Obediently and joyfully assisting those in need

God loves a cheerful giver.

An ancient Jewish proverb states:

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

Sirach 29:1

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

Deuteronomy 15:7-11 “If there is a poor man with you, one of your brothers, in any of your towns in your land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand from your poor brother; but you shall freely open your hand to him, and shall generously lend him sufficient for his need in whatever he lacks. Beware that there is no base thought in your heart, saying, The seventh year, the year of remission, is near,’ and your eye is hostile toward your poor brother, and you give him nothing; then he may cry to the LORD against you, and it will be a sin in you. You shall generously give to him, and your heart shall not be grieved when you give to him, because for this thing the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in all your undertakings. For the poor will never cease to be in the land; therefore I command you, saying, ‘You shall freely open your hand to your brother, to your needy and poor in your land.’

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

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

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

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

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

Sirach 29:9-10

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

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

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

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


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

The timeless heritage of compassion

We would do well to remember that we have real responsibilities outside of our own selfish wants and needs.

“She opens her arms to the poor; yes, she extends her hands to the needy.”

Proverbs 31:20

The woman of Proverbs 31 has generally been understood to be the example of a faithful wife. But when all of her qualities are viewed holistically, it becomes apparent that it would be highly unusual for one individual to be able to accomplish all of those different tasks successfully and sustainably.

However, if we view this woman from an allegorical perspective of those who are faithful to God, a beautiful picture emerges of responsibilities he has tasked us with in this world.  From this vantage point, we see the various things that we are challenged with in our walk with the Lord. One of the outstanding characteristics displayed here is care and compassion for the poor and needy.

If we view some of these terms a little more closely, we find that the meanings extend farther than what we might just consider to be those who are beggars hoping for handouts, or homeless individuals and families camped alongside the road. The word for poor can mean those who are depressed in mind or circumstance, or who are afflicted in some way. The needy can be more fully described as those who have a sense of want either in physical needs, but even in feelings. Based on these descriptions, it becomes apparent that there are likely many individuals who cross our paths who would qualify for our assistance in meeting those various levels of need.

Caring for the poor is a quality that is evident all throughout the biblical narrative.

Deuteronomy  15:11: “For the poor will never cease out of the land: therefore I command you, saying, You shall surely open your hand to your brother, to your needy, and to your poor, in your land.”

Proverbs 14:21: “He who despises his neighbor sins, but blessed is he who has pity on the poor.”

Proverbs 14:31: “He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for his Maker, but he who is kind to the needy honors him.”

Proverbs 19:17: “He who has pity on the poor lends to Yahweh; he will reward him.”

Especially evident within the teaching and practice of Yeshua, he makes it clear that there will always be a contingent of people who will be considered disadvantaged in some way, and we are encouraged to be helpful to them in ways that provide real relief.

Mark 14:7: “You always have the poor with you, and you can do what is good for them whenever you want…

Luke 14:12-14: “He also said to the one who had invited him, “When you make a dinner or a supper, don’t call your friends, nor your brothers, nor your kinsmen, nor rich neighbors, or perhaps they might also return the favor, and pay you back. But when you make a feast, ask the poor, the maimed, the lame, or the blind; and you will be blessed, because they don’t have the resources to repay you. For you will be repaid in the resurrection of the righteous.””

The apostle Paul reminds the Galatian congregation of their responsibility as he shares his deep desire to fulfill this ongoing command.

Galatians 2:10: “They [James, Peter, and John] only asked us to remember the poor — which very thing I was also zealous to do.”

Exhibiting compassion on the poor and needy has been a marker of the faithful all throughout the Bible. In view of the expanded definitions of the poor and needy to include all of those who are suffering from more than just physical or financial destitution, we would do well to remember that we have real responsibilities outside of our own selfish wants and needs. As God’s representatives in each generation, it’s up to us to set the example in our respective societies and generations. We honor our Creator when we honor all of those whom he has created through genuine compassion for their genuine needs.

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.

A legacy of compassion and love

Helping those in need is the great privilege among the people of God.

They asked only that we would remember the poor, which I had made every effort to do.

Galatians 2:10

In his letter to the Galatians, Paul gives a brief review of his activities after becoming a believer in the Messiah. He says after his conversion he immediately went to Arabia, and then returned back to Damascus (1:17). (As an aside, some have postulated a theory that he traveled to Arabia to visit Mt. Sinai, because his own personal revelation had changed his whole world).

He then relates three more years had passed before he spent two weeks in Jerusalem with Peter, and also met with James during his visit there (1:18-19). He traveled around Syria and Cilicia at that time and was unknown to the Messianic assemblies in Judea (1:21-22).

He returned to Jerusalem fourteen years later after receiving a revelation that he should minister among the nations, and not among his own people in Judea. He wanted confirmation from the then-leaders of the Messianic believers in Jerusalem (Peter, James, and John) that this was an appropriate ministry approach (2:1-2, 9), which they acknowledged with “the right hand of fellowship,” (2:9). Upon receiving this confirmation, he relates that “they asked only that we would remember the poor, which I had made every effort to do.”

I find it fascinating that out of all of the doctrinal issues which could potentially have been raised with the confirmation of an international ministry, that remembering the poor is the primary effort that should be a focus of this endeavor.

However, this is not without precedent in the history of the kingdom of God. As Israel was preparing to enter the land of Canaan, Moses provided specific instruction about the care and protection of those who would be needy among them.

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.”

This command comes immediately on the heels of an accompanying conditional promise that I personally have overlooked until recently re-reading this passage.

Deuteronomy 15:4-5 “There shall be no poor among you, however, because the LORD is certain to bless you in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess as an inheritance ​– ​ if only you obey the LORD your God and are careful to follow every one of these commands I am giving you today.”

While there is an acknowledgement that there will always be those in need in the land, there is a conditional promise that if they are careful to follow the commands of Yahweh in providing for their needy, there is no need for anyone to have lack within the earthly kingdom of God which was being established in the land of Canaan.

Deuteronomy 15:11 “…that is why I am commanding you, ‘Open your hand willingly to your poor and needy brother in your land.'”

To my way of thinking, this principle has enormous implications for us today. God has promised his people that within the kingdom there is no need for anyone to be in want of necessities, IF we follow his command to always help those in need. Throughout his Word, or Torah, Yahweh provides for his people time and time again, and here he is mentioning that we have an opportunity, rather, an obligation, to partner with him in that provision by helping those among the kingdom who are in need.

“There shall be no poor among you…” What a great opportunity and privilege to find ways to help those among his people who are without necessity, just as the apostles in Jerusalem commissioned Paul to do among the nations. When we are obedient to God’s Word in this area, we are participating in a legacy of compassion that is thousands of years old. But we must remember, the motivation should always be one not of compulsion, but of love.

1 Corinthians 13:3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and if I have not love, it gains me nothing.

2 Corinthians 9:7 Each person should do as he has decided in his heart ​– ​not reluctantly or out of compulsion, since 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 here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Neglecting our duty to help others has consequences

We should not be neglecting the immediate needs of those around us.

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

Deuteronomy 15:7-8

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

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

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

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

Matthew 25:42-43, 45-46

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

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

James 2:14-16

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

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