“No one has ever become poor by giving.” – Anne Frank
“He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the LORD; and that which he hath given will he pay him again.” – Proverbs 19:17
In my second year at Heartland Baptist Bible College, I had opportunity to work at Bass Pro Shop. Nestled just outside the main downtown area of Oklahoma City, there were always homeless in abundance. At the time, I was only working part time and elected to work 3-4 days of 8-10 hour shifts instead of half days all week. When I worked a full shift I got an hour break for lunch. Being the cheapskate I am, I usually just brought my lunch, ate a moon pie, or ate nothing.
I always tried to make a point to have food for the homeless as well. A McDonalds sat right across the street, and it was convenient to purchase a sandwich, give it away, and witness (at least that was my plan). I learned a valuable lesson there in downtown OKC, most of those homeless didn’t want my food. I watched as countless well-meaning customers of McDonalds bought extra food to give away; only to have it thrown away by the homeless. It was very telling to me.
I learned two lessons that year at college, one good one bad. The good lesson was that I had to be discerning and wise in my charity. I was a steward of God’s resources and I needed to find a way to give wisely. The bad lesson I learned, and allowed myself to be corrupted by, was that all those impoverished are crooks who deserve their plight. I had seen people who were looking for the next high, and had trashed their life through substance abuse. Every person asking for help had the same backstory in my mind.
God has had to correct my thinking about the poor. As a pastor, I have learned that not everything is cut and dry. Not everyone who seeks help is a crook, and not everyone poor is so as a product of poor choices. Sometimes God gives us opportunities to be good stewards through our charity. Some of the most blessed moments of my life are when I have opportunity to put gas in the car of someone in need, get food for someone with an outstretched hand, or help in some meaningful way.
Israel was instructed to care for their poor, and to open their hand wide. Their attitude toward giving and lending was to be charitable and liberal. I believe this is summed up nicely in Deuteronomy 15:6-7 – “For the LORD thy God blesseth thee, as he promised thee: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, but thou shalt not borrow; and thou shalt reign over many nations, but they shall not reign over thee. 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:”
It is far too easy to get a hard heart toward those who are impoverished. I understand there are some crooks out there who are looking to take advantage, and you need to be discerning. Never allow a few bad apples ruin you from fulfilling God’s command to be charitable. Open your hand wide, and keep a tender heart.
A few things I have enacted in my own personal life that has helped me very well. I do not give money away. The opportunity for it to be used nefariously is too great. I don’t want to enable abuse to continue by giving them money. Instead, I always give them the thing they need. If they say they are hungry I get them food, if they need gas I get them fuel, and so on.
Another principle, I am always going to talk to them about the Lord. You have to be careful here, because you don’t want people trusting the Lord to make you happy so they can get what they need. To be honest, I rarely get to lead anyone to Christ this way, and they almost never come to church. Always plant the seed of truth in their life, you never know what it will do in the future. Physical help helps, but only for a time. What they really need is Jesus Christ.
A final principle is this: I do almost all my giving through my church. The ability for me to vet every single person and ministry out there would be difficult, but I know and trust my church. I know the missionaries we support, and I know the benevolence we do. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give outside your local assembly, but I have personally chosen to do the bulk of all my giving through this God given medium. You only have so much money, be a good steward and use it wisely.
Today, examine your heart and attitude to the poor. Does your views align with God’s views? When is the last time you opened your hands wide, and took opportunity to be a blessing to someone in need?
Daily Scripture Reading
Deuteronomy 14 - 16
“For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth.”