The Problem of Giving to the Poor
Study No. 121
Man Attacked as He Gives Money
A December, 1983, Associate Press news report told of an unusual act of charity. Anthony Votta, 64, a retired Brooklyn truck driver, was inspired during a church prayer session for his blind son to hand out $2,000 to the needy in envelopes of $10 each.
But the 100 men who showed up outside the Salvation Army pushed him and grabbed at his pockets and the envelopes. One man took about 50 envelopes. Votta fled for his safety, having $410 left over. Even so, Votta said, "If just one of those derelicts uses the money for something good, Iíll feel good." A man in the crowd said, "Some of these bums will use the money for something good. Others will drink it up." Another man, in a wheelchair, expressed gratitude for Mr. Vottaís act of kindness.
The Difficult Task of Giving to the Poor
The Bible admonishes, even commands, us to remember the poor and to help others who are in need. Most Bible believers have an earnest desire to help the poor. However, there is a problem in giving to the poor. It is not easy to do any real good. There are real bums who deserve no help at all. Governments interfere with the Eternalís "welfare program." Sometimes, giving to the poor can actually do them more harm than good. Helping the poor and needy in the right way, the Bible way, is a very difficult task in todayís upside down world apart from God. Sometimes, like Mr. Votta, those whose hearts are in the right place and want to give and help others, nevertheless make themselves the prey of voracious wolves.
Abraham Lincoln once said: "You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift. You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong. You cannot help the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer. You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than you earn. You cannot build by . . . taking away manís initiative and independence. You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves."
Here is the problem of giving to the poor. How should a Bible believer give to the poor today? As we shall see, the Bible has a great many sound principles that we should follow. It also soundly condemns todayís socialistic welfare states which actually harm the very poor they claim to be helping.
The Poor Laws
The Bible has much to say about giving to the poor. Our article, Biblical Law, section B.0, pages 5-8 quotes the following laws relative to our obligation to help the poor and needy: Exodus 22:21-25, 23:3-6, 9, 11, Leviticus 19:9, 10, 14, 17, 18, 33, 34, 23:22, and Deuteronomy 1:17, 10:17-19, 14:28-29, 15:1-11, 24:6, 10-22, 26:12-15, 27:18, 19.
These laws and other laws teach us some vital principles regarding giving to the poor:
(1) Those especially that are to be the recipients of our help are the poor, the stranger, fatherless (orphans), widows, blind, and deaf, and even our enemy.
(2) Generally, the poor must work to receive our help. They are not to be given handouts. This is shown in Leviticus 19:9-10 and 23:22 and Deuteronomy 24:19-22. You should leave the corners of your field and the gleanings of the harvest, so that the poor can come and WORK to obtain a share of your crop.
My brother-in-law is a "green thumb." When my potatoes are the size of golf balls, his are the size of grapefruits. He raises such an abundant garden that he often shares it with others. One time he had much more than enough green beans for his family. So he called a church leader who acted as though he were poor. My brother-in-law invited this "poor" man to come over and pick as many beans from his garden as he wanted. The invitation was turned around to a request: "If you pick the beans for me, then I will come and get them." It is quite obvious that this "poor" man, though able-bodied, was not worthy of assistance, because he would not work for it.
The Eternalís laws for the poor condemn todayís socialistic government handouts.
(3) The Third Tithe is a central provision in the Almightyís law requiring us to give to the poor. Deuteronomy 14:28-29, 26:12-15. Every third and sixth years in a cycle of seven, we set aside a third tithe to give to the poor. Those who follow the Eternalís instruction are promised a blessing for so doing. We have received tremendous blessings from the Almighty during and following our third tithe years. Just this year, which is our third tithe year, I received an unprecedented large bonus from my employer.
(4) Freely lending to your brethren is another commanded way to help those in need, Leviticus 25:25, 35-38, Deuteronomy 15:1-6, 24:10-13. One church leader we know of makes it a habit to lend without interest or contract to those in the church who are in need. Sometimes, the individuals do not have the character to repay the loan. Nevertheless, this ministerís heart is in the right place, because he freely loans to others.
(5) Another way to help poor brethren is to give them gainful employment. The wealthy have a moral responsibility to produce jobs, Leviticus 25:39-55.
(6) Giving to the poor is to be done with a loving heart, not grudgingly, Leviticus 19:17-18, 33-34, and Deuteronomy 15:7-11,
If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren within any of thy gates in thy land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother: But thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth. Beware that there be not a thought in thy wicked heart, saying, The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand; and thine eye be evil against thy poor brother, and thou givest him nought; and he cry unto the Lord against thee, and it be sin unto thee. Thou shalt surely give him, and thine heart shall not be grieved when thou givest unto him: because that for this thing the Lord thy God shall bless thee in all thy works, and in all that thou puttest thine hand unto. For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.
(7) Another way to help the poor is to make sure nobody takes advantage of them, Exodus 22:21-24, 23:3, 6, Leviticus 19:14, Deuteronomy 24:14-18, 27:18-19. One of the reasons why many are poor is that they lack judgment, Proverbs 13:23, and as a result, others take advantage of them. If all the worldís wealth were evenly distributed, it would take no time at all for the wealth to become unevenly distributed, and more and more so as time went on. Some people have the natural God-given ability to make money or make wise and prudent financial decisions. Others do not have this ability.
For example, predator people know that old widows are easily hoodwinked into falling for selling schemes. A contractor comes to a widowís house for a "termite inspection," "finds" infestation and charges her an exorbitant price for "extermination." Believers should watch out for such weak individuals to make sure others do not take advantage of them.
(8) Not a single one of Godís poor laws instruct us to give assistance to people we do not know, or people outside of our land. Godís poor laws do not support "foreign aid." The poor laws instruct us to give to "thy brother" who is "in your land," not to someone we do not know in a foreign land. This is easily proven by Deuteronomy 15:1-6. We may loan with interest to foreigners, but not to our brothers in our own land. Godís people are to rule over other nations, not be servants of (debtors to) other nations.
There is a very good reason for this. Israel as a physical nation, and spiritual Israel, the church, are to be the leaders of the world, examples to other nations. The current leaders of the United States have purposely weakened and put our citizens in debt to other peoples and nations. Unless our nation repents, we are heading the way of ancient Rome and will become captive to other nations. Organized spreading of the good news of the Kingdom comes from Israel. When Israel goes captive, the work of the church will stop. That is why Godís poor laws emphasize helping oneís own, and not foreigners.
Therefore, for the true believer, helping the poor starts locally and then goes out to others if there is enough. First the immediate family, for Paul wrote, "But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house [kindred], he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel." I Timothy 5:8. Secondly, the church, who is composed of our spiritual kindred. Third, others in our country or nation. And lastly, those outside our country.
Frequently we receive pleas from foreign nations for thousands of dollars worth of Bibles and books and articles. If we responded to every request, we would be broke and penniless. There are unscrupulous individuals who are not worthy of assistance. There is no way possible to check them out, when they are thousands of miles away. The obvious answer is that the Eternal wants us to begin our charity at home.
(9) The seventh year is to be a special year of feeding the poor, Exodus 23:11. The Jubilee, 50th year, is another special provision of Godís law for the poor, Leviticus 25.
(10) Taxation is to fall equally on the poor and the rich. The Bible is against "progressive taxation," Exodus 30:15.
(11) Sacrifices and offerings to the Eternal are to be according to the ability of the giver, as he is able, Leviticus 14:21-22, Deuteronomy 16:17.
Bums Unworthy of Help
I grew up having to work in the berry fields each summer to earn money for my school clothes and shoes. There were six mouths to feed in our family and we were not at all wealthy. When I was five years old, I earned a whole dollar the first time in one dayís work. I remember the Italian owner of the strawberry field praising me for my good work in earning my first "dahlah."
Once a berry field owner needed pickers very badly. He also wanted to give work to poor men who were in out of a job. He gathered a bus load of "Burnside bums" from Portlandís skidrow district and deposited them in the berry patch. These men would only work long enough to earn a bottle of wine, then quit and lapse into their drunken habits.
There are "bums" who deserve lashes and slavery, not help which should go instead to the deserving poor and needy.
Proverbs 21:17, "He that loveth pleasure shall be a poor man: he that loveth wine and oil shall not be rich."
The Bible describes an account of deceitful people who tricked Israel into sparing them. Joshua 9. This certainly shows that we must be careful whom we help.
The Eternal Determines Rich and Poor
Often the rich obtain their wealth through inheritance, luck, thievery and scheming. Sometimes, though, it is through hard work and wisdom. Through it all, the Bible indicates that the Creator has a great deal to do with who becomes rich and who becomes poor. This fact should give comfort to the poor and make the rich soberly consider their state.
I Samuel 2:7-8, "The Lord maketh poor, and maketh rich: he bringeth low, and lifteth up. He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory: for the pillars of the earth are the Lordís, and he hath set the world upon them."
Psalm 107:41, "Yet setteth he the poor on high from affliction, and maketh him families like a flock."
Psalm 113:7-8, "He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth the needy out of the dunghill; That he may set him with princes, even with the princes of his people."
God is Especially Concerned With the Poor
The poor have no real spokespersons today, notwithstanding wicked political leaders who give them socialistic promises of more government handouts. The Eternal is actually their only real defender.
Psalm 9:18, "For the needy shall not alway be forgotten: the expectation of the poor shall not perish for ever."
Psalm 10:2, 8-10, 14, 18, "The wicked in his pride doth persecute the poor: let them be taken in the devices that they have imagined . . . . He sitteth in the lurking places of the villages: in the secret places doth he murder the innocent: his eyes are privily set against the poor. He lieth in wait secretly as a lion in his den: he lieth in wait to catch the poor: he doth catch the poor, when he draweth him into his net. He croucheth, and humbleth himself, that the poor may fall by his strong ones . . . . Thou hast seen it: for thou beholdest mischief and spite, to requite it with thy hand: the poor committeth himself unto thee; thou art the helper of the fatherless . . . . To judge the fatherless and the oppressed, that the man of the earth may no more oppress."
Psalm 34:6, "This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles."
Psalm 69:33, "For the Lord heareth the poor, and despiseth not his prisoners."
Psalm 72:2, 4, 12-13, "He shall judge thy people with righteousness, and thy poor with judgment . . . . He shall judge the poor of the people, he shall save the children of the needy, and shall break in pieces the oppressor . . . . For he shall deliver the needy when he crieth; the poor also, and him that hath no helper. He shall spare the poor and needy, and shall save the souls of the needy."
Psalm 82:3-4, "Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy. Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked."
Psalm 112:9, "He hath dispersed, he hath given to the poor; his righteousness endureth for ever; his horn shall be exalted with honour."
Psalm 140:12, "I know that the Lord will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and the right of the poor."
God Hates Those Who Oppress the Poor
Proverbs 14:20-21, "The poor is hated even of his own neighbour: but the rich hath many friends. He that despiseth his neighbour sinneth: but he that hath mercy on the poor, happy is he."
Proverbs 18:23, "The poor useth entreaties; but the rich answereth roughly."
Proverbs 19:4, "Wealth maketh many friends; but the poor is separated from his neighbour."
Proverbs 19:7, "All the brethren of the poor do hate him: how much more do his friends go far from him?"
Proverbs 21:13, "Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard."
Proverbs 22:16, "He that oppresseth the poor to increase his riches, and he that giveth to the rich, shall surely come to want."
Proverbs 22:22-23, "Rob not the poor, because he is poor: neither oppress the afflicted in the gate: For the Lord will plead their cause, and spoil the soul of those that spoiled them."
Proverbs 28:3, "A poor man that oppresseth the poor is like a sweeping rain which leaveth no food."
Proverbs 28:6, 8, "Better is the poor that walketh in his uprightness, than he that is perverse in his ways, though he be rich . . . . He that by usury and unjust gain increaseth his substance, he shall gather it for him that will pity the poor."
Proverbs 22:7, "The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender."
Ecclesiastes 5:8, "If thou seest the oppression of the poor, and violent perverting of judgment and justice in a province, marvel not at the matter: for he that is higher than the highest regardeth; and there be higher than they."
Isaiah 10:1-2, "Woe unto them that decree unrighteous decrees, and that write grievousness which they have prescribed; To turn aside the needy from judgment, and to take away the right from the poor of my people, that widows may be their prey, and that they may rob the fatherless!"
Isaiah 11:4, "But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked."
Ezekiel 16:49, "Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy."
Amos 2:6-7, "Thus saith the Lord; For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they sold the righteous for silver, and the poor for a pair of shoes; That pant after the dust of the earth on the head of the poor, and turn aside the way of the meek . . . ."
Amos 5:11-12, "Forasmuch therefore as your treading is upon the poor, and ye take from him burdens of wheat: ye have built houses of hewn stone, but ye shall not dwell in them; ye have planted pleasant vineyards, but ye shall not drink wine of them. For I know your manifold transgressions, and your mighty sins: they afflict the just, they take a bribe, and they turn aside the poor in the gate from their right."
Amos 8:4-6, "Hear this, O ye that swallow up the needy, even to make the poor of the land to fail, Saying, When will the new moon be gone, that we may sell corn? and the sabbath, that we may set forth wheat, making the ephah small, and the shekel great, and falsifying the balances by deceit? That we may buy the poor for silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes; yea, and sell the refuse of the wheat?"
Helping the Poor is Honoring the Creator
Psalm 41:1-2, "Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the Lord will deliver him in time of trouble. The Lord will preserve him, and keep him alive; and he shall be blessed upon the earth: and thou wilt not deliver him unto the will of his enemies."
Proverbs 13:7, "There is that maketh himself rich, yet hath nothing: there is that maketh himself poor, yet hath great riches."
Proverbs 14:31, "He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker: but he that honoureth him hath mercy on the poor."
Proverbs 17:5, "Whoso mocketh the poor reproacheth his Maker: and he that is glad at calamities shall not be unpunished."
Proverbs 19:17, "He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord; and that which he hath given will he pay him again."
Proverbs 22:9, "He that hath a bountiful eye shall be blessed; for he giveth of his bread to the poor."
Proverbs 28:27, "He that giveth unto the poor shall not lack: but he that hideth his eyes shall have many a curse."
Proverbs 29:7, "The righteous considereth the cause of the poor: but the wicked regardeth not to know it."
Proverbs 31:20, "She [the virtuous woman] stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy."
Ezekiel 18:10-17, "If he beget a son that is a robber, a shedder of blood, and that doeth the like to any one of these things, And that doeth not any of those duties, but even hath eaten upon the mountains, and defiled his neighbourís wife, Hath oppressed the poor and needy, hath spoiled by violence, hath not restored the pledge, and hath lifted up his eyes to the idols, hath committed abomination, Hath given forth upon usury, and hath taken increase: shall he then live? he shall not live: he hath done all these abominations; he shall surely die; his blood shall be upon him. Now, lo, if he beget a son, that seeth all his fatherís sins which he hath done, and considereth, and doeth not such like, That hath not eaten upon the mountains, neither hath lifted up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, hath not defiled his neighbourís wife, Neither hath oppressed any, hath not withholden the pledge, neither hath spoiled by violence, but hath given his bread to the hungry, and hath covered the naked with a garment, That hath taken off his hand from the poor, that hath not received usury nor increase, hath executed my judgments, hath walked in my statutes; he shall not die for the iniquity of his father, he shall surely live."
Daniel 4:27, "Wherefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable unto thee, and break off thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by shewing mercy to the poor; if it may be a lengthening of thy tranquillity."
Jesus Gave to the Poor, Encouraged Others to Do Likewise
Matthew 19:21, "Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me."
Mark 10:21, "Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me."
Matthew 26:7-11, "There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat. But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste? For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor. When Jesus understood it, he said unto them, Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me. For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always."
John 12:4-8, "Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simonís son, which should betray him, Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein. Then said Jesus, Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this. For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always."
Mark 12:41-44, "And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living."
Matthew 11:5, "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."
Luke 4:18, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised."
Luke 14:13-14, "But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just."
Luke 14:21, "So that servant came, and shewed his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind."
Luke 19:8-9, "And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold. And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham."
John 13:29, "For some of them thought, because Judas had the bag, that Jesus had said unto him, Buy those things that we have need of against the feast; or, that he should give something to the poor."
Romans 15:26, "For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem."
I Corinthians 13:3, "And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing."
Galatians 2:9-10, "And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision. Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do."
James 2:1-6 [shows that we are not to respect the rich and treat them better than the poor]
Revelation 3:17, "Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked."
Truly Helping the Poor
Anyone who lives by the Bible must have a loving concern for the plight of the poor. We have already covered a number of Bible principles for helping the poor. It is a difficult task to do it right. Here are some personal tips and lessons we have learned:
(1) Especially during your third tithe year, pray that the Eternal will show you how you can use the third tithe to help others. Keep your eyes and ears open for information about relatives and spiritual brethren who are in need. Each third tithe year we have received tremendous blessings from the Eternal for obeying Him.
(2) If possible, give help anonymously (see Matthew 6:1-4), only to those who are really in need and are not bums who wonít work (II Thessalonians 3:10).
(3) If you are on the receiving end of help for the poor, donít be too proud to take it.
(4) Feast times are special times of giving to the poor.
(5) You are never too poor to help those less blessed than you are.
(6) The third tithe year is not the only requirement you have to help the poor.
(7) You have a personal responsibility to see that the poor are helped. It is not the responsibility of a centralized church headquarters to collect and distribute assistance to the needy, although certainly the ministry can and should help brethren be aware of the physical needs of the poor in the congregation.
(8) Give the right kind of help. As the saying goes, "give fishing poles, not fish." Money is sometimes not the best form of assistance.
(9) Donít delay helping the poor. Do it when you can, Proverbs 3:27-28.
Those with a true concern for the poor, and who actively help the poor, can claim the promise of the Almighty:
Psalm 37:25, "I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread."
Matthew 25:34-40, "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? . . . Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." W
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