Forming a Biblical Attitude towards the Poor explains some concepts that we should follow when dealing with the poor, especially through government programs.
Table of Contents
- 1 Letting the unfortunate make a living
- 2 The Old Testament is filled with references to the Poor
- 3 Helping the Poor is individual, not governmental
- 4 Charity should be mostly directed at Christians in need
- 5 Refusal to work means starvation
- 6 So, do you believe in hard work?
- 7 Your Charity should be anonymous
- 8 More Opinions and Editorials
Letting the unfortunate make a living
Leviticus 23:22 And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not make clean riddance of the corners of thy field when thou reapest, neither shalt thou gather any gleaning of thy harvest: thou shalt leave them unto the poor, and to the stranger: I am the LORD your God.
What God indicates to us about our relationship to the poor is very instructive here. Israel was not to harvest the edges and corners of their fields but leave those unharvested for the poor to come in and harvest them for themselves. Notice that God did not say, harvest every last bit of grain everywhere, then give sell the grain and maybe give some of that to the poor. He said leave it in the field, and let the poor harvest for themselves.
The Old Testament is filled with references to the Poor
When we see many references to the needy, we understand that God takes them into consideration also. Our concept of help to the poor, needy, or destitute is not to every person who has a need, but rather to those who have needs that they cannot supply those needs through their own efforts. Every person alive has needs, but God’s plan A is always that every one of those people work through his own strength to provide for their own needs. Doing honest work is pleasing in God’s sight. God is angry at, and it is sin when able people are lazy, slothful, and sponging off of other people.
Note: Under a representative government like in the United States of America, we the people have to press very diligently our government to not be giving handouts to everybody all the time. That displeases God and will bankrupt both the citizens and the government over time. What is being done is not really even that (giving to everybody). These handouts are given in order to buy votes. This is very different. Our government is not giving handouts to the poor and needy that cannot provide for themselves, but to lazy people in order to buy their votes.
Proverbs 14:21 He that despiseth his neighbour sinneth: but he that hath mercy on the poor, happy is he.
Proverbs 28:27 He that giveth unto the poor shall not lack: but he that hideth his eyes shall have many a curse.
Isaiah 58:10 And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday: 11 And the LORD shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.
Luke 3:10 And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then?
Luke 3:11 He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise.
Helping the Poor is individual, not governmental
What we should understand in these verses is that it is an individual obligation on the part of each person to help the poor. We never see in Scriptures that taxes and government were the instrument of helping the poor. Both churches and individuals are the ones who decide and give. It would be very clear from the verse I deal with below (2 Thessalonians 3:10 if he will not work, let him not eat) that charity is based on the poor trying to work if they can, as they are able. Professional beggars are not to be the object of our charity.
I worked in a church as being in charge of the charity giving from the church. A couple drove in from out of town wanting money to put gas in their car. They were hungry and hadn’t eaten in days. They were from New York going to Florida for a job, and they got off of I95 and drove 1 hour to arrive at our church. Since they hadn’t eaten, and we had a women’s meeting going on and I let them go eat the doughnuts and stuff all they wanted. They ate 1 doughnut each. Not very hungry. I had breakfast before coming to work at the church that day and I had 3. I was assistant pastor, and the pastor wanted them to dust the pews in the church with a spray wax product. They couldn’t do it. Both were in their 30s. Finally, they wanted cash and to leave. I took them to the nearby gas station and told them to fill up. They refused at first. Then finally I convinced them to do so. They tank was already full before they had come to us. It cost just $1.50 to fill their tank. These people wanted money for their vices, not help with their problems. In the time I spent at that church, I dealt with a good many similar cases. Good people, good Christian people, don’t like to receive handouts. They are also grateful when somebody helps them. Professional beggars are never satisfied, and never grateful.
Charity should be mostly directed at Christians in need
1 John 3:17 But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?
The key to this verse is “seeth his brother have need”. There should be a Christian element in our giving. The validity of the poor’s salvation is in view BEFORE anything is given to them. Yes, help even the unsaved poor. But the majority of what we give should be to good Christian people. Let the unsaved of this world help the unsaved poor.
But we understand this principle, a few things become apparent that were not before. First, good Christian people seem to instinctively want to work for what they have in this life. Working, and working hard and diligently will always provide them with the essentials of life. Second, limiting the majority of our giving to good people who want to work to support themselves, we find that it is hard to find good people in need. Yes, sometimes life overwhelms even a Christian, but these cases are not abundant, and likewise, when you cannot find good cases to give to, then when you do, you can give abundantly because they are not frequent. The lack of a constant drain on your funds means you can do more when the case is a good person under unusual pressures of life.
Third, the ranks of beggars are filled with crooks and thieves. While they can talk up their situation and their need, claiming that they are your brother, you do not see a whole lot of these people actually working or even willing to work. I have no problem giving to a person who is legitimately blind or without legs or arms. But over time, you seem to see God always takes care of those kinds of people. It does gall me when somebody as young and strong as I am, or was in my younger days, asking for a handout. That is basically a no out of the gate. Let him work. Yes, work is hard to get. But if you are really desperate, get a broom and swept the sidewalk in front of stores and ask for something for that.
Fourth, as a rule, beggars that are crooks consider their time as extremely valuable (your time as represented by your money is not worth anything in their sight). So if you put them to work, the first thing out of their mouth is how much are you going to pay them? If you say minimum wage, they will usually walk away immediately. If they don’t walk away, they will be scheming the entire time to get something more. Often that is stealing when you are not watching, or doing something to get more.
In one charity case that came to our church, they asked me and then the pastor for 1000s of dollars to help them. The pastor said no. I was not for the church giving them anything either. So they were met with a closed door. Sunday night they showed up and stood up in the back of the church after the service and asked if somebody could give them some money so they could eat. They hadn’t eaten in a week. (Although we gave them food when they came to talk to the pastor a few days before.)
So the fifth rule is to never give cash to people in need unless you definitely know over a good period of time that they are good Christians.
In one case, I was working construction, and a couple came to our church in need. I got the man a job on the construction crew I was working with at the time. He claimed to be “an expert carpenter.” He demanded they pay him likewise. He couldn’t cut a simple board when we actually put him to work. He was living with my boss and his wife until they could get a pay check. The first pay check came, and the boss told me to get them out of his house. I did. But the first thing they wanted when they got money was go to a grocery store. The wife went in, and just disappeared for about 2 hours. I thought she took the money and left him. We went into the store and searched for her, but she wasn’t there. She had to buy chewing tobacco. They didn’t have her brand, so she went off walking down the road going into every store and gas station until she found it. That was the most important thing to her.
When you deal with “poor beggars” their concepts of “need” is usually first their vices, alcohol, drug, tobacco, etc. They may not openly admit those priorities, but they are there. That is usually why they are in need in the first place. They will pass up buying food for their vices.
Sixth, the government is not filtering the beggar-crooks from those who are really in need. Charity is not the work for our government in the first place. They cannot filter out people who are crooks, because they themselves are crooks. But the government is acting as a thief in taking our money through taxes and giving it to whomever they wish. This is just as wrong as a crook, but we are obliged by God to pay our taxes.
Refusal to work means starvation
2 Thessalonians 3:10 For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.
So while God is pleased when we help other people, especially people who are destitute, God does not want us to support people who will not work. God’s law is if you are not trying to support yourself, then you should be shown no mercy, no charity, no generosity.
It is only when perverse crazy people that are totally fighting against the sound principles of God are in control and make our laws that we have the modern welfare, or government assisted living of today. In this, we note that some have conditioned receiving a government handout on going to a work bureau every two weeks trying to find work for that person first. This would be perfectly in line with what we see in the above verse.
1 Timothy 5:8 But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.
As a Christian, our obligation is first to support ourselves, and then our own family, and beyond that, our closest relatives. Without fulfilling those obligations, we are worse than unbelievers. Even unbelievers do that much. So we should understand that you and your spouse should come first, then your children. Beyond that, your parents, grandchildren are also in view. Maybe there are cases where other relatives are in view.
But the rule of working towards supporting yourself has to apply. The sick, the feeble and elderly, the very young, etc. cannot work to support themselves, so we who are able support those people should do so. But the rule has to be very clear in your own mind, and it is only through working that you are to survive this world. That is God’s rule on Adam in the garden, and we are not going to “beat it” any more than Adam could have.
So, do you believe in hard work?
Are you teaching your children that principle also? While they cannot fully support themselves, they can do work around the house. Most parents, even Christian parents, exempt their kids from all household work. Why? What are you teaching them? You are teaching them what you believe and practice, you want to live from other people without having to do hard work. If you really believe in this principle, you will teach your children the principles of good hard work.
2 Thessalonians 3:10 For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.
2 Thessalonians 3:11 For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies.
2 Thessalonians 3:12 Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.
Notice the real problem that Paul is dealing with. Instead of hard work, these that want to live well were disorderly, not working honest work but just being busybodies. They are very active but in unproductive activities as far as living from that activity. It was dishonest activity that God sees as a sin.
Leviticus 19:16 Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people: neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy neighbour: I am the LORD.
God prohibits talebearing (gossips) or busybodies. Instead of working, these were busybodies. But they wanted the rest of the church to pay for their room and board. Paul says let them starve. That is not cruel. That is God’s way. Disobedience causes personal hardship. Get used to that rule in life.
Your Charity should be anonymous
Matthew 6:1 Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.
Matthew 6:2 Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
By this, I do not mean that your gift should necessarily be completely anonymous to whom you are giving it. Maybe you should ask some pointed questions before you decide to give it or not. Those questions are directed at the person receiving the money, and maybe an agreement should be made with that person that your gift is FOR some specific problem they have.
But the Bible here is saying that we should not use a good work to build a name for ourselves. The rest of the world does not need to know that you have given anything. God knowing is all that matters.
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