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.


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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.