REMEMBER THE POOR
God loves those who are poor. He will bless Christians who care for the poor. Do you see a connection between the fact that Zacchaeus gave half of his possessions to the poor and the fact that the Lord said “Today salvation has come to your house?” (Luke 19:9) The words “Remember the poor” provide one of the great challenges of Christianity. After his conversion, Paul labored among the Gentiles with the gospel. Now, 14 years later, God sent him to Jerusalem. He went up to Jerusalem by revelation. He was cordially received by the apostles and by men who were pillars in the church. James, Cephas and John were among those who received Paul. They extended to Paul and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship. Galatians 2 provides us with the powerful lesson that we must never give in to “false brethren.” There were false brethren who were demanding that Gentiles submit to ceremonies of the Old Covenant Law, like circumcision. Paul would not give in to their false teaching for a minute. Neither should we give in to false teaching or other religious nonsense. God sent Paul to Jerusalem to make these good brethren aware of what He had done through Paul among the Gentiles.
A great work among the Gentiles: At Jerusalem, accompanied by Barnabas and Titus, Paul freely discussed his work among the Gentiles. There were some false brethren at that meeting. Those false brethren attempted to cause controversy. They used circumcision to try to create confusion among Gentile Christians. Paul simply ignored them, saying he would not give in to them even for a moment. Let us learn to never listen to false teachers who come and go in the church. Paul reminded this group that preaching the gospel to the circumcision or the Jews had been committed to Peter. He also reminded them that preaching the gospel to the uncircumcised or the Gentiles had been committed to him. Paul did not take credit for the work among the Gentiles. He simply said that God had done a great work through Peter among the Jews. The same God had done a great work through Paul among the Gentiles. It was agreed that those brethren would continue to work among the Jews and Paul and his companions would continue their work among the Gentiles. Paul said the only thing that they asked of us was that we remember the poor. “Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do.” (Galatians 2:10) Paul was already remembering the poor and doing what he could to assist them. All of the apostles were in agreement on the importance of helping the poor. Helping the poor was a direct outgrowth of the gospel of Christ. Strong churches lovingly and caringly provide for the poor. Christians must remember the poor, and it is not just poor Christians that we are to remember. Galatians 6:10 says, “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” Christians, who have the heart of Christ, will imitate Him in remembering all the poor. Even if your enemy is needy in any way, do him good, and supply his needs. (Romans 12:20)
Concern for the poor in the Old Testament: The word “poor” is found 199 times in the King James Version of our Bible. All throughout the Old Testament we should be impressed with God’s concern for the poor. In Leviticus 19:9-10 we read, “And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not wholly reap the corners of thy field, neither shalt thou gather the gleanings of thy harvest. And thou shalt not glean thy vineyard, neither shalt thou gather every grape of thy vineyard; thou shalt leave them for the poor and stranger: I am the LORD your God.” God cared about the poor! However, He did not want to create a poor society that would not care about itself. His desire was that the poor work and earn their own living, even though it might mean gleaning in another man’s field. In the book of Deuteronomy, we also see God’s concern for the poor. “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: But thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth.” (Deuteronomy 15:7-8) Our benevolence toward the poor must be based upon the depth of their distress and upon their ability to do anything about their situation. Concern for the poor could never be expressed better than in Solomon’s words found in Proverbs 19:17. “He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the LORD; and that which he hath given will he pay him again.”
Concern for the poor in the New Testament: John said, “He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise.” (Luke 3:11) It is in harmony with the will of God that we share what we have with those who do not have. What Jesus taught concerning attending a feast should touch our heart. He said, “When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.” (Luke 14:12-14) It is in harmony with the will of God for you to invite your family or friends to dinner. However, when we do those things God wants us to especially remember the poor also. The picture that Jesus gave us concerning the judgment had to do with remembering the poor. (Matthew 25:31-46) God’s people must be concerned about those who are naked, hungry, cold or struggling in other ways. What have you done for the poor? The challenge is that we “Remember the poor.” When you reach out to those who are poor and struggling you are reaching out to the Lord Himself. How do you use your wealth? It should be our goal to use what we have for the good of our fellow man.
Paul promised the Corinthian Christians that as a result of giving they would be blessed in all good things. “Being enriched in every thing to all bountifuless, which causeth through us thanksgiving to God.” (2 Corinthians 9:11) Much of their giving was focused on remembering the poor. Paul preached the gospel at Corinth and taught them how to become a Christian. (1 Corinthians 15:1-4; Acts 18:8) To become a Christian, you must hear the gospel (Romans 10:17), believe in Jesus as Lord (Romans 10:9-10), repent of sins (Acts 2:38), confess Christ (Acts 8:37) and be baptized to be saved. (1 Peter 3:21) When a heart and life is given to the Lord Jesus Christ, that heart and life will be characterized by generosity. “He is no fool to give what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
By Charles Box, Walnut Street Church of Christ, 306 Walnut Street, Greenville, Alabama 36037