What does the Bible say about helping the needy?

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The OT and the needy

The Bible teaches the principle of helping the needy: “For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land” (Deuteronomy 15:11 also v. 7,8). The needy and the poor have a claim on those who are not poor; and the help they require should be given without hesitation. In fact, the Bible teaches “He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord, and He will pay back what he has given” (Proverbs 19:17).

And the Lord God promised, “Blessed is he who considers the poor; the LORD will deliver him in time of trouble” (Psalm 41:1). God delights when His children are a blessing to the needy and use the means within their reach to do good to others, especially those who cannot give anything in return (Acts 20:35). For blessing others glorifies God (Matthew 5:16).

Jesus and the needy

The great final test regards the extent to which the values of true religion have been applied to daily life, especially in relationship to the needs of our fellow beings. Of the time of Judgement, Jesus would say, “Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:  for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in;  I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me’” (Matthew 25:34-36)

Giving to the needy is summarized in the golden rule taught by Jesus, “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets” (Matthew 7:12). Jesus also taught that His children should be generous and “Give to everyone who asks you for something. Don’t turn anyone away who wants to borrow something from you” (Matthew 5:42). And He added, “He that hath two coats, let him impart to him” (Luke 3:10-11).

The disciples and the needy

The disciples also followed the example of Jesus for Paul taught, “Supply the needs of the saints. Extend hospitality to strangers” (Romans 12:13). And He exhorted the early believers saying, “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God” (Hebrews 13:16); and to “give generously to others in need” (Ephesians 4:27-28).

The Bible is very clear that doing good to the needy is more than just words and offering prayer, but putting our faith into action. The epistle of James stresses the necessity of both faith and works in a genuine Christian experience. Works become the conduct of a transformed life—deeds that spring forth naturally because of faith. “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?” (James 2:14-16). Faith that does not show itself in daily good works will never save any soul, but neither will good deeds without genuine faith (Romans 3:28).

Using wisdom in helping others

The Bible also presents guidelines to giving so that no one will take advantage of the generosity of the believers. The believers should not encourage laziness by their support for “He who does not work does not eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10). And giving to the poor should not be at the cost of neglecting one’s own family needs (1 Timothy 5:8). However, if we know there is good that we can do and choose to ignore it, then that would be sin (James 4:17).

In His service,

BibleAsk Team

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