 “When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, do not glean what is left. What remains will be for the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow.
The process of gleaning allowed the poor and needy to enter into the landowners’ fields after the harvesters had reaped the initial ripe produce. There would be some late-ripening fruit that could be gleaned for the benefit of the poor. This might work well in an agrarian society, but what is a similar process we could use today?
Since a gleaning is essentially a process of using up “leftovers,” perhaps setting aside any leftover change from a store purchase can mimic this process. Some financial institutions provide this as a savings plan for their members: when a purchase is made, the purchase amount is “rounded up” to the nearest dollar, and that “leftover” amount is deposited into a savings account. So if we were to use this money to give to those in need would be one way of exhibiting the principle of gleaning in our non-agrarian society.
The second method was providing offerings for the poor every third year.
Deuteronomy 26:12 “When you have finished paying all the tenth of your produce in the third year, the year of the tenth, you are to give it to the Levites, resident aliens, fatherless children and widows, so that they may eat in your towns and be satisfied.
The tithe was the firstfruits of the produce of the land. It was provided to the priests on a regular basis for their support in their work in the Temple, since the priests had no inheritance in the land. But every third year, it would be divided between the Levites and the poor of the land.
This may be updated to a process such as setting aside a third of any regular charitable giving you may be currently providing your ministry or religious organization as to be used more specifically for the poor and needy.
The third method was through loaning money or resources to those who needed a leg up.
Deuteronomy 15:7-8 “If there is a poor person among you, one of your brothers within any of your city gates in the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother. “Instead, you are to open your hand to him and freely loan him enough for whatever need he has.
Loans were used as a way of helping those who had fallen on hard times, but otherwise could work. However, they would be expected to repay the assistance when they were back on their feet. Yeshua instructs us in Luke 6 that we should “lend, expecting nothing in return.” However, having an intentional loan fund to help out family friends and others might be one way of fulfilling this aspect of torah.
Now many believers may bristle at the idea of tithes, and allowances, and loans, saying all of this is OT information that only applied to Israel under the Old Covenant. All we should do is give freely and give cheerfully, because according to Paul in 2 Corinthians 9, God loves a cheerful giver.
That’s all well and good and I would never dissuade someone from doing just. However, if we area to take all of God’s word into account, it can be demonstrated that within the economy of God’s kingdom, being intentional with our finances is a requirement of being a good, contributing member of the community. If we only gave when we wanted to, our giving would be spontaneous and erratic. However, if, like ancient Israel, we were basing our assistance to the poor on intentional principles from God’s torah, then we will be more engaged and productive in the process. And we can still be cheerful about it, and mean it from the heart! Putting forethought into the process should not make us any less happy about providing for others because we have been abundantly blessed! In fact, in doing so, we may be that much more aware of just how blessed we are!
Who should our efforts be focused on? I mentioned earlier that there were some specific groups that were singled out within the culture of ancient Israel that might provide us some insight.
For example, we know there was a special emphasis on widows and orphans because their primary source of income (the husband or father) was no longer around.
Job 31:16, 18 “Have I refused to help the poor, or crushed the hopes of widows? … No, from childhood I have cared for orphans like a father, and all my life I have cared for widows.
Psalm 68:5 Father to the fatherless, defender of widows–this is God, whose dwelling is holy.
Isaiah 1:17 Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.
James 1:27 Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.
Foreigners were also among the poor in ancient Israel, as they would typically have less opportunity among the established rights within each tribe. God encourages helping the foreigner just about as much as helping widows and orphans.
Deuteronomy 24:20 When you beat the olives from your olive trees, don’t go over the boughs twice. Leave the remaining olives for the foreigners, orphans, and widows.
Deuteronomy 26:12 “Every third year you must offer a special tithe of your crops. In this year of the special tithe you must give your tithes to the Levites, foreigners, orphans, and widows, so that they will have enough to eat in your towns.
Deuteronomy 27:19 ‘Cursed is anyone who denies justice to foreigners, orphans, or widows.’ And all the people will reply, ‘Amen.’
Jeremiah 22:3 This is what the LORD says: Be fair-minded and just. Do what is right! Help those who have been robbed; rescue them from their oppressors. Quit your evil deeds! Do not mistreat foreigners, orphans, and widows. Stop murdering the innocent!
Psalm 146:9 The LORD protects the foreigners among us. He cares for the orphans and widows, but he frustrates the plans of the wicked.
Levites were also among the poor. As being set apart for the service of God’s temple and the ministry, they were not provided an allotted inheritance, and had to rely on the sacrificial offerings and kindness of their tribal counterparts.
Numbers 3:9 Assign the Levites to Aaron and his sons. They have been given from among all the people of Israel to serve as their assistants.
Numbers 8:11 Raising his hands, Aaron must then present the Levites to the LORD as a special offering from the people of Israel, thus dedicating them to the LORD’s service.
Deuteronomy 12:19 And be very careful never to neglect the Levites as long as you live in your land.
Deuteronomy 14:27, 29 And do not neglect the Levites in your town, for they will receive no allotment of land among you. … Give it to the Levites, who will receive no allotment of land among you, as well as to the foreigners living among you, the orphans, and the widows in your towns, so they can eat and be satisfied. Then the LORD your God will bless you in all your work.
Deuteronomy 18:1 “Remember that the Levitical priests–that is, the whole of the tribe of Levi–will receive no allotment of land among the other tribes in Israel. Instead, the priests and Levites will eat from the special gifts given to the LORD, for that is their share.
Deuteronomy 26:12 “Every third year you must offer a special tithe of your crops. In this year of the special tithe you must give your tithes to the Levites, foreigners, orphans, and widows, so that they will have enough to eat in your towns.
All of these admonitions was for the kingdom participants to be as equitable as possible in all of their dealings with others. These principles were miles ahead of any such societal guidelines in the surrounding cultures, and as such, Israel gained successive power and influence in the region culminating in the expansive reign of Solomon.
So if we are to consider a place to start, it might be with those who have no income or limited income and are struggling because of the loss of the primary breadwinner, or unfamiliarity with the culture, or those who have dedicated themselves to ministering to others.
For all others who have fallen on hard times, assistance can also be provided until they can get back on their feet. These allowances were designed to assist, not solely provide for, those less fortunate. It was expected that everyone work for their meal, and begging was looked down upon as something to be ashamed of (for those who could otherwise work). But assistance was available for an occasional boost when needed.
And, one final thought: while there are areas and people groups everywhere in various need of assistance, there is wisdom in beginning with helping your neighbor, those closest to you.
Proverbs 27:10 Never abandon a friend–either yours or your father’s. When disaster strikes, you won’t have to ask your brother for assistance. It’s better to go to a neighbor than to a brother who lives far away.
If everyone is helping those nearest themselves, than huge international efforts would not be as necessary. Not that it’s wrong to contribute to these groups, but many efficiencies can be gained by us merely taking control of our own compassionate giving by being faithful with those around us.
Compassion is not a business transaction where we may assist another with the hope of some sort of gain for ourselves or our organization. Real compassion is demonstrated when there is no chance of benefit to oneself. A true act of kindness rests within the act itself, solely for the benefit of another.
God in his wisdom, knowing the potential for inequity within the various classes of the society of the kingdom, designated a set of allowances for those who were sure to be overlooked due to the personal interests of those productive members of the various tribes.
Much like today, philanthropic efforts were considered noble but were also typically reduced to a low level of priority for the affluent. That is why God set commands relative to specific groups of people whom he knew would always need help. Because being intentional about compassionate giving makes all the difference.
While these different ways of expressing compassion to the poor are personal decisions for every believer, I am merely attempting to point out biblical principles of compassionate giving from the torah, or the instruction of God. If we are to honor him in all things, including our finances, why not do it based on principles and patterns he has authorized as being valid methods in the past?
Well, once again, I hope I’ve been able to provide you some ideas and concepts to meditate on further. We need to keep in mind that as we seek to exhibit the private and genuine compassion requested of Yeshua, we can seek out those around us who have the greatest needs and start there. Yeshua relates that there is a lasting spiritual power in the sincere acts of compassion that are done for the benefits of others with no outward recognition. These are the actions that God “sees,” that are accounted as vital human interactions with real, eternal worth.
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Compassion is building bridges to others who are unable to get from where they are to where God wants them to be.
…he is kind toward the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, even as your Father is also merciful.
In our English Bibles, sometimes verses that express compassion will mention mercy or kindness; sometimes compassion is equated with forgiveness. However it is expressed, we are commanded by Yeshua to be like God in regard to his mercy and compassion. What does that look like?
Ezekiel 16:5 No eye pitied you, to do any of these things to you, to have compassion on you; but you were cast out in the open field, for that your person was abhorred, in the day that you were born.
Psalm 78:36-39 But they flattered him with their mouth, and lied to him with their tongue. For their heart was not right with him, neither were they faithful in his covenant. But he, being compassionate, forgave iniquity, and didn’t destroy them. Yes, many times he turned his anger away, and didn’t stir up all his wrath. He remembered that they were but flesh, a wind that passes away, and doesn’t come again.
Micah 7:18-19 Who is a God like you, who pardons iniquity, and passes over the disobedience of the remnant of his heritage? He doesn’t retain his anger forever, because he delights in loving kindness. He will again have compassion on us. He will tread our iniquities under foot; and you will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.
Jeremiah 12:15 It shall happen, after that I have plucked them up [from their land due to their disobedience], I will return and have compassion on them; and I will bring them again, every man to his heritage, and every man to his land.
God’s compassion has been evident in choosing to take care of Israel as caring for an abandoned baby. His compassion is evident in forgiving them when they were consistently unthankful and disobedient to him. His compassion is evident in restoring Israel to their land after their captivity for disobedience.
If we are to be merciful and compassionate like our Father, we need to recognize that the examples he sets for us is teaching us that compassion is all about helping those who are unable to help themselves.
Yeshua exhibited this same type of compassion by teaching his people who were like lost sheep without a shepherd, but also by filling their bellies when they were in need in a deserted location. Just like his Father, his compassion helped those who could not help themselves.
If someone has wronged you, the relationship cannot be restored unless you extend compassion; you are helping someone who cannot get help themselves get past some misunderstanding or offense. This is equally as compassionate as providing food or clothing to those who have none, or very little.
If we are to imitate our Father, it has to be in relentlessly building bridges between those who are unyielding in their positions or those whose circumstances will not be changed without some sort of intervention. Our compassion is designed to be the catalyst that drops barriers, opens doors, and sparks understanding. Compassion is building bridges to others who are unable to get from where they are to where God wants them to be.
This is the goal of the command for us to be merciful and compassionate with others. When we exhibit the characteristics of our Father, then people who may never have picked up a Bible will still be able to see him in action, and be helped in the process.
To allow gleaning of their fields, ancient Israel was making a statement that they would not be repeating the class abuse they had suffered in a foreign country.
“When you are harvesting your crops and forget to bring in a bundle of grain from your field, don’t go back to get it. Leave it for the foreigners, orphans, and widows. Then the LORD your God will bless you in all you do. … Remember that you were slaves in the land of Egypt. That is why I am giving you this command.
Deuteronomy 24:19, 22
Because ancient Israel was an agricultural society, there are many laws that apply specifically to that type of culture. Gleaning of the vineyards is one of those unique instructions that we can still learn from today.
When a field was harvested, sometimes the fruit or grain that was not quite ripe was left on the vine or the tree, with the idea that the harvesters would come back through the field at a later time to ensure all of the harvest was brought in.
However, God instructs the Israelites to leave what remained for those less fortunate in the land. After the main harvest, the poor class without income, typically widows, orphans, and resident outsiders, would be allowed to enter the fields of the wealthy and essentially scrounge whatever was left for themselves. In this way, the wealthy in the land would be assisting in providing for the literal welfare of those who could not provide for themselves.
What is interesting about this command is that God also provides the reasoning behind it. They were to be obedient in this way as a reminder to themselves of their previous slavery in Egypt. This act of compassion was to prevent them from abusing the lowest class, because they had previously collectively been in that situation in Egypt. Therefore, as they practiced this compassion within their society, they would be honoring the memory of their ancestral bondage, and making a statement that they would not be repeating the class abuse they had suffered in a foreign country.
In like fashion, we should take this ideal to heart and practice its equivalent in our day and age.
Firstly, this command should encourage us to maintain a mentality that is supportive all classes of people in our society. Unless we are among the ultra-wealthy, as a working class we need to consider how slender the line is between being solvent and becoming bankrupt ourselves. For some there may only be a few months or weeks of hardship that can transition them to a similar status. This understanding should prompt us to act compassionately, as we ourselves could easily be in a similar situation. Yeshua’s command to “do unto others as you would have them do to you” should provide an appropriate response on our part.
Secondly, we should be intentional about contributing to those among the lowest classes of our culture. Whether it is through volunteering in local events or organizations designed to provide assistance, or whether it is contributing to those types of causes through our abundance, this command should prompt us to have an intentional plan of assisting others in need. We may not have agricultural fields that others can glean from, but we all have some source or sources of income which can be be apportioned thoughtfully and compassionately.
While our current status might not be based on a lineage that has been rescued out of actual slavery, as believers we have all come from a background of spiritual slavery of disobedience to God in one form or another. He showed compassion to us when we were spiritually bankrupt and had nothing to offer him. If nothing else, this compassionate love of our God with us should provide a recognition of our common bond with all others in the world. This bond should then spur us on to obedience. to be faithful to God’s command of demonstrating compassion with those who cannot provide for themselves.
The narrow path of Yeshua is less like a wilderness hike and more of a challenging slot canyon adventure.
In this episode we will be exploring the topic of vigilance necessary in a believer’s life to follow the narrow path that leads to a small entranceway of life.
Yeshua stated it this way: “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Matthew 7:13-14
This narrow path analogy runs deep in religious circles. There is a general recognition of the unique nature of this path in the believers’ quest for life; it is narrow and rarely traveled compared to the broad way that leads to destruction, as Yeshua says.
The images usually used to convey this concept have to do with a narrow footpath, perhaps through a wilderness or along a mountain ridge. The idea typically put forth is that it is a path in out of the way places, away from the wider conveyances of the general population, just as a hiking path differs from an interstate highway. They are completely different ways of getting from point A to point B, and they take travelers to two different destinations.
All of this is not untrue in the context of the passage at hand, but if we dig a little deeper into some of the words Yeshua used to express this concept, we may come away with a slightly different and more profound understanding.
Charles Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers Narrow is the way.–Literally, pressed, or hemmed in between walls or rocks, like the pathway in a mountain gorge.
This narrowness is defined by obstacles that are standing nearby, preventing movement in either direction but forward. It is also expressed as a way that is “compressed,” there is affliction and tribulation associated with this way.
To summarize this type of understanding, in the Core of the Bible paraphrase I have restated it this way: “There is a constricted entryway into life which has many obstacles standing about it. Labor fervently to stay on the difficult path that leads through the cramped passage to life along with the few others who also perceive its value and find it.” In my view, this description sharpens some of the terms in our English versions like “small gate”and “narrow path.”
A typical understanding of this verse might leave one with the picture of a small, one-person garden gate that must be entered after walking along a beautiful, winding, narrow path through meadows and forests. The sun has been shining, the birds have been singing, and beautiful flowers line the sides of the path. The way has been relatively flat and we have rarely had to exert ourselves in our protected way.
However, I would like to propose a slightly different picture, a fictional parable designed to illustrate the narrow path that Yeshua speaks of.
The way of life is to traverse the desolate high plateau of Arizona or Colorado through a narrow slot canyon which twists and turns in confusing patterns. You are never able to see more than 100 feet in front of you, and confusing side-canyons are passed from time to time. It’s where rockfalls tumble in front of you and must be climbed over; where poisonous reptiles lurk in sun-warmed hand-holds while you are consistently scraping through passages only wide enough to pass through sideways, sucking in your stomach and putting your arms out flat to ensure you have clearance to get through.
Finally, after braving the obstructions and challenges of the slot canyon, the destination is not a single-person garden gate at the end of the meadow path, but a weathered and heavy door that opens to an indiscriminate rough cave opening at the end of the canyon. To enter the darkness of the cave, you have to get down on your already-scraped and bruised knees as you move into a cramped passageway with loose rubble strewn in the way.
Ahead, the darkness gives way to some dim light peering around the bend ahead. Sweating due to the exertion of the journey, and repeatedly hitting your head on unseen obstacles hanging from the cramped cave passage, you reach forward with a dirt-stained arm to push through the rubble of the partially blocked passageway ahead to see where the light is coming from.
Okay, so this slot canyon analogy expands quite a bit on the narrow path contained in the imagery used by Yeshua. I think you might notice a slight difference between this depiction here and how that concept is typically presented.
But that’s the point. We have to look at things differently because it really isn’t all sunshine and roses and mountain meadows on the path to life.
ou see, believers have chosen a difficult option when it comes to a life path. One cannot just fall into the Kingdom of God by accidentally stumbling into it; it requires grit, intentionality, and determination to pursue the things of God.
It’s not just a sunny walk on a garden path (although it can be at times), but it’s more typically a perilous journey around obstacles and through constricted passageways, all the while wondering if you’ve heard God correctly. Then a confirmation appears on the way ahead, but only far enough to get you to the next corner or the next obstacle, and then you must continue pushing on.
Testing happens at every corner, but testing is for the purpose of strengthening. Strengthening provides stability of footing and the opportunity to grasp the hands of others whom you may encounter inside this narrow canyon and help them on the way.
Vigilance on this path means being intentional, listening for God’s direction. It includes being strengthened through testing, and looking beyond yourself to the needs of others along the way. This is the path of the disciple of Yeshua, the narrow path of vigilance that leads to the constricted entrance of life.
However, in learning about the path, it is necessary to discuss why one would even seek such a path in the first place. If someone is to go through all of the struggle and hardship mentioned previously, then it makes sense that they should have a clear understanding of the goal. Yeshua says “the way is narrow that leads to life.” What is this life he mentions?
First of all, the type of life mentioned here must be some other sort of life than just raw existence somewhere. We know he can’t just be speaking here of life as existence, because someone who is striving for a goal is already physically alive.
Looking at some perspectives from over the centuries since Yeshua spoke those words, we find different ways of viewing this concept of life.
Matthew Poole, a British theologian in the 1600’s, states what is likely a very common understanding of this passage when he writes:
The sum of what our Saviour here saith is this: There are but two ultimate ends of all men, eternal destruction and eternal life. The course that leadeth to destruction is like a broad way that is obvious to all, and many walk in that. That course of life and actions which will bring a man to heaven is strait [not straight, but as in a narrow, restricted passageway], unpleasing to flesh and blood, not at all gratifying men’s sensitive appetites, and narrow, (the Greek is, afflicted), a way wherein men will meet with many crosses and temptations; and there are but a few will find it.
John Gill, also a British theologian living a generation after Poole, in his Exposition of the Bible states a similar view:
which leadeth unto life: unto eternal life: it certainly leads thither; it never fails of bringing persons to it; believers in Christ, all that walk in Christ the way, though they are said to be “scarcely” saved, by reason of their afflictions and trials they meet with in their way to the kingdom; yet they are, and shall be certainly saved: they shall be safely brought to glory; which will be an abundant recompense for all the troubles and sorrows that have attended them in their journey.
I find it interesting that those who equate the kingdom of God with some ethereal after-life existence will typically align the term “life” with “eternal life,” as in, unending after-life as a reward for faithfulness during this temporary existence.
However, various commentators over the centuries have described this idea of “life” that Yeshua expresses here in different ways than just eternity. Some have thought of this life as more of a description of an ideal than just a state of existence.
The Expositor’s Greek Testament states it this way:
The right way… is described as narrow and contracted, and as leading to life.—, a pregnant word, true life, worth living, in which men realise the end of their being—the antithesis of [destruction].
That leadeth unto life. Observe, Christ does not say, “life eternal.” He only cares to emphasize the thought of life in the fullest nature of life – life as “the fulfilment of the highest idea of being: perfect truth in perfect action”
Charles Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers
Which leadeth unto life.–Noteworthy as the first passage in our Lord’s recorded teaching in which the word “life” appears as summing up all the blessedness of the kingdom. The idea is developed as we advance; the life becomes “eternal,” and finally we are taught that the eternal life consists in the true and perfect knowledge of God and Christ (John 17:2-3).
We will explore John 17 further in a little bit.
Matthew Henry straddles both the concepts of this present life and eternity when he writes:
And yet this way should invite us all; it leads to life: to present comfort in the favour of God, which is the life of the soul; to eternal bliss, the hope of which at the end of our way, should make all the difficulties of the road easy to us.
Throughout Yeshua’s teaching, he always spoke of the kingdom as being near or “at hand.” In my view, the life of the kingdom should not be relegated solely to some after-life existence or some future worldwide paradise. Life and kingdom are a reality now, as we live obediently and faithfully in our present existence.
By contrast, the way of destruction that is broad and contains many travelers is then a life without knowing God, without knowing Yeshua. That life leads to destruction or loss because the things done in that life have no lasting value.
Some other Jewish writings from the time of the New Testament state the plight of the wicked from their perspective as they realize the error of being on the wrong road:
Wisdom 5:6 So it was we who strayed from the way of truth, and the light of righteousness did not shine on us, and the sun did not rise upon us. 7 We took our fill of the paths of lawlessness and destruction, and we journeyed through trackless deserts, but the way of the Lord we have not known. 8 What has our arrogance profited us? And what good has our boasted wealth brought us?
That’s a sad commentary on a life that is recognized as having been wasted. If we were to view those on the wide road of destruction as lost from the narrow path, and not just on some inevitable conveyer belt to damnation, we might be more inclined to reach out to them to at least show them the option of the way of life, the way of the kingdom, and to exemplify its standards. They may not be attracted to it because of the challenges it presents, but some will.
GK Chesterton is quoted as saying, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.”
But even though this may be the case, we should never give up hope for others to also be drawn to this Way. Some will instinctively know it is the right way to go, regardless of the challenges. After all, we are here, and learning from each other how to move further down the canyon, and identifying which side-canyons and areas to avoid. It is possible for others to come off of the way of destruction as many of us had when we saw the alternative potential of the, albeit more challenging, way of life.
Earlier, I had mentioned in a portion of the Ellicott commentary how I liked his bringing of John 17:3 into the discussion at hand, as that verse captures this view of life that I also hold as my own:
John 17:3- And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
Eternal life is knowing God and recognizing Yeshua as sent from God. This life that is stated as eternal here is expressed through the Greek word aionios. While it certainly conveys the idea of enduring, perpetual and everlasting (what we would consider eternal), it also implies that which has always been and will always be. It is typically translated as age, as in distinguishing one era of time from another.
If this eternal life is “life of the age,” what is the age that Yeshua is speaking about here? I believe he is speaking of what, to Yeshua’s listeners, would have been considered a “new” age to them; an age of life available through faith in Messiah, an age that would never end. I believe we are continuing to live in that age today.
The path of that life is narrow, constricted, and full of hardship and travail. Yet it is one that results in true life: knowledge of the only true God and his Messiah Yeshua. That is a life worth striving for.
If we are to conclude our fictional parable of journeying through the constricted passageway to life, the description might proceed as a milestone is reached, making our way toward the faint light ahead:
The final obstructions of rock tumble down a slope ahead of you as you push through the cramped passageway into a lighted cavern beyond, which opens up into a hidden paradise. A waterfall empties into a vast lake of clear, cool water. Sunlight from above, hurtful to eyes which had strained through the darkness, streams abundantly over all , nourishing the fruit trees and berry bushes lining the shores of the lake.
Tumbling headlong down the slope, you stumble wearily to the refreshing waters and drench yourself at the shore, cupping the running water coming from the waterfall and drinking liberally. You and your companions take pleasure in having reached this place of rest and refreshment along the way. The knowledge of this place reassures you that you are on the right path. On the opposite end of the lake, another canyon beckons toward the continuing journey.
The way of life is a way of vigilance, of watching for obstructions and challenges, and it is a way of grit, determination, and effort. But the reward is a knowledge of our Creator and his Messiah that enhances our every step in the here and now. He provides the refreshment and strength we need to complete the journey.
As we seek to follow Yeshua, we are drawn not only to him, but to each other. And if we have this perspective of reassurance and reward, we can hold one another up and help each other on the way.
Well, once again, I hope I’ve been able to provide you some ideas and concepts to meditate on further. Vigilance is a challenging way of living, of keeping an eye out for the dangers around you while intently listening for God’s direction and constantly scanning and looking for the continuation of the narrow way to life.
We need to keep in mind that vigilance is one of the concepts that is integral within the core of the Bible qualities of kingdom, integrity, holiness, trust, forgiveness and compassion. It is my hope you will continue to review with me these aspects of human expression that, I believe, God expects of all people.
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When we live in awe of God’s majesty, we are compelled to act compassionately towards others.
Anyone who withholds kindness from a friend forsakes the fear of the Almighty.
“The fear of the Almighty” or “the fear of the Lord” are phrases that have fallen out of use in our modern religious vernacular. Rarely is God represented as a being who is to be feared; rather, his mercy and forgiveness are emphasized above and beyond all of the qualities of his being.
To better understand this admonition to fear God, we would do well to investigate the word that is translated in our English versions as “fear.” In regular vocabulary, that word to us means to be frightened or scared of something or someone who might do us harm. However, in biblical terminology, the term goes beyond that into a broader usage of “reverence” or “awe.”
If we have the fear of God, we have the deepest respect and reverence for God, recognizing just how awesome and powerful he really is. Whether we read of his power in the creation of all things, or the separating of the Red Sea, or in the resurrection of Yeshua, we are glimpsing the majesty and glory that sits outside of our natural understanding into the supernatural realm of God’s character and abilities. When we incorporate that perspective of the other-ness of God into our daily lives, we cannot help acting and working differently than others around us who have a physical-only worldview.
In Job’s perspective above, he mentions how the fear of the Almighty is a factor in us helping those around us. If we do not have the fear of God, Job says, we have no motivation for expressing compassion to those less fortunate or those who are going through rough patches in their lives; we withhold kindness. We instead focus on our personal agendas which end up being relatively insignificant by comparison. Having the larger perspective of awe can help us realize that the things we value as important to us in the short term of our temporary lives pale in contrast with the more important things that the God of the universe expects of us, such as helping others.
This concept of perspective-changing awe is a known commodity, even outside of religious environments.
Imagine yourself at a scenic vista somewhere on Earth, such as the rim of the Grand Canyon or the shore of an ocean stretching out past the horizon line. As your brain processes the view and its sheer vastness, feelings of awe kick in. Looking at a photo is not the same, but we might get a dose of that when we look at a particularly sparkly Hubble picture of a star cluster. The experience of awe, whether we’re standing at the summit of a mountain or sitting in front of a computer screen, can lead to “a diminished sense of self,” a phrase psychologists use to describe feelings of smallness or insignificance in the face of something larger than oneself. Alarming as that may sound, research has shown that the sensation can be a good thing: A shot of awe can boost feelings of connectedness with other people.
Taken as a whole, the Bible is all about instilling in us a sense of awe and wonder for the God who created all things and who placed us within his creation to make a compassionate difference in the lives of those around us. When we operate within that sense of big-picture reverence for our Creator, we are not only encouraged but compelled to express his compassion. In this way, the two greatest commands, to love God and love others, can be fulfilled in us.