Seeing Our Brother in Need

Poor ---3“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? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue, but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:17-18).

“If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwitstanding ye give them not those things which are needful; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works is dead, being alone” (James 2:15-17).

Oh, my soul, the passage in 1 John speaks volumes. It’s convicting, challenging, and definitely worth careful pondering, that’s for sure! The passage in James chapter two is equally convicting, if not more so! Even the most causal reading of both the Old and New Testament Scriptures will clearly reveal that radical generosity towards the poor and needy is one of the marks of living justly [Micah 6:8]. The just person lives a life of honesty, equity, and generosity in every aspect of his or her life. I like what one author noted in a book called “Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Generous:”

Poor ---1We should be wary of simply saying, “These things don’t apply anymore,” because the Mosaic laws of social justice are grounded in God’s character, and that never changes. God often tells the Israelites to lend to the poor without interest and to distribute goods to the needy and to defend the fatherless, because “the LORD your God . . . defends the cause [mishpat] of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing” (Deuteronomy 10: 17-18). If this is true of God, we who believe in him must always find some way of expressing it our own practices, even if believers now live in a new stage in the history of God’s redemption.

“Blessed is he that considereth the poor …” (Psalm 41:1).

The same author wrote:

The great eighteenth-century hymn-writer and ex-slave trader John Newton marveled at the far-reaching implications of these words. “One would almost think that Luke 14: 12-14 was not considered part of God’s word,” he wrote, “nor has any part of Jesus’s teaching been more neglected by his own people. I do not think it is unlawful to entertain our friends; but if these words do not teach us that it is in some respects our duty to give a preference to the poor, I am at a loss to understand them.” … Like Isaiah, Jesus taught that a lack of concern for the poor is not a minor lapse, but reveals that something is seriously wrong with one’s spiritual compass, the heart. He prescribes a startling remedy: “You Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed. . . . Give what is inside to the poor, and everything will be clean for you” (Luke 11: 41). The metaphor is striking. Biblical scholar Joel Green explains it this way: “The disposition of one’s possessions signifies the disposition of one’s heart.”

Again, the same author writes,

The early church responded to Jesus’s calls for justice and mercy. The apostle Paul viewed ministry to Poor --2the poor as so important that it was one of the last things he admonished the Ephesian church to do before he left them for the last time. In his farewell address, Paul was able to ground this duty in the teaching of Jesus. “We must help the poor,” he said, “remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’” (Acts 20: 35). You don’t use your “last words” without saying something that is all-important to you. For Paul it was: “Don’t only preach— help the poor.”

May God help all of us to do our part in helping the poor, the needy, and the destitute. It’s just the right thing to do. It’s the just thing to do.

“Because I delivered the poor that cried, and the fatherless, and him that had none to help him. The blessing of him that was ready to perish came upon me: and I caused the widow’s heart to sing for joy. I put on righteousness, and it clothed me: my judgment was as a robe and a diadem.   I was eyes to the blind, and feet was I to the lame.  I was a father to the poor: and the cause which I knew not I searched out”  (Job 29:12-16).

Just taking a few moments to reflect on a much neglected truth!!!

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