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The Poor 

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“While He was in Bethany at the home of Simon the leper, and reclining at the table, there came a woman with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume of pure nard; and she broke the vial and poured it over His head. But some were indignantly remarking to one another, ‘Why has this perfume been wasted? For this perfume might have been sold for over three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.’ And they were scolding her. But Jesus said, ‘Let her alone; why do you bother her? She has done a good deed to Me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them; but you do not always have Me’” (Mark 14:3-7).


Much Scripture mentions benevolence—remembering the poor. The Old Testament is not devoid of this teaching. "For the poor will never cease to be in the land; therefore I command you, saying, 'You shall freely open your hand to your brother, to your needy and poor in your land'” (Deut. 15:11).


The Psalmist’s description of a righteous man is one who “has given freely to the poor, His righteousness endures forever; His horn will be exalted in honor” (112:9). Indeed, Solomon describes the Worthy Woman as one who “extends her hand to the poor, And she stretches out her hands to the needy” (Prov. 31:20). 

Do we grow weary from the many calls for help? Are we at times taken advantage of by con artists? Do we sometimes wish they would just go away? Do we honestly answer “Yes” to the questions? 

We certainly wish all would prosper and thus no need to dig into our pockets and give away what we have worked hard to earn. But God says that day will never come. People are poor for various reasons. Some are victimized by unfortunate things that have happened to them—accidents, illness (physical or mental), loss of a job. Some are hindered by parents who abuse them, either mentally or physically, and thus leave the children with no self-confidence and few skills. We have seen women and children abandoned by a husband and father who at one time provided for them. 

More than once we read of Paul’s concern about the poor saints in Jerusalem and Judea, as he more than once urged Christians in Macedonia, Corinth, Galatia and Rome to contribute to their needs. The Macedonians’ were impoverished themselves, but they gave so much that they had to beg Paul to receive their contribution: “…that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality. For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord, begging us with much urging for the favor of participation in the support of the saints, and this, not as we had expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God” (II Cor. 8:2-5).


“So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith” (Gal. 6:10). We have the poor with us in our own area, and we also have brethren here who are sometimes in need. We also have brethren in third world countries living in poverty who struggle day by day just to put food on the table. Even those less prosperous among us live beyond the dreams of many of these people. And what is our responsibility? “Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed” (I Tim. 6:17-19). 

“He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8) “And let us not be weary in well-doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Gal. 6:9) “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world” (James 1:27).


Jefferson David Tant 

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