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.

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

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.

Exodus 23:4-5

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

Deuteronomy 22:1-4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luke 10:36-37

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

Outward strength through internal compassion and unity

Compassion and unity with one another provides a foundation for reaching others.

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

1 Peter 3:8-14

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

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

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

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

1 Peter 3:9-14

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

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

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

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

Being quietly intentional and genuine in our compassionate giving

God wants us to give to those in need on purpose, from the heart.

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

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

Yeshua stated it this way:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blessings

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

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

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

Curses

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

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

Both blessings and curses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

——-

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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