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March 9th, 2009 at 10:05 am

Caring for the Needy: The Biblical Mandate

This is a guided Bible Study which I put together a long time ago – in 1984 I think – and which still blesses me as I read the passages.  I was inspired to repost this by comments made by a friend and Christian sister about the neglected elderly.

Meditation upon the following Scriptures should help us to marvel in God’s wonderful compassion, to lift up songs of praise for what He has done for His people, and eagerly desire to reflect His lovingkindness as we share of ourselves with our needy neighbors. Please read these passages prayerfully with an earnest desire to know God’s mind, to love Him, and to obey His commands. You may wish to save this as a resource for future study.

Basic Principles 

Deuteronomy 8:1-20             What seems to be the innate tendency of man when he becomes materially successful? What is the remedy for this aspect of our nature?

Deuteronomy 10:12-20         Note that the first specific commandment after God’s exhortation to the Israelite to circumcise his heart?  What attribute of God is revealed in this passage?  Who are the needy as revealed in this section?

Deuteronomy 15:1-11           Note in verse 10 the prerequisite for God’s blessing.   There is serious question as to whether Israel ever obeyed the commandments given in verses 1-2.  In what ways today are we hard-hearted or tight-fisted toward the needy among us?  Compare verses 4 and 11. How do you resolve these seemingly conflicting passages?

Deuteronomy 24:10-27         God’s wonderful compassion, which we seek to reflect, can be so practically implemented! Why were the Israelites commanded to care for the needy? (see vs. 17-18)   What corresponds to gleaning in our modern non-agrarian society?

Deuteronomy 26:12-15         (See also 14:22-28)  What does this say to us today about how our tithe money is to be distributed?

1st John 3:16-18                  Compare with Deuteronomy 24:10-27.  What is to be the basis for our benevolence? 

God’s Care for the Needy 

Here are some verses which point to the unique concern that God has for the needy and downtrodden:

 1st Samuel 2:8                  A poor soul exulting in God’s provision for her.

Psalm 12:5,6                       God looks out for the cries of the needy. 

Psalm 10:14,18                  When we go against the needy, remember who we’re up against!

Psalm 35:10                        Yet another reason to praise and marvel in God’s goodness!

Jeremiah 20:13                    And another!

 (see also Psalm 40:17, 70:5, 72:12, 74:21, 10:14)

Oppression and God’s Response

 2nd Samuel 12:1-10        Note David’s responses to Nathan’s parable.

Job 24:1-25                         This is a powerful passage, and one, as will be seen below, does not apply to Job.

Psalm 10:1-18                     The Lord will one day allow man to terrify no more.

Psalm 109:15,16                  How serious is the sin of oppression?

Proverbs 17:5                      He who mocks the poor shows contempt for God Himself!

Exodus 22:21-27                  Note how serious is the sin of afflicting the orphan or widow.

Proverbs 30:11-14                Those who oppress are haughty in God’s sight.

Isaiah 3:13-15                      God is the judge of the oppressor.

Isaiah 32:7                          The plea of the needy is a just plea.

Ezekiel 18:10-13                  Notice the specific sins which bring death to the unrighteous son.

Amos 2:6                            When God points His Finger of judgment at Israel, He points first to her oppressive ways.

Amos 5:11-12                      Note the sins which we described as being so great and deserving of judgment. 

Amos 8:3-14                        What are the sins which bring on such a harsh and terrible judgment?

Isaiah 5:8                            What would be a modern equivalent to “joining house to house?” 

Neglect of Mercy

Most of us are not outright oppressors of the poor, although we may support oppressive regimes or invest in companies which have oppressive practices. Yet we may well be neglectful, which can, in itself, be very serious.

Proverbs 21:13                     In what ways do we shut our ears to the cry of the poor?       If we do this, what can we expect when we cry out in a time of need?

Matthew 25:31-46                The words “did not do” in verse 45 epitomize the concept of neglect. Note the consequences of this neglect. Who are the needy in this passage? Who would fit this description today?

1st John 3:16-18                  What action should pity for a poor brother result in?

Luke 16:19-31                      We, to, in these very pages, have the commandments and warnings of Moses and the Prophets!

James 2:14-17                     What does the neglect of the needy brother say about the faith of him who neglects.

God’s Clear Commands Regarding the Care of and Defense of the Needy

Romans 12:13                     This is quite straightforward!

Galatians 6:10                     How do we prioritize whom we are benevolent towards?

Hebrews 13:16                     God is pleased when we share!

1st Timothy 6:17-19         Sharing is a means of storing up lasting treasure!

Luke 3:10,11                         Sharing what we have is an evidence of our repentance. How many “tunics” do we have?

Ephesians 4:28                  What should be one of the main goals for which we work?

Isaiah 1:16,17                      A strong command at the beginning of a big book.

Isaiah 58:1-12, esp. 6, 7       This is a beautiful description of a true fast.

Proverbs 31:8,9                    We are not only to help by giving, but by defending with our voices and votes. Think of the need of the unborn. 

Examples of Providing for the Needy

Praise God that He has given us many Godly men and women to emulate!

Jeremiah 22:16                    This verse characterizes Godly Josiah. Do we normally think of these things when we think of knowing God?

Ezekiel 18:14-17                 Notes the characteristics of the righteous son.

Job 31:13-23                        O Blessed God! Make me to be like Job!

Proverbs 31:20                     The noble wife opens her arms to the poor.

Acts 2:45 and 4:34               Look closely here at what the experience of the wonderful grace of God and the filling with His Holy Spirit does for the people. How can we follow this example of the first Christians?

Acts 6:1-6                           The importance of caring for the neglected widows is evidenced by the quality of those men chosen to meet the task.

Acts 11:27-30                      What a beautiful example of church sponsored famine relief.

Acts 20:35                            Paul labored diligently in order to aid the weak.

2nd Cor. 8:1 and 9:15      Note verse 9. Who is our great example? Note verse 13-15. Do these verses not have serious applications for us and do they not speak to the way our capitalistic economic system can be voluntarily Christianized? Remember (vs. 2) that one doesn’t have to be rich to be generous.

Matthew 25:31-40                Note those things which characterize the sheep who follow the Good Shepherd.

Philippians 4:16-19               The promise (often quoted and memorized) in verse 19 is made to those who shared with Paul in his time of need. As we give, God promises to meet our needs.

Some Food for Thought (Questions to Ponder) 

-     Caring for the poor and needy is as much a part of obeying God as anything else. It is a moral issue. Disobeying God results in moral guilt.

 -     Poverty can well be the result of laziness or lack of drive (Prov. 6:10, 6:11, 28:19, 23:21, 20:4, 19:15), and God seems to tell us that we shouldn’t feed the person who will not work (2nd Thess. 3:10); however, the reasons for poverty are not considered in most of the commands to aid the poor and the needy.

-     How do we give freely while at the same time not fostering further dependence, which is dehumanizing and psychologically damaging for the needy person, or at least the person who is potentially capable of meeting his or her own needs.

-     Even the able-bodied person may need emergency relief (Luke 10:34, 35).

-     Who are the needy today? In Greensboro? In the world?

-     How do we obey these commands when we often do not have the natural day to day contact with poor and destitute people? Are we exempt from the commands because of this? 

-     It would seem that poverty involves the lack of food, clothing, and shelter (1st Timothy 6:8, Job 24:1-25). Given the cost of living – food, clothes, housing utilities, etc., it would be impossible for a man or single parent to support a family and provide these necessities on or near a minimum wage salary. Often a poor mother has to leave the home and work in order for the family to have these things. What might this imply about the criteria we use in paying our employees?

-     Many people pray that God would bring into their paths people who need to hear the gospel. Might we also pray that He would bring into our paths needy people whom we can minister to in body as well as in soul?

 -     Whatever we do that is good and obedient is by His grace. Let us seek for this grace to grip us and energize us for the good works for which He has prepared us. 

-     To what extent is it right for us to isolate and insulate ourselves from the poor and needy who often live in neighborhoods which are not as nice and safe.

 -     How can we learn to give without having a paternalistic or condescending spirit?

 -     To what extent should we depend on the government to provide for the needy?

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