Why Care for the Disadvantaged
Scriptural Overview by Jane Williams
God loves the disadvantaged
- “The Lord watches over the stranger. He relieves the fatherless and the widow.” Psalm 146:9
- “The poor and needy seek water but there is none; their tongues fail for thirst. I, the Lord will hear them; I, the Lord God of Israel will not forsake them.” Isaiah 41:17
- “ He will bring justice to the poor of the people; He will save the children of the needy; and He will break in pieces the oppressor.” Psalm 72:4
- When Jesus said to Judas, “What you do, do quickly,” John 13:29, some thought, because Judas had the money box, that Jesus had said to him, “Buy these things that we need for the feast or that he should give something to the poor.” Clearly, giving to the poor was a common practice for Jesus.
God identifies with the disadvantaged
- Matthew 25:31-46 makes it clear that serving the "least" is serving Jesus. "Inasmuch as you did it for the least of these My brethen, you did it to Me."
- "He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lorde and He will pay back what he has given." Proverbs 19:17
- "He who oppresses the poor reproaches his Maker." Proverbs 14:31
- Isaiah 7's description of the coming Messiah says, "Curds and honey He shall eat" verse 15. This was the food of poverty and hard times.
God commands giving opportunity for the disadvantaged to feed themselves and receive fair treatment
- When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field, nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest and you shall not glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather every grape of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger; I am the Lord." Leviticus 19:9-10
- "Execute true justice; show mercy and compassion everyone to his brother. Do not oppress the widow or the faterless, the alien or the poor." Zechariah 7:15
Helping those in need is part of true worship
- "Is this not the fast I have chosen: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor that are cast out; when you see the naked that you cover him, and not hide yourself from your own flesh?" Isaiah 58:6-7
- I hate, I despise your feast days, and I do not savor your sacred assemblies. Though you offer me burnt offerings, I will not accept them. Nor will I regard your fattened peace offerings. Take away from Me the noise of your songs, for I will not hear the melody of your stringed instruments. But let justice run down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream." Amos 5:21-24
- Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I give my first born for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has shown you, O man, what is good and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?" Micah 6:7-8
- "For I desire mercy and not sacrifice and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings." Hosea 6:6
- “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and keep oneself unspotted from the world.” James 1:27 (“Visit” here is the proactive Greek word episkeptomai: to go to see, look out for, relieve).
Giving to the disadvantaged is an indication of true conversion (the natural response when one grasps how much mercy they have been shown)
- Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today, salvation has come to this house.” Luke 19:8-9
- Four times the gospels record Jesus being asked the question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Three times he tells the asker to sell all he has and give to the poor. Matthew19:16, Mark 10:17, Luke 18:18. The fourth time he tells the story of the Good Samaritan. Luke 10:25
- And I am praying that you will put into action the generosity that comes from your faith as you understand and experience all the good things we have in Christ. Philemon 1:6
Caring for the disadvantaged is the expected role of the church
- “And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that had been given to me, they gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised. They desired only that we should remember the poor, the very thing which I also was eager to do.” Galatians 2:9-10
- “Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods and divided them among all, as anyone had need.” Acts 2:44-45
- In Don’t Waste Your Life (p 67), by John Piper, the Roman Emperor Julian (A. D. 332-363) is quoted as writing the following words to describe his frustration over the advance of Christianity over Roman pagan religion: “Atheism (i.e., Christian faith) has been specially advanced through the loving service rendered to strangers, and through their care for the burial of the dead. It is a scandal there is not a single Jew who is a beggar, and that the godless Galileans care not only for their own poor but for ours as well; while those who belong to us look in vain for the help that we should render them.”
God blesses you for concern for the disadvantaged
- “If you extend your soul to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted soul, then your light will dawn in the darkness and your darkness shall be as the noonday. The Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your soul in drought; and strengthen your bones; you shall be like a well watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.” Isaiah 58:10-11
- “Blessed is the man who considers the poor. The Lord will deliver him in time of trouble. The Lord will preserve him and keep him alive. He will be blessed on the earth; you will not deliver him to the will of his enemies. The Lord will strengthen him on his bed of illness; you will sustain him on his sickbed.” Psalm 41:1
- A man who gives to the poor will not lack.” Proverbs 28:27
- “When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor your rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the lame, the maimed, the blind. And you will be blessed for they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” Luke 14:12-14
- Immediately after the appointing of deacons to take care of widows in need, we read: “Then the word of the Lord spread and the number of disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem.” Acts 6:7
Caring for the disadvantaged opens one’s heart and life to receive more, be entrusted with expanded ministry
- In Acts 6, Philip and Stephen were among those selected to take care of the widows who were being overlooked. Following their acceptance of this role, they were used in other ways. Philip became an evangelist who experienced such supernatural things as being translated from one place to another. Stephen became an anointed preacher and one who was given a glorious vision of God.
- The Apostle John heard, “Behold, your mother (John 19:27),” long before he heard, “Behold, the vision…” John’s assignment to care for a grieving widow came before the supernatural encounters with God that led to his writing the Book of Revelation.
- Cornelius was chosen to be the first Gentile to receive the gospel. He is described as a man who “gave alms generously to the people.” Acts 10:1 When Peter described why he had come to him, he said, “Your prayer has been heard and your alms remembered in the sight of God.” Acts 10:31
God offers generosity to the disadvantaged as a way back from a path of sin. It shows a change of heart and perhaps helps change the heart
- "Break off your sins by being righteous and your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor.” Dan 4:27
- John the Baptist came to prepare the way for Jesus. After he had preached to the people, they asked, “What shall we do?” His response focused on acts of charity and justice. “He who has two tunics, let him give to him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise… collect no more (taxes) than what is appointed to you… do not intimidate anyone or accuse falsely.” Luke 3:8-14
- Jesus to the Pharisees: “Fools! Didn’t God make the inside as well as the outside? So clean the inside by giving gifts to the poor, and you will be clean all over.”
God presents concern for the disadvantaged as a gauge for our Christian walk
- “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?” I John 3:17
- “If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,’ but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also, faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” James 2:18
God uses serving the disadvantaged as a criterion for judgment
- Matthew 25:31-46 is the only place in the NT where a guideline for determining eternal destiny is given. How are the “sheep and the goats” separated according to this passage? By their response to the hungry, naked, imprisoned, sick and stranger.
- “Look, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom; she and her sister had pride, fullness of food and abundance of idleness; neither did she strengthen the poor and needy.” Ezekiel 16:49
- “He who hides his eyes (from the poor) will have many curses.” Proverbs 28:27
Giving to the disadvantaged occurs in times of spiritual revival/celebration
- When Nehemiah came on the scene to rebuild Jerusalem, he insisted that usury stop and that restoration of “lands, vineyards, olive groves, houses and money” be made to those who had suffered loss because they had been charged interest. Nehemiah 5:1-14
- After God’s miraculous salvation of the Jews from extermination in Esther’s day, the annual Feast of Purim was established to commemorate His favor inclued, “sending presents to one another and gifts to the poor.” Esther 9:22
- Acts 2 (giving to all who had need) and Acts 6 (appointing of deacons to care for the widows) in particular show that when the Holy Spirit comes, He opens men’s hearts to give to the poor.
- Every awakening/revival season in church history has inclued an increase in ministry to the poor. Many of the charitable organizations that exist today were birthed out of spiritual revivals.
What we can expect in days to come? "He will not fail nor be discouraged, till He has established justice in the earth." Isaiah 42:4
Let's join Him in His work. Let's see the high and marvelous calling He has laid out for us!