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True religion is practical. To be sure, it includes obedience to God’s commands (Exodus 20:3-17), but it is really in the life lived before one’s fellows that the presence or absence of true religion is manifest.
The Bible teaches the principle of practical godliness: “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). The needy poor have a claim on those who are not poor; and the help they require should be given without hesitation and not with a spirit of regret. 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).
Practical godliness is the only kind of religion recognized at the judgment bar of God. Jesus declared, “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 25:34–46).
The principle involved in the statement of Matthew 25:40 is well illustrated in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25–37). Thus, 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.
Fulfill the law of Christ
In making the needs of others our responsibility we reflect this same aspect of the divine character. When we reflect the character of Jesus perfectly, we will feel as He does toward those in need, and through us He will be able to comfort and help others. The best evidence of love for God is love that leads us to bear “one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2; 1 John 3:14–19). The best evidence that a person has become a son of God is that he does the merciful works of God (John 8:44).
Faith and works
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 converted life—deeds that spring forth spontaneously because of the motivation 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 express itself in habitual good actions will never save any soul, but neither will good deeds without genuine faith (Romans 3:28).
The fast that God requires
The true purpose of religion is to release men from their burdens of sin, and to help the poor and needy. “Is this not the fast that I have chosen: To loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; when you see the naked, that you cover him, and not hide yourself from your own flesh? (Isaiah 58:6,7).
God’s blessings on the givers
The Lord 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 people glorifies God (Matthew 5:16).
Using wisdom in giving
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,