When you envision a poor person in your mind, what image appears there, the man on the street corner holding a sign of pleading with his hand out, the young woman with two children and three jobs, no father in site, perhaps those that live in shanty towns, nothing more than a piece of discarded tin for a roof, the images surround us daily, and it is sad to say that many turn their heads in either disgust or veil their minds as it were to their presence amongst us.
“For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good:” (Mark 14:7) The first part of this verse in Mark is how we see the word “poor,” in a personalized way that intrudes, as it were, upon our lives, they are part of the society of man, always have been, there has always been the haves and the have nots. The circumstances that have brought these individuals to their current situation are as varied as there are people, war, famine, acts of their own will and those imposed upon them, we will always have the poor. Our enabling society reminds us, and in some cases forces upon us, the continuance of this life of poverty, seeking the things of man for their cure. Housing, food vouchers, stipends meant to ease the suffering, programs that are meant to lift them out of their destitute state and help them to become productive members of society. But as the Lord said, we will have them with us always.
As followers of Jesus Christ, we are instructed throughout the Scriptures to assist the poor, if we have enough for today, then that means we have enough to help. Wise discernment must be applied here, for if we give all we have, we too will then be one of the poor, if that is what the lord has told you to do, make sure that this is his will for you in your life, “He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the LORD; and that which he hath given will he pay him again.” (Prov. 19:17) There are those who truly need our help, and there are those who are simply looking for a continuous handout, having no desire to find gainful employment, knowing full well that there is always another kind soul around the next corner. Here is where our spiritual discernment must be one of intent, and not one of enablement, you would no more empower a drug addict to feed his habit each day than you would cast your pearls before swine. (Matt. 7:6)
To those of you who are giving on a regular basis of the wealth that the Lord God has blessed you with, praise God, continue to do so for as long as you can, but I would ask you this, how are you caring for those who are hungry for the Word of God, do you put as much effort into this eternal endeavor as you do the temporal ones. You are blessed if you give with a cheerful heart to those in need of the things of this world, the basic necessities of life, but what of their soul, is your heart as big as your checkbook when it comes time to open your mouth to them and tell them of the one who offered himself, the bread of life. “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful give.” (2nd Cor. 9:7)
You can feed and clothe them today, and well we should, we can help to teach them to stand on their own two feet, never needing to beg again, a worthy cause, but if we do not hand out the Word of Life to them, they will always be hungry and destitute. The richest men in the world are just as poor as the man laying on the curb, the worlds offerings to them will be to no avail, whether they have gained all that the world has to offer or lived a life of extreme poverty, “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Rom. 3:23) For reasons of fear in many forms, some Christians are more than willing to open their wallets and purses to the needy of this world, but not the Word of God, there is a type of embarrassment about Him in this area. These will feel good about themselves for a short time by giving, but like an addict who needs the next fix or the drunk his next drink, unless they continue on this path of giving for only the needs of the flesh, they do not feel as if they are serving.
“Many will say to me in that day, LORD, LORD, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?” (Matt. 7:22) Here is the end for many of these, they have convinced themselves that the poor are only in need of the things of today, for their immediate future, there is nothing inside of them that prompts them to give the Words of the truths of the Scriptures to those who are poor in spirit, they are deceiving themselves in the false knowledge that they are indeed children of the Most High God. These are not my words my friends, the Scriptures are clear, there are those who believe themselves to be saved because of their works, they believe that by the doing of good deeds they will find favor in the eyes of the Lord on that day, taking care of the poor is not the path to salvation, it is a work of the Holy Spirit through the life of a willing servant of God, if it is not, it is of no eternal effect.
We can say that we are working as unto the Lord, (Col. 3:23) but if we are only employed for the sole purpose of self, we are not thinking eternally, if we give to the poor only with the thoughts that we are doing a good deed and will be blessed for it, then we are deceiving ourselves, even when we give much, if it is not given with a cheerful heart, it will avail nothing. “He that hath a bountiful eye shall be blessed; for he giveth of his bread to the poor.” (Prov. 22:9) If you feed all the poor on this planet today, they will come back tomorrow for more, as they followed the Lord, so will they do to you, until you stop giving them their daily meals, until you no longer provide what their flesh needs today, then they will desert you, and seek the next one with bread.
When you give people the truths of the Scriptures, you give them hope, when you show them that the only way to salvation is through Jesus Christ, (John 14:6) then you have shown them that they will be provided for, not just today or tomorrow, but for all eternity. When we accept the Lord Jesus as our Savior, we stop looking to be fed with the things of this world, when we seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, (Matt. 6:33) we have a promise that all of those things that we need here will be provided. And as we grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord, (2nd Peter 3:18) we find that we stop thinking as much about those things of the world, and devote our lives to seeking Christ. Giving a man a meal for the day is a wonderful thing, if it is done in the Name of the Lord, but giving him the words of eternal life will show him the Savior from whom all blessings flow.
Poor is a relative concept in the world my friends, the person down the street has a bigger house and a newer car than you do, the place where you reside is larger than the shack on the corner, the vagrant leaning against the alley wall has a warmer coat than the one sitting next to him, it is all relative in the world. To those who will help those in need of the things of the world there are rewards, but for many these rewards will only be given on this earth. To those who will help the poor in wisdom and discretion, while handing out to them the Words of the Scriptures, the blessing that the Lord of Glory has waiting for them if they will but heed His call, the rewards are eternal. It does little good to feed a man’s stomach if his soul is not fed, it is to no avail to find a place to live for those who are homeless if they are not shown that there is a mansion waiting for them.
“The lips of the righteous feed many: but fools die for want of wisdom.” (Prov. 10:21)