The two greatest commandments are to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself (Matt. 22:37-39). One way Christians can show love for their neighbors is by giving to the poor, especially poor Christians. Consider these Scriptures:
Proverbs 19:17 – Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.
Matthew 6:1-4 – “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
Hebrews 13:16 – Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.
2 Corinthians 9:6-14 – The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others, while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you. Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!
1 John 3:17 – But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?
Oftentimes, however, Western Christians think they are too poor to give to the poor. In rare cases, this may be true, but in most cases, it is not. What I often find is that Christians tie their money up in their wants and then say, “We are too poor to give to the poor.” It’s similar to the Pharisees refusing to honor their parents by taking care of them in their old age because they had pledged their money to God (corban). They justified their sin by a “greater good” argument. Sola Scriptura (by Scripture alone) would have helped them! Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for exalting this man-made tradition above the command of God, saying, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”’ (that is, given to God)—then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do” (Mark 7:9-13).
The “tradition” that Christians have handed down is not like the Pharisees who neglected their parents in the name of pledging their money to God. Western Christians, in most cases, are not neglecting the poor because they have pledged their money to the local church. Instead, the “tradition” Christians have handed down is that they have a “right” to spend their money how they want to spend it. Although it is true that Christians are free in Christ to spend the money God has given them for his glory, the reality is that Christians are not free to neglect the poor. We cannot ignore the clear commands in Scripture or the example of Christ because we have tied up our money in our wants. In other words, you and I are not free to spend our money on our wants while saying, “We are too poor to give to the poor.”
If you are able to give to the poor, especially poor Christians (and most Western Christians are), and you refuse to because you have tied your money up in your wants, you are sinning against God. You are committing the sin of greed. Now, we cannot be legalistic and require a certain percentage for the poor, but we must give generously because of all that we have been given (2 Cor. 9:1-15). The gospel compels us to give monetarily out of what we’ve been given by God eternally. We really cannot out-give God.
To help Christians, especially Christians who think, “I’m too poor to give to the poor,” discern if they are sinning in refusing to give to the poor, consider this poem…
Those Poor Christians, What a Sight!
They cannot afford
To give to the poor
For their new vehicles shine so bright.
To the poor,
They cannot lend their hand
For they are too busy
Saving for Disney Land.
Those poor Christians, What a sight!
Past the poor, he and she drives,
To exercise their God-given right
On their iPhones, to their homes
To suffer their impoverished lives.
The poor, they cannot afford to feed
Their money is tied up
Paying for restaurants with family,
The Internet and Cable TV.
Those poor Christians, What a Sight!
In all of life, they lack greed
For only the rich deny the poor with all their might
And spend beyond their need.
Greed is only a rich man’s sin,
For only he is required to heed God’s call
To give generously with a grin.
(Prov. 14:21, 31 ;19:17; 28:27; 2 Cor. 8:1-15; Eph. 4:28; etc.)