To The Least Of These: Our Call To Bless The Poor
I was in college the first time I visited the homeless ministry downtown. I felt nervous and awkward, not sure of what to say and not wanting to offend. I would find excuses to be inside the food pantry, stocking the shelves while I talked to the other girls I came with, instead of speaking to those who were receiving the food.
But when I finally started to talk to people and hear their stories, God began to soften my heart toward those I had previously written off. Each time I went, I would learn people’s names and pray with them while they told me about their lives. Pretty soon, relationships formed, and I genuinely looked forward to visiting the ministry each week so I could go and bless my new friends.
Sisters in Christ, God commands us to have a heart for the poor.
For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’ (Deuteronomy 15:11)
Though we know God wants us to help those in need across the world and in our own community, we tend to come up with excuses as to why we can’t. Maybe we are scared to interact with those who are different than us. Maybe we barely have enough to get by ourselves. But John 3:17-18 says, “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”
The Bible is very serious about how we are supposed to treat the poor. In fact, it’s one of the most important aspects of our faith, but we often let it become an afterthought. Here are some ways we can cultivate an attitude of giving:
See the poor through God’s eyes
My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, ‘Here’s a good seat for you,’ but say to the poor man, ‘You stand there’ or ‘Sit on the floor by my feet,’ have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? (James 2:1-5)
So often we see someone on the side of the road begging for change and our first reaction is to pretend they aren’t there. It makes us too uncomfortable to see their pain and not know what to do about it.
Similarly, we may be quick to assume the reason why someone is in need. We justify our inaction by thinking they are responsible for their poverty or that they may misuse anything we give them. But so often in scripture, we see Jesus making an effort to stop and notice the poor and the people that society had dismissed. He wasn’t quick to judge or scold them for their decisions. Instead, he showed compassion for them and fulfilled their needs. In the same way, God commands us to have a heart for the needy–to not only notice their condition, but to also do something about it. No one is better than another in the eyes of the Lord. If you are finding yourself thinking less of the poor, ask God to help you see them the way He does.
Live out of abundance, not scarcity
Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. (Matthew 5:42)
Let’s be honest, not all of us have enough money to give thousands or hundreds of dollars a month to charities and benevolence funds. But just because we can’t give in a “large” way doesn’t mean we should quit giving altogether. Deciding how much to give and to whom is something that depends on you and your income. “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).
However, let’s not forget that we are not owners of whatever wealth we have; we are only stewards. “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Psalm 24:1). Instead of hoarding up wealth for ourselves and being fearful of what we may lose, let’s choose to use what God has given us to bless others in His name. And Scripture tells us that we will be rewarded for our generosity: “The generous will themselves be blessed, for they share their food with the poor” (Proverbs 22:9).
Treat giving as the love of Christ in action
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:35)
As Christ’s ambassadors, we are called to show the love of Jesus to everyone we encounter, including the poor. Psalm 140:12 says, “I know that the Lord secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy.” Defending the poor is part of God’s nature, and, as Christians, we should be reflecting that. When we stop and take the time to look someone in the eye and help them–knowing we may get nothing in return–we are doing God’s work. We distinguish ourselves from the rest of the world by offering real, tangible acts of love. That is how the Gospel is shared.
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in. . . . Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me’” (Matthew 25:35, 40).
Let us share the love of Christ as we give generously and cheerfully to those in need.
Ways to Live Generously
Look at your monthly income and see how much money you can be putting aside for the poor. No matter how big or small the amount, it should be a part of your budget.
Consider skipping an expense each month (meals out, coffee, subscription services, etc.) and using that money to give back.
Be generous with your time by serving at a local homeless shelter or an organization that helps those in need.
Make a habit of keeping small bills or gift cards in your wallet so that you can easily give to those God puts in your path.
Pray for those in your community who are in need. Pray that God will give you wisdom and discernment about how best to serve them.
Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward them for what they have done. (Proverbs 19:17)
How can you give generously to those in need around you?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Abigail is a 25-year-old freelance writer from Jackson, MS who earned her bachelor's degree in journalism and English from Mississippi College in 2015. She spends most of her time climbing ladders and recommending her favorite authors at Lemuria Books. You can read more of her writing at abbiewalker.com.