Our Duty To The Needy

May 28, 2013

Our Duty To The Needy

            Some people are critical of Christianity because they don’t think enough is done to relieve the needy.  Is their criticism justified?  If so, to what extent is it justified?  What is the best way to complete with our duty to the needy?


We lived in the country when I was a child. We often had a problem with moles in our yard.  Moles are small mammals that live in underground tunnels.   They feed on grubs and worms.  More than once I attempted to catch some of them.  I reasoned that it should be possible to force them out of their underground tunnels by sticking a hose in the entrance of the tunnel and turning the water on.  Rather than drown, I thought they would come to the surface.  I learned that I couldn’t do that because our sandy soil absorbed the water before it got very far.

In the same way, it’s impossible to solve the poverty problem just with money.  Jesus said, “For ye have the poor always with you” (Matthew 26:11).  By that he meant, no matter what we do, there will always be poor among us.  There is so much poverty in the world that it would be impossible to eliminate it.  The more prudent approach has been to attack that which causes poverty.  Throughout history Christians have struggled with this problem.  First of all, they attempt to get victory over sin and selfish desires in their own life.  Then they teach others to do the same.

There are two ways to mitigate poverty in the world.  One way is to make a direct attack on immorality.  It is an attempt to reason with people and try to convince them that sin is costly.  People who give in to fleshly desires lose self-control and become slaves to addictions.  Some lose their health.  Some lose their reputation, others their jobs.  Some refuse to listen when we talk to them, but there are those who do.  To look upon the devastation caused by sin and say nothing implies that we approve of sin.

Another way to mitigate poverty in the world is by means of evangelism.  A genuine conversion to Christ results in a changed life.  II Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” That man will not only   turn from sin, he will also start adding virtues to their life.  I Corinthians 6:9-11 says “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,   Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”  Galatians chapter five gives us a contrast between the works of the flesh (verses 19-21) and the fruit of the Spirit in verses 22-23.  Proverbs 14:34 says “Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.” In dealing with a sickness, it’s always wise to attack the cause of the sickness and not just relieve the symptoms.  The same is true in dealing with poverty.


Except in cases of disaster relief, the best way to help needy people is often by helping them help themselves.  By reading Ezequiel 16:49 it’s obvious that this is God’s plan.  “Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.”  We need to strengthen the hand of the poor and needy so he can help himself.


We read in the New Testament that the early churches had a plan for helping the widows.  It’s unfortunate that the need of that has been taken out of the hands of churches by government welfare programs.  Churches could administer it much more personally and efficiently.


Nowhere in the Bible do we read that it is the duty of Christians to wipe out poverty in the world.  Yes, we should be willing to help friends, neighbors and relatives who have a need.  I John 3:17 says, “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?” In times of disaster Christians should also be quick to respond with emergency relief and a gospel witness.  God’s plan for helping the needy is for us to preach the gospel to them.  When John the Baptist was in prison Jesus sent his disciples to console him with these words, “Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see:   The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them” (Matthew 11:4-5).


The Christian’s major obligation to the world is found in Matthew 28:18-29.  “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.    Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:    Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” We are negligent in doing that.  Suffering and human need is relieved wherever the gospel is preached.  It results in people being converted from being self-willed and selfish to people who are caring and loving.  Unfortunately, they aren’t being converted in great masses, but those who accept the gospel have a richer, more rewarding life.


Charity is best practiced on a local level.  That way those who have a genuine need, and are more worthy of receiving help, are the recipients of it.  There are those who, because of deformities or some health malady, may need help the rest of their lives.  There is the temptation, on the part of some able bodied people, to make themselves dependent on charity.  When charity is on a local level it’s easier to prevent that.  There are those who want to live an indolent life style and still have their needs met.  Local charity doesn’t look with favor in that.


Christians often feel moved to help the needy economically.  That is well and good.  People need to know that we care.  It’s in vain, however, to help them rise above the poverty level if they aren’t willing to recognize that they have a spiritual need.  We are wise in making it clear to people from the start that our economic help is temporary.  It will only be until they can get on their feet and help themselves.  Many find themselves in serious economic problems because they have taken the path of least resistance.  It may be that their problem is credit card debt.  Until and unless they are willing to make sacrifices and get control of their spending habits, there is no way to help them.  Being mentored and encouraged by a group of caring Christians can put them on the road to recovery.


As we said before, money is not the solution to every problem.  Many times what people need is for someone to take time to sit down with them and help them understand and accept some rules for responsible and successful living.  If people aren’t willing to recognize that their need stems from personal problems in their lives, they aren’t deserving of help.  That is the sentiment we find in Revelation 22:11-12.  “He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still.    And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.”


Let’s face it; some Christians have had a bad experience in helping people.  They have tried to help people who weren’t willing to humble themselves and recognize that they had a spiritual need.  Some well-meaning people have been disillusioned by people they tried to help. They get discouraged and say “What’s the use?” We need to make ourselves available to help people, but we need to be up front and honest with them from the start and tell them, “I’m willing to help you if you are willing to recognize that you have a spiritual need and are willing to accept help.”


Dear reader, if you are in need, the best place to find help is in a Bible believing church.  You may not find people willing to help you from the moment you first step in the door of the church.  There are people who go from church to church seeking a hand out.  At first the people in the church may think you are just another one of them.  Make your need known, but at the same time you need to manifest a willingness to get your life under control.  You can do that by accepting Christ as your Savior, faithful church attendance, and by letting Christ guide you in your thoughts and deeds. You will also need to show a willingness to be helpful in church.  Churches are looking for people whose attitude is not just, “What can I get from the church?” but also “What can I contribute to the church?”


If you are saved, prayer will be another powerful source of help in meeting your needs.  “Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (Philippians 4:6).  You will need to be saved if you expect God to answer your prayers and supply your needs.  In Philippians 4:19 God has promised “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”  God does for his children what he will not do for those who reject his offer of salvation.  You also need to be regular in attendance at prayer meetings in your church.  There you can ask the people to pray that God will supply your needs.  As others pray for you, some may feel led of the Lord to help you with your need.


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