the pages of scripture God directs and encourages us to help the poor,
needy, widows, helpless, orphans (James 1:27) and prisoners (Heb. 13:3).
God presents Himself as the protector, provider, savior and place of
refuge for the needy, poor and the helpless. He is our example. He has
given us promises of various blessings and also warned us what will occur
if we do not help the poor.
Those who have money are fearful of losing what they have
to those who want “free” money. The poor ask for something
we own and something we worked hard to obtain, and something we do not
want to give up. Yet, God has allowed them to be poor. God has also chosen
some to be wealthy. He makes both the wealthy and the poor.
Therefore, we should not be surprised that God commends
the “Good Wife” of Proverbs 31 for giving to the poor (Prov.
31:20, 29). In Luke 14, Jesus gave a parable about a wedding feast. In
the parable He told the disciples to not take the place of honor. They
should wait for someone to invite them to sit at the place of honor.
Then near the end of the parable Jesus said,
But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the
crippled, the lame, the blind and you will be blessed, since they do
not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection
of the righteous. Luke 14:13
What a great summary of the teaching of scripture about how the poor
should be treated. It summarizes everything, including the blessing.
How Individuals Should Respond. It is
clear from the words of our God that helping the poor is not an option.
Our heart should desire to help the poor, needy, widows, helpless, orphans
and prisoners. God makes it clear that we are to help them in two ways.
First, we are to help them personally and organizationally. The majority
of the injunctions call for personal involvement. That is, we are to
do something. We are to give something. We need to get involved individually.
When we do help, we need to treat them with respect and dignity. That
is the message of Psalms 74:21,
Do not let the oppressed retreat in disgrace; may the
poor and needy praise your name. Ps. 74:21 (NIV)
When we help them financially, we need to be concerned about other aspects
of their lives,
Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain
the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver
them from the hand of the wicked. Ps. 82:3-4 (NASB)
How Churches Should Respond. We are also
to help them organizationally. As we have already discovered in the Mosaic
Law, the Israelites were to give a tithe and it was to be used for various
individuals who were needy, including the Levites. It was a national
tax. In the New Testament, the early church also collected monies for
those who were in need. One such example occurred when Paul collected
monies for the poor Jews in Jerusalem (Romans 15:25-27; 1 Cor. 16:1-2).
Therefore, we can conclude that financial assistance should be provided
both individually and organizationally.
But how should a church organize to accomplish this task? A great case
lesson for us comes from Acts 6:1-7 when the early church had some widows
who were in need.
Now at this time while the disciples were increasing
in number, a complaint arose on the part of the Hellenistic Jews against
the native Hebrews, because their widows were being overlooked in the
daily serving of food. So the twelve summoned the congregation of the
disciples and said, “It is not desirable for us to neglect the
word of God in order to serve tables. Therefore, brethren, select from
among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom,
whom we may put in charge of this task. Acts 6:1-3
There are several things we can learn from this situation and the
directions that the apostle provided.
1) When the need occurred, the leadership responded
to meet the need. They followed the biblical principle that we have
already explored in this study.
2) They organized to meet the need. That suggests
that churches need to be organized as well. They selected seven men
to care for the widows who they knew were in need.
3) It is recommended that the responsibility
be given to the pastor or an elder. In each situation the pastor
or elder will explore the individual’s relationship with the
Lord. The goal is to lead them to Jesus and motivate them to commit
to attending a local church.
4) They knew the widows needs were real since
the widows were among them. They had first person knowledge. But
when people from outside the church seek help, we do not have knowledge
of their situation. We do not know if the need is real or if it is
a scam. Therefore, it is recommended they we use the attached questionnaire
to help determine if the need is valid (see attached).
5) It is recommended that a specific, amount
depending upon the situation, be designated that can be used to help
individuals who are in need.
6) We also are to treat those in need with respect
and dignity. That includes verbal respect and also confidentiality
to the degree possible.
- John Calahan