Becoming compassionate givers

By being willing to give and loan freely, we demonstrate we are God’s children.

Today we will be looking at the topic of compassion, and how God is honored when we respect him in all things, including how we demonstrate that compassion to others through obedient and intentional generosity.

Deuteronomy 15:7-8 – If there is a poor man among your brothers within any of the gates in the land that Yahweh your God is giving you, then you are not to harden your heart or shut your hand from your poor brother. Instead, you are to open your hand to him and freely loan him whatever he needs.

The concept of giving to those in need is evident all through the biblical writings. Traditionally, this has come down to us through the ages as the giving of “alms.” Alms is a word that is not used much in modern English these days, but it is interesting to note a little about the history of the word.

It’s definition is typically along the lines of “charitable relief of the poor,” especially as a religious duty, or “that which is given to relieve the poor or needy.” It comes from the old English word aelmesse, which was based on a Latin version of the Greek term eleemosyne, meaning mercy, pity, or compassion as exhibited in charitable giving. This Greek phrase is used in Bible passages describing the charitable obligation to help others. For example:

Matthew 6:1-4 – “Be careful not to practice your charitable giving 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.

Acts 3:1-3 – One afternoon Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to ask for charitable giving from those entering the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked to receive a charitable gift.

But the term in its wider usage really means any act of compassionate giving across a spectrum of generous actions. For example, it can mean kind actions towards others.

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

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

It can also mean charitable offerings for the purposes of God’s people.

Acts 24:17 – After many years, I came to bring charitable gifts and offerings to my people…

However when it comes to giving to those in need as mentioned in our passage in Deuteronomy 15, the idea of helping the poor is depicted as lending to them, not outright giving. Why is it important to understand this distinction?

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

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

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.

Zechariah 7:9-10 – “This is what Yahweh of Heaven’s Armies says: Judge fairly, and show mercy and kindness to one another. Do not oppress widows, orphans, foreigners, and the poor. And do not scheme against each other.

Notice, foreigners or resident aliens were also included in this social order, as they would suffer from having the status of immigrants, and were typically afforded only the most menial of jobs in that ancient society.

However, for those who had the ability to work but had simply gotten into financial straits, the Bible conveys the idea of loans from family and friends as legitimate assistance until they could get back on their feet.

Exodus 22:25 – “If you lend silver to my people, to the poor person among you, you must not be like a creditor to him; you must not charge him interest.

Leviticus 25:35-37 – “If your brother becomes destitute and cannot sustain himself among you, you are to support him as an alien or temporary resident, so that he can continue to live among you. “Do not profit or take interest from him, but fear your God and let your brother live among you. “You are not to lend him your silver with interest or sell him your food for profit.

In our passage above, God, through Moses, is urging that the Israelites would open their hearts to those who were poor, and lend freely. This was a necessary urging from him because many times people would take these loans and never repay them, and it would cause bitterness between family members and friends.

In a moment, we will look at how all of this background was built upon by Yeshua in his teachings of giving and loaning to those in need. As is typical, Yeshua not only reinforces these principles of Torah, but then elevates them to new levels of generosity that is to be expected within the kingdom of God.

As we move into the New Testament writings and the teaching of Yeshua, we find that some of the familiar passages where Yeshua is teaching on generosity have even more meaning when he relates how believers should be viewing acts of giving and loaning to others. For example:

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

Notice the emphasis on not turning away from those who would seek to borrow.

Luke 6:35 – “But love [even] your enemies, do what is good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High. For he is gracious to the ungrateful and evil.

Now, here is where we begin to see God’s true heart of compassion for those in need. Yeshua teaches that even if our intent is to genuinely help others by providing them a loan of some sort, he says if you are doing so, don’t expect anything in return. This echoes the instruction of Moses in not expecting to receive interest on the loan, and takes it to the next level of not even expecting to be repaid at all.

This is a radical upgrade to the principle of generosity that the Jewish culture of his day would have been familiar with from the previous passages of Torah. Just as Yeshua upgraded the command against adultery to not even looking at a woman with lustful intent, Yeshua here upgrades the command to not charge interest to not being concerned about being repaid at all!

This is an indication of how Yeshua continued to uphold Torah yet demonstrate its true intent when operating from the heart, not just the written command. It’s as if he was saying, “You think you are upholding Torah by not charging interest, but if you really want to uphold Torah, don’t even expect to be repaid.”

To take it even further, this wasn’t just a command for fellow Israelites, but it was to be applied towards enemies, as well! In the economy of the Kingdom of God, there was to be no more social distinctions between foreigners and natives, men and women, slaves and free. Paul illustrates this in the context of describing the equality of those who were demonstrating faith in Messiah.

Galatians 3:26-28 – for through faith you are all sons of God in Messiah Yeshua.  For those of you who were baptized into Messiah have been clothed with Messiah. There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female; since you are all one in Messiah Yeshua.

Even though we are off on a bit of a tangent, this sense of equality before God in Messiah is the glue that held the remnant assemblies together through the persecution they endured from their fellow Jews and from the oppression of the Romans. Having a united stance in the face of adversity can overcome all odds.

Back to to the topic at hand of generosity that Yeshua taught, if believers were to loan money with the idea of not expecting anything at all in return, they would be operating in the true spirit of generosity that God desires. This accomplishes two purposes: it maintains the dignity of the receiver and it removes any chance of hard feelings for not being repaid in the future. If anyone was to “loan” to someone in need, that loan should be treated as a donation and any repayment as a bonus. All types of giving are highly recommended in the Bible, as we know that “God loves a cheerful giver,” (2 Cor. 9:7). Giving freely is a required dynamic within the economy of the kingdom of God.

Additionally, God has proclaimed that those who demonstrate generosity and compassion toward others will receive generosity and blessing in return.

Psalm 41:1-2 – Happy is one who is considerate of the poor; Yahweh will save him in a day of adversity.  Yahweh will keep him and preserve him; he will be blessed in the land. You will not give him over to the desire of his enemies.

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

Psalm 112:4-5 – Light shines in the darkness for the upright. He is gracious, compassionate, and righteous.  Good will come to the one who lends generously and conducts his business fairly.

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

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


If you enjoy these daily articles, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

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

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

Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks

If forgiveness resides in our heart, we can then speak and act on that forgiveness.

Today we will be looking at the topic of forgiveness, and how it relates to the condition of our heart. If forgiveness resides in our heart, we can then speak and act on that forgiveness. However, if what we say is unforgiving, then the words we speak illustrate or reveal what is actually in our hearts.

Luke 6:45 – The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings out that which is good, and the evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings out that which is evil, for out of the abundance of the heart, his mouth speaks.

I knew a man who was recently honored at his work for being an outstanding performer, always receiving gracious comments from customers with whom he interacted on a regular basis. He even received national recognition and many accolades from his company for his achievements. However, when a particular crisis arose and he was challenged by his boss with a sharp disagreement over his mishandling of a particular situation, what began as a discussion of strategy degraded into a string of profanity and lashing out. He ended up blaming a customer for what was in reality his own inability to bring a situation to its proper conclusion. This indignation, it would seem, was always simmering and bubbling under the surface of the polished outward appearance of his performance. When a situation challenged his work, what was truly in his heart boiled over and out of his mouth, revealing the true nature of his character.

Yeshua calls this the “fruit of the tree.” The wider context of our verse today demonstrates this idea.

Luke 6:43-45 – For there is no good tree that brings forth rotten fruit; nor again a rotten tree that brings forth good fruit. For each tree is known by its own fruit. For people don’t gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings out that which is good, and the evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings out that which is evil, for out of the abundance of the heart, his mouth speaks.

If, as Yeshua teaches, “each tree is known by its own fruit,” then we can ascertain very quickly what is in a person’s heart by what they say, how they say it, and what they do. What we say is important, because our speech is what makes the contents of our heart known to others; it is the authorized (by us) commentary on what is in our heart.

Proverbs 10:20 – The tongue of the righteous is pure silver; the heart of the wicked is of little value.

Notice how the tongue of the righteous is contrasted with the heart of the wicked. By locking these two themes together, Solomon is passing commentary on how the tongue (that is, what we say) and the heart are absolutely connected.

In a heated discussion with the Pharisees, Yeshua says the following:

Matthew 12:34-37 – “Brood of vipers! How can you speak good things when you are evil? For the mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart. A good person produces good things from his storeroom of good, and an evil person produces evil things from his storeroom of evil. I tell you that on the day of judgment people will have to account for every careless word they speak. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Yeshua teaches that the heart is like a storeroom where either good things exist, or where evil things exist. The underlying Greek term is where we get our word thesaurus from. Consider what a thesaurus is: a thesaurus is a storehouse of words that have similar meanings. Our heart is a storehouse where similar things are stored, either good or bad. It implies a wealth, abundance, or treasure; either a treasure of positive, helpful things or an abundance of unhelpful and wicked things. We make deposits in our hearts with every thought, every interaction, and every distraction. Based on what we allow ourselves to be engaged with every day, it is up to us if those things that we are storing up are good or evil. Either way, Yeshua teaches that the mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart, so whatever we have stored up in our heart is what is going to come out at some point.

According to the logic Yeshua uses here, the words we say are evidence that can be used in our favor, or against us. This is the same principle today used in courtrooms to determine the guilt or innocence of individuals. How many times on a courtroom drama on TV or a courtroom scene in a movie have you seen the story lead up to a climax when an individual becomes trapped in the witness stand being confronted with information that varies from what they are testifying under oath?

This is the same type of process that goes on in people’s minds when we are interacting with each other. We all pass judgment on others, not necessarily to be overly critical, but to gauge the sincerity of an individual to see if their words line up with their actions. When they do, we consider that individual trustworthy; when they don’t, we de-value what that person says because they are inconsistent and therefore unreliable. In essence, we are conducting “fruit inspections” as part of our normal course of interacting in a society of individuals.

Looking at these passages, we can see how Yeshua is teaching that the heart is the driver of what we say and do. If our speech and actions are not where they need to be, we may be in need of some work on our hearts.

This is where things can get challenging.

Jeremiah 17:9-10 – The heart is more deceitful than anything else, frail and weak ​– ​who can understand it?  I, Yahweh, examine the mind, I test the heart to give to each according to his way, according to what his actions deserve.

Notice how Yahweh lets us know that the difficulty we face when we explore our own hearts is that we can easily be deceived when doing so. It’s like being dropped into a dark cavern without a map and being expected to know where every winding passage leads. The light from our headlamp only shines for a limited way in front of us. From time to time, the cavern walls crumble with the threat of cave-in due to the frailty and weakness of the structure. We may travel for hundreds of yards down  a passage only to reach a dead end.

Additionally, we have difficulty being objective when we explore our hearts because we are intimately and inextricably emotionally tied to outcomes that are based on our heart motives which can be weak and unsupported. When we discover long-standing perspectives that may be unfounded or not as we expected, we can become disoriented and lose our way within the emptiness of failed ambitions or missed opportunities.

But the good news, according to Jeremiah, is that Yahweh also says that he understands our heart by searching out its depths, and testing and trying the mind. He provides everyone according to their way, “according to what their actions deserve.” In this type of biblical karma, God is providing an experience for each person based on what actions are being driven by the heart’s disposition.

If this is the case for all of humanity, then it is in our best interest to look to Yahweh as the Creator of all to understand the true condition of our heart.  This is not something we should attempt on our own due to the potential dangers we just discussed. If the heart that we have is so frail and deceptive, how can we control what comes out of its overflow in our speech and actions? How can we fill our hearts with love and forgiveness that is necessary to engage with others in ways that our Creator desires?

In a moment, we will see how God has provided a solution to the challenges we face in the wayward directions of our hearts. He himself can provide the motivation and strength that is so critical to living a life that has real and demonstrable love for others.   

If we revisit what Yeshua taught in relation to our hearts, that we speak comes out of the overflow of whatever good or evil is stored up in the heart, then it is in our best interest to know how to ensure that we have only good in our hearts. However, from what we have learned so far, the heart is frail and can be deceptive even to our own reasonings.

There was a promise made to ancient Israel that we can look to to help us understand how God views the situation. Israel had become corrupt before God, and because they refused to listen to his instruction, they were removed from the land he had promised to them and they were spread among the nations as a punishment for their disobedience. Yet, God reveals this happened as a way of teaching them that they would need to rely on him, not their own strength and reasoning, to accomplish his Word.

Ezekiel 36:23-28 – “I will honor the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations ​– ​the name you have profaned among them. The nations will know that I am Yahweh ​– ​this is the declaration of Yahweh GOD ​– ​when I demonstrate my holiness through you in their sight.  For I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries, and will bring you into your own land. I will also sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. I will cleanse you from all your impurities and all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will place my Spirit within you and cause you to follow my statutes and carefully observe my ordinances. You will live in the land that I gave your fathers; you will be my people, and I will be your God.

This is an amazing passage that provides us some critical information in the discussion of the heart. Yahweh said in order for Israel to be the light to the nations that they were destined to be, he would need to not just renovate or repair but to replace their collective heart with a new one. This new heart would provide the motivation and strength, guided by his own Spirit, to actually follow his statutes and ordinances, as he had originally intended for them.

This same thing is also mentioned in the famous passage in Jeremiah:

Jeremiah 31:31-34 – “Look, the days are coming” ​– ​this is Yahweh’s declaration ​– ​”when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. “This one will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors on the day I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt ​– ​my covenant that they broke even though I am their master” ​– ​Yahweh’s declaration. “Instead, this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days” ​– ​Yahweh’s declaration. “I will put my teaching within them and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. “No longer will one teach his neighbor or his brother, saying, ‘Know Yahweh,’ for they will all know me, from the least to the greatest of them” ​– ​this is Yahweh’s declaration. “For I will forgive their iniquity and never again remember their sin.

This teaching that would be in their hearts would be placed there by God himself. He would provide them the new hearts of obedience that would accomplish his purpose in the world. Ezekiel relates that the nations would come to know Yahweh when they saw him demonstrate his holiness through them by restoring them to himself, even though they had strayed so far from him.

When Yeshua arrived to instruct the nation one last time before they would disappear from the world stage, he pronounced the same message to Nicodemus, a leader in Israel, this message previously revealed by Jeremiah and Ezekiel.

John 3:3-8 – Yeshua replied, “Truly I tell you, unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”  “How can anyone be born when he is old? ” Nicodemus asked him. “Can he enter his mother’s womb a second time and be born? ”  Yeshua answered, “Truly I tell you, unless someone is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. Whatever is born of the flesh is flesh, and whatever is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I told you that you must be born again. The wind blows where it pleases, and you hear its sound, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

To be born of the Spirit of God was another way of saying they needed to have a new heart. This was the only way for Israel to have the contents of their hearts switched from evil to good. God was doing a work with the remnant of his people who would hear this message of the kingdom to become the born-again people of the new covenant and the new Creation. In doing this work in their lives, God would be demonstrating his holiness among his own people, and through this faithfulness those from among the nations would be drawn to Yahweh, as well.

Romans 15:8-12 – For I say that Messiah became a servant of the circumcised on behalf of God’s truth, to confirm the promises to the fathers, and so that Gentiles may glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles, and I will sing praise to your name.  Again it says, Rejoice, you Gentiles, with his people! And again, Praise Yahweh, all you Gentiles; let all the peoples praise him!  And again, Isaiah says, The root of Jesse will appear, the one who rises to rule the Gentiles; the Gentiles will hope in him.

God knew all along that once he chose Israel, they would fall away and he would have to scatter them throughout the known world. But this was also with the understanding that in drawing them back to himself through Messiah, others from among the nations would also be drawn to him. This was and is the method that God has set in place to draw all people to himself through Messiah Yeshua. God has demonstrated himself faithful with Israel, thereby providing a firm foundation for those of other nations to come to him, as well.

If we are to be speaking and demonstrating forgiveness and reconciliation with others, then that forgiveness and reconciliation will truly need to be in our heart. This can only be accomplished when we step out of the way of our old natures and allow God to work through our renewed nature in those situations.

2 Corinthians 5:16-19 – Therefore we know no one after the flesh from now on. Even though we have known Messiah after the flesh, yet now we know him so no more. Therefore if anyone is in Messiah, he is a new creation. The old things have passed away. Behold, all things have become new. But all things are of God, who reconciled us to himself through Yeshua Messiah, and gave to us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Messiah, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and he has committed the message of reconciliation to us.

As this message of reconciliation spreads, more and more people have their hearts changed out to become hearts of obedience guided by the Spirit of God. That’s the good news of the kingdom. The even better news is that, knowing we still have the capability to slip and fall accidentally from time to time, we still retain the ability to ask for ongoing renewal when we mess up.

1 John 1:6, 9 – If we say, “We have fellowship with him,” and yet we walk in darkness, we are lying and are not practicing the truth. … If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

If, as Paul writes, we are new creations, then we need to operate within the new Creation of God’s kingdom, and live and abide by its principles, not the principles of this old Creation. Both Yeshua and Paul convey that the principle of reconciliation and forgiveness is a core principle of God’s kingdom. If our hearts have been renewed, then that forgiveness and reconciliation can truly reside in our new hearts. What we place in our heart from that time on is up to us.

Our ability to speak this forgiveness and reconciliation to those around us appears to be a choice that we have every day, but only when we recognize and remember who we really are. It is in this fashion that God is honored among the nations when his children are operating with the righteousness of his kingdom regardless of the outward situations and conditions they encounter. When the abundance of the heart is good treasure, then that good treasure can’t help but be shared with those who need it most.


If you enjoy these daily articles, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

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

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

Beyond the Golden Rule

Believers should recognize the needs of others within their own.

Believers should recognize the needs of others within their own.

A verse that has been popularized as the Golden Rule has had a wide-ranging impact upon believers of Messiah: Do unto other as you would have them do unto you. This is definitely a great philosophy to live by, and one that honors and respects the needs of others.

But let’s expand this teaching of Yeshua a little by examining it in its context where it is found. The principle is related to us in two passages: Luke 6:31 and Matthew 7:12.

  • Luke 6:31 – “Just as you want others to do for you, do the same for them.”
  • Matthew 7:12 – “Therefore, whatever you want others to do for you, do also the same for them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”

In both places, it is representative of an attitude of giving. In Luke’s gospel, it is in the context of loving enemies.

Luke 6:27-31, 35 – “But I say to you who listen: Love your enemies, do what is good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If anyone hits you on the cheek, offer the other also. And if anyone takes away your coat, don’t hold back your shirt either. Give to everyone who asks you, and from someone who takes your things, don’t ask for them back. Just as you want others to do for you, do the same for them. … But love your enemies, do what is good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High. For he is gracious to the ungrateful and evil.”

In Matthew’s gospel, it is in the context of seeking help and guidance from others.

Matthew 7:7-8, 12 – “Ask, and it will be given to you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. … Therefore, whatever you want others to do for you, do also the same for them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”

These vantage points present us with expanded opportunities for application of the Golden Rule. According to Luke, if we were to find ourselves in need amongst our adversaries, we would likely be hopeful that they would show pity on us and assist us, therefore we should do likewise to them. According to Matthew, because we need the assistance and opportunities provided by others to attain what we need, we should be willing to do the same for others. Notice how both of these passages stress the obligation believers should perform to others based on their own insecurities and needs.

This is more than just an obligation from one human to another, but also a primary obligation of obedience to the instruction of God. In Matthew’s account, Yeshua equates this type of compassionate action with all of the Law and the Prophets; essentially, the whole Bible up to that point. In Luke’s account, Yeshua sums it up as being a characteristic that causes the believer to accurately represent our heavenly Father.

I find it difficult to overstate the necessity of demonstrating compassion to others in need, just as we would like it expressed towards us. When we do so, we are fulfilling the entire message of the Bible, and also representing our Father in the process. Based on this type of perspective, there can be no greater work that we could do in this life than to demonstrate compassion to others in need, whether they be enemies or friends; the spiritual standard is the same for all time.


If you enjoy these daily articles, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

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

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

The fruit of the heart

Our words and actions have real consequences in the world around us to influence for good or wickedness, to produce wisdom or foolishness.

Our words and actions have real consequences in the world around us to influence for good or wickedness, to produce wisdom or foolishness.

Throughout the Proverbs are numerous references to the speech of the wise, and how a righteous person is known by what they say or profess. In just the tenth chapter alone are some select verses that indicate how important and influential is the speech of the wise.

  • 11 – The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life
  • 13 – Wisdom is found on the lips of the discerning
  • 20 – The tongue of the righteous is pure silver
  • 21 – The lips of the righteous feed many
  • 31 – The mouth of the righteous produces wisdom
  • 32 – The lips of the righteous know what is appropriate

By contrast, the mouths of the wicked and the foolish demonstrate the results of their perversity and foolishness.

  • 11 – the mouth of the wicked conceals violence
  • 13 – a rod is for the back of the one who lacks sense
  • 20 – the heart of the wicked is of little value
  • 21 – fools die for lack of sense
  • 31 – a perverse tongue will be cut out
  • 32 – the mouth of the wicked [speaks] only what is perverse

In just these few examples, it becomes readily apparent as to what are the benefits of righteous speech, and also the consequences of wicked and foolish chatter. This is especially relevant for those who claim to be followers of the Messiah, for he was very clear in teaching the importance of what people say.

Luke 6:45 – “A good person produces good out of the good stored up in his heart. An evil person produces evil out of the evil stored up in his heart, for his mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart.

The issue then becomes not how wise or foolish an individual is, but what is in the heart. The things that we say illustrate outwardly what our heart is concealing inwardly. This principle is so basic as to be almost an embarrassment of childlike instruction. The context of this teaching of Yeshua is placed in the midst of this teaching on what he calls the “fruit” of the heart.

Luke 6:43-44 – “A good tree doesn’t produce bad fruit; on the other hand, a bad tree doesn’t produce good fruit. For each tree is known by its own fruit…”

The flipside to this principle is carried forward in the continuing teaching of Yeshua in this passage, as the secondary aspect of this fruit of the heart is applied toward actions.

Luke 6:46-49 – “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and don’t do the things I say? I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, hears my words, and acts on them: He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. When the flood came, the river crashed against that house and couldn’t shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears and does not act is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The river crashed against it, and immediately it collapsed. And the destruction of that house was great.”

So, the balance is not just what we say, but do our actions line up with our speech? Yeshua rightly questions the sincerity of those who claim with their lips to be obedient disciples, yet they do not carry out his teachings in their lifestyles: “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and don’t do the things I say?”

This question of our Messiah and Lord leaps across the millennia to our day and age and into the relevance of our daily actions, as well. In the words of Solomon’s proverbs, could our speech be considered a fountain of life? Is it the pure silver of wisdom that satisfies the needs of those who hunger for truth? Is it appropriate at all times so that it produces wisdom in others?

Are these the things that are in our hearts and overflowing to all others, or something else? Either way, according to Yeshua, the things we say and do will reveal the true contents of our hearts for all others to see.


If you enjoy these daily articles, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

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

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

The requirement of blessing the haters

According to Yeshua, the words we speak always come from the overflow of the heart.

Core of the Bible podcast #84 – The requirement of blessing the haters

Today we will be looking at the topic of forgiveness, especially in the context of speaking well of those who are haters because, according to Yeshua, the words we speak always come from the overflow of the heart. Understanding who we have become in Messiah allows us the privilege of blessing all others.

Luke 6:28 – “Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you.”

Our words are important, and in this day of instant and voluminous communication, there are numberless words spent daily in the vast sea of our digital culture. Not all of that communication is helpful, and much of it is downright hurtful. However, as believers, all of our words should be a blessing to others.

The definition of the word that we translate as blessing means to “speak well of” to “praise” or to “wish for the prosperity of.” It is the same word that we get our English word eulogy: an example of speaking well of someone who has recently died or delivering a benediction of well-wishing upon a person or group of people. To bless others is to speak well of them and wish them prosperity and wholeness.

This seems simple and natural among friends and family, but we are commanded by Yeshua to have this same level of concern and care for those outside of our common circle, and in fact, with those who would seek to do us harm. In the verse above, he commands us to bless those who curse us, and to pray for those who would seek to hurt us. This is certainly not a natural response to aggressive behavior, as we will typically be far more likely to respond in like kind toward any aggression or hurt we receive. However, this messianic type of well-speaking is a root sentiment that the apostles taught among the early believers, as well:

Romans 12:14 – Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them.

1 Peter 3:9 – 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.

I find it interesting that Peter attaches two distinct aspects to this practice: 1) This is what believers have been called to do, and 2) God provides blessings for those who do. So, to bless others is not only to fulfill our calling that we have received from God, but it is also to receive a blessing from God in return. If we feel that we are outside of God’s blessing at times, perhaps it is because this required practice is lacking in our lives.

In regard to our calling, when we peruse the writings to find out what our calling as believers is, we can see that we have been called to join together with Messiah in the highest standards of freedom, peaceful unity, serving one another in love, and in endurance through suffering.

1 Corinthians 1:9 – “God is faithful; you were called by him into fellowship with his Son, Yeshua Messiah our Lord.”

Galatians 5:13-14 – “For you were called to be free, brothers and sisters; only don’t use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but serve one another through love. For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement: Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Ephesians 4:1, 4 – “Therefore I, the prisoner in the Lord, urge you to live worthy of the calling you have received, … There is one body and one Spirit ​– ​just as you were called to one hope at your calling …”

Colossians 3:14-15 – “Above all, put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. And let the peace of Messiah, to which you were also called in one body, rule your hearts. And be thankful.”

1 Peter 2:20-21 – “For what credit is there if when you do wrong and are beaten, you endure it? But when you do what is good and suffer, if you endure it, this brings favor with God. For you were called to this, because Messiah also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.”

These various aspects are the true calling of all believers, and yet it does not appear that we all have come to understand these things very well. With all of the denominational divisiveness and inflammatory rhetoric we express towards each other at times, it seems unlikely that we are living up to our true calling in the eyes of Messiah. If we can’t even speak well with each other among ourselves, how can we be expected to speak well of those who are truly antagonistic towards us or toward the cause of Messiah and the Kingdom of God?

If, as Peter instructs, we are called to “pay back with blessing,” then we should understand this is an obligation we have, not an optional action of some kind. Most people understand that disagreements can quickly escalate into heightened conflict, and this comes primarily at the urging of inflamed emotional responses. However, we have been tasked with preventing the escalation from happening in the first place by not elevating tension; we should be removing the escalation through blessing of others, instead. Because a conflict is typically initiated when one party feels they have been wronged in some way, if they are to truly speak blessing into conflict, they must have a reserve of forgiveness that cannot be exhausted. When we can really and honestly forgive offenses from the heart, we can much more easily speak blessing into those environments. And since this is our calling, it must become the primary way we respond and communicate with each other and with others who would seek to discredit or harm us.

In a moment we will consider how this can be expected to be the calling of believers, even if the natural inclination of our hearts is to respond with equal or greater aggression. The apostle Paul addresses this very idea with the Corinthian congregation which will hopefully allow us to better understand our true status as believers in this world.

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The real challenge we face in our calling is in not only speaking well of anyone who could be considered an adversary, but truly meaning it from the heart. This requires a type of ongoing forgiveness for the wrongs that any others may commit against us. And yet, for our blessing of others to be genuine it has to come from the heart.

Certainly, as we have seen, this is not a natural inclination. But as believers, we have to recognize that we are not just natural beings. The apostle Paul speaks of it this way:

2 Corinthians 5:17 – “Therefore, if anyone is in Messiah, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

Paul makes the point that as believers we no longer are to view our life in this world as we have in the past. If we are living the born-again life from above, we have become part of the new creation, and everything is now new. We have new thought process which should drive new actions and new ways of doing things. We have new convictions and new purpose. Everything we see and touch should be driven from this new identity we have in Messiah. This means that we now have new hearts with new qualities and capacities, as well.

With this new calling and purpose, we can now receive the new blessings that come from God based on the righteous words and actions that flow from a renewed heart. The fruit of our way can now be blessed because our way has been renewed to mimic his own ways. We can now operate as God’s image in this world, managing and interacting with his creation in ways he has originally designed for us to do from the foundation of the world.

Luke 6:45 – “A good person produces good out of the good stored up in his heart. An evil person produces evil out of the evil stored up in his heart, for his mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart.”

Yeshua instructs us that we are not to call someone a fool or an idiot or be unrighteously angry with anyone because the words we speak always come from the overflow of the heart. He teaches us that if what is in our heart is bitterness and unforgiveness, then that is what will come out of our mouth. However, if what is in our heart is real love and forgiveness as part of God’s new creation, then what comes out of our mouth will be genuine blessing for others.

This heart idea was not a new concept for those with a Hebraic understanding of the world. A millennium before Messiah, Solomon wrote of the importance of the heart condition in the well-being of the earnest believer in Yahweh.

Proverbs 4:23 – “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it is the wellspring of life.”

Keeping of the heart involves a recognition of its content and capacity. If, as believers in the new creation we understand our heart has been renewed, that is, fundamentally changed, we can begin to see how a requirement of forgiveness and blessing toward others can be an expectation that God has for us. Suddenly this lofty ambition does not seem so unattainable because God has now given us the ability to function with this unlimited capacity for forgiveness towards others. The wellspring of life now becomes “rivers of living water” that Yeshua promised for those who would believe in him.

John 7:38-39 – “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom thosCSe believing in Him would receive…

If we are part of God’s new creation, then his Spirit has changed the very make up of our hearts into a conduit for his very own love and mercy to be extended toward others. A river is a powerful metaphor, because a river flows from somewhere (God) and flows to somewhere (others). We are merely a conduit of this river which we can then direct towards all those we meet and interact with.

Following in the footsteps of Solomon’s wisdom in Proverbs, the apostle James illustrates it in this fashion:

James 3:8-12 – “But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.”

When it is boiled down to essentials, the issue is really not our tongue, but the well-spring of our heart. If the spring is fresh water, then the tongue will yield fresh water for others. If, in obedience to Yeshua, we are to truly bless those who work against us at all times, then we need to ensure that our spring, our river of the heart, is flowing from the Spirit of God with unlimited measures of real forgiveness. Then no wrongs can be too harsh, no hurt can be too severe. Our obligation to bless the haters becomes as natural as the air that we breathe within the rarefied atmosphere of the new creation. In this way, blessing and prayer for all others will become the living water flowing from our hearts.


If you enjoy these daily articles, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

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

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

Those in need are owed the help you can provide

God’s view of ownership and rights differs from what we may typically think.

God’s view of ownership and rights differs from what we may typically think.

Proverbs 3:27-28 – Do not withhold good from those to whom it belongs when it’s in your power to help them. If you can help your neighbor now, don’t say, “Come back tomorrow, and then I’ll help you.”

Yeshua taught his followers, “Do to others as you would like them to do to you,” (Luke 6:31 ). The compassion of those who claim to fear Yahweh transcends any petty differences, stinginess, or inconvenience in timing.

Luke 11:5-8 – He also said to them: “Suppose one of you has a friend and goes to him at midnight and says to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, “because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I don’t have anything to offer him.’ “Then he will answer from inside and say, ‘Don’t bother me! The door is already locked, and my children and I have gone to bed. I can’t get up to give you anything.’ “I tell you, even though he won’t get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his friend’s shameless boldness, he will get up and give him as much as he needs.

While the context of Yeshua’s teaching here is on the persistence of asking as it relates to prayer, it also highlights the resistance of the friend to meet the need of someone else because of the inconvenience.

It must be understood that in the culture of that day, not having anything to offer a guest who has unexpectedly shown up was a considered to be a rude social situation that dishonors the guest. This was considered a higher priority than the apparent greater rudeness of waking up a neighbor to have them provide some food in the middle of the night.

As much as I would not like to admit it, I can certainly identify with the friend inside the house. But the proverb says not to withhold good from someone when it is in your power to help them. Therefore, as believers we can learn the expectation that God has for us to meet the needs of others, even if, or especially when, it may be inconvenient timing.

I also find it interesting that the proverb say not to withhold good “from those to whom it belongs.” This is an unusual phrase which indicates that if we are resistant to provide someone else help when we have the ability to do so, we are withholding something that is already theirs; they are the “owner” of the good that we can do. For us to follow up by not providing the good thing, we are, in a sense, holding on to something for ourselves that actually already belongs to them. From God’s perspective, being stingy or hard-hearted is actually a form of stealing; we are keeping for ourselves something which in reality belongs to someone else. In God’s eyes, ownership of some thing or action is not possession of that thing or ability, but true ownership belongs to whom that thing or action is due.

How can this type of thinking change your perspective on what you have and how you respond to the needs of others? As believers, we need to strive to maintain God’s perspective, not our own.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

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

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

God’s reward for compassionate giving

Giving to get something in return is a false compassion.

Giving to get something in return is a false compassion.

Matthew 6:1 – “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.”

Yeshua is very clear that acts of charity and support for the poor should be kept as private as possible. This is a principle based on the humility of the believer and on protecting the pride of the receiver; few people in need truly want to be identified as a “charity case.”

But in this passage, Yeshua mentions a reward that the Father provides. While many have speculated on what this would be, the complete passage provides the answer within itself.

Matthew 6:2-4 – “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.”

We can see what the reward of the Father is by looking at its opposite: the reward that is received by the “hypocrites.” Their reward is to be applauded and admired by other people. But Yeshua stresses that private acts of charity result in a reward of the Father. If the hypocrite is to be rewarded with applause and admiration of people, then the reward of the Father can be shown to be admired and honored by him. It does not necessarily mean some sort of bounty will be poured out on you; although he could do that if he so desired.

Luke 6:38 – “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.”

This passage in the gospel of Luke only points to the abundance of God’s measure compared to even the smallest act of generosity on our part. God has many ways to pour out an abundant measure into our lives, whether well-being, peace with neighbors, bountiful crops, etc. Even our smallest act of compassion towards others holds great significance in his eyes.

But the emphasis Yeshua puts forth our passage in Matthew is that to be admired by the Father is in itself the highest reward. We should never give just so we can get something in return. Our giving is encouraged to be to those who have nothing to give in return for that very reason. Simply providing assistance to others and having the admiration of God should be more than enough 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 on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

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

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

The centrality of compassion

Yeshua was consistent in his emphasis of mercy towards others.

In the content of the Sermon on the Mount, we have a glimpse of the essence of Yeshua’s teaching during his public ministry. It is likely that these sayings and principles were valued because of their central themes that had become repeated in various locations throughout his travels in Israel. This can be shown from the parallel rendering of this teaching in the gospel of Luke where the same general information is presented in a similar way, but there it is only about a fourth as long as the discourse in Matthew 5-7.

Some believe Luke is simply providing a condensed representation of the same event. Others depict the two passages as being separate occasions by highlighting the differences in location, as Luke says Yeshua “stood on a level place” like a plain, while Matthew reports, “he went up on the mountain” and “sat down” to deliver this information to his disciples.
I would agree that it is not necessary to beat the information into the same mold to try to reconcile the passages as occurring in the same place and the same time. It is just as likely that these central teachings of Yeshua were repeated as he traveled around.

The Jamieson-Fausset-Brown commentary states that Luke’s representation could be a different instance, “as we know that our Lord delivered some of His weightiest sayings more than once, there is no difficulty in supposing this to be one of His more extended repetitions; nor could anything be more worthy of it.”

The Cambridge Bible commentary relates, “There is no need to assume two discourses—one esoteric and one exoteric, &c. At the same time there is of course no difficulty in supposing that our Lord may have uttered the same discourse, or parts of the same discourse, more than once, varying it as occasion required.”

Regardless of how one views the particulars of these events, in both passages there is an emphasis on mercy and compassion.

Matthew 5:7 – “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”

Here it appears that Yeshua was conveying that those who extend kindness or goodwill towards those less fortunate than themselves will have kindness and goodwill extended towards them by others. From this perspective, it is almost a re-statement of the Golden Rule which occurs later on in the discourse:

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

These themes are repeated in the Luke version, as well.

Luke 6:31, 36 – And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. … Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

I think that from this repetition we can conclude that compassion towards others, even adversaries, is a central theme of Yeshua’s teachings. If this was the same message he continued to present in all of the various places he traveled to within Israel, then it had a unique prominence of emphasis. Because of this importance, it is incumbent upon us, if we claim to be his followers, that we also demonstrate this compassion as a central expression of who we are in him.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

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

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

The balance of true generosity

God reassures the faithful who truly help others.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

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

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

The challenging discipline of obedient giving

Yeshua takes being nice to another level.

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

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

Yeshua said it this way:

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

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

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

As far as giving to beggars is concerned, this ideas stems primarily from a passage in Acts 3 where the Greek phrase was interpreted as giving alms or giving charity to a beggar at the temple.

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

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

Clearly, the man did not have the ability to earn his own living through labor since he was unable to walk on his own, and his friends or family would carry him to the high-traffic area around the temple as a way of helping him to ask for donations to meet his needs. This was one type of alms-giving or beneficence. Those who would beg for handouts were those who had no other means of income: the lame or blind who could not work, widows and orphans (who had lost their husband/father as the provider). In the Hebraic culture, these were considered legitimate reasons for true charity, and helping and giving donations to these individuals is highly commended.

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

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

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

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

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

Also John 9:1, 8-9 –

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

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

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

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

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

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

Acts 24:17  “After many years, I came to bring charitable gifts and offerings to my people.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deuteronomy 15:7-8 – “If there is a poor man among your brothers within any of the gates in the land that Yahweh your God is giving you, then you are not to harden your heart or shut your hand from your poor brother. Instead, you are to open your hand to him and freely loan him whatever he needs.”

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

This process has more to do with the receiver than the giver. If someone encountered an individual in need, whether a friend or relative, to provide them assistance with the idea that they can pay the loan back whenever they are able to allows for a sense of dignity in providing that assistance. Many times, people will struggle to accept outright handouts because of their pride. They don’t want to be made to feel they are unable to do meet their needs on their own. This is actually an emotionally good and healthy response for anyone who is otherwise able to provide for themselves but may have just fallen on hard times; it happens. A great measure of trust has been placed in them and they are more likely to be inclined to repay as a way of thanking their benefactor and demonstrating they are worthy of trust; a coveted value, indeed.

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

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

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

Sirach 29

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

—–

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

Remember our starting passage from Luke 6?

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

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

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

Are you up to the challenge of what it really means to be a follower of the Messiah and demonstrate true compassion? Hopefully, having a larger understanding of the context and social dynamic of biblical giving as we have looked at today can make us more responsible givers. In outwardly loaning to those who have need, we can allow them dignity. Inwardly considering these helper loans as outright donations, not expecting anything in return, we free ourselves from any negative ties to those relationships if the money is never repaid in the future. If we are giving advantage to those around us, even our enemies, then they cannot take advantage.

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


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