The last parable of Jesus’s ministry recorded in the book of Matthew emphasizes the importance of Christ’s followers to be generous towards those who are in need. In this illustration, the Son of Man welcomes into eternity those who cared for the needy and equates such care as caring for Christ personally. Furthermore, those who did not care for the needy are sentenced to eternal damnation.
“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’
“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’
“Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’
“Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 4And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”Matthew 25: 31 – 46
Throughout both the Old and New Testament, God commands His people to be generous and care for the poor. Furthermore, the Bible also teaches that generosity should come from the heart and be guided by the Holy Spirit. Nowhere does the Bible teach that caring for the poor is the responsibility of the government. It is the responsibility of God’s people to take care of their poor neighbors as prompted by the Holy Spirit.
A very clear distinction is made, however, between those who less fortunate and those who are idle or wasteful. Specific instructions are provided as to those who qualify as truly needed care and those who have come to poverty by their unwillingness to work or by wasting their money on worldly pleasure.
This is the first in a series of posts which will examine Biblical teachings on generosity and caring for the poor. These teachings include:
- God commands us to be generous to the poor.
Deuteronomy 15:11 “For the poor will never cease from the land; therefore I command you, saying, ‘You shall open your hand wide to your brother, to your poor and your needy, in your land.’”
- God blesses those who are generous.
Proverbs 22:9 “He who has a generous eye will be blessed.”
- Generosity is a response to God’s saving grace. James 1:27 “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”
- Generosity should be done with right motive.
Exodus 35: 4, 5 “This is the thing which the Lord commanded, saying: ‘Take from among you an offering to the Lord. Whoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it as an offering to the Lord.'”
- We should take advantage of opportunities to be generous.
Mark 14:7 “For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good.”
- God hears the prayers of the generous.
Daniel 4: 7 Therefore, O king, let my advice be acceptable to you; break off your sins by being righteous, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor. Perhaps there may be a lengthening of your prosperity.”
Jesus taught that we will always have poor people in our communities. It is no shame to be poor. In Samuel 2:7, we are told the “The Lord makes the poor and makes the rich.” We will always have widows and orphans in our midst who need our help We will also have people who are physically unable to support themselves.
Help should first come from family members, if the person in need has a family. Families are commanded to care for those in need within their own families. “But if any widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show piety at home and to repay their parents; for this is good and acceptable before God.” 1 Timothy 4:5
Furthermore, those who will not care for needy family members are being disobedient to God’s commands. “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” 1 Timothy 4:8
When families care for those in need in their own families, the resources of the church are then available to help those who do not have anyone else to help them. “If any believing man or woman has widows, let them relieve them, and do not let the church be burdened, that it may relieve those who are really widows.” 1 Timothy 5:16
Paul ends this letter with a command to be generous. “Command them [those who are rich] to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.” 1 Timothy 6:18 (NIV)
Putting Faith Into Action: Ask God to reveal to you people in your family, church, neighborhood, and community who are in need of financial assistance. Pray about how God would have you help those in need.