“For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good:”
In this time of giving, when there is general emphasis in our country upon “doing good” to all, there are principles which many Christians also tend to don for the Holidays, which the Bible never makes seasonal.
Before we get there, however, we should look closer at the verse. In the context, Jesus is actually speaking of an occasion where the poor should not be the primary concern of the disciples. Instead, they should have taken account of the fact that Christ would not always be with them to be shown adoration.
Too often it seems that Christians get caught up in giving to some organization, or some “charity” and neglect the house of God. God has commanded, whether you believe in tithing or some other form is regardless, God has commanded Christians to give to His house for the providing of the local ministry and for the providing of Christians in need outside our local ministry — missions, etc. This is commanded. So in our time of holiday cheer, and giving, remember, that the church comes first. It is not up to us to depend on some non-Christian organization to spread social good. We are to work in the church to spread eternal good. The poor will always be there, your local church may not if you neglect your obligations.
Secondly, the poor will always be here. This season should not be the one time each year that we recognize that there are poor, and that we do something to help them. The Bible speaks in detail about the poor, and how God wants us to care for the poor, and how God sees and hears their cries.
Deut. 15:7 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:
Deut. 15:11 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.
Ps. 9:18 For the needy shall not always be forgotten: the expectation of the poor shall not perish for ever.
Isa. 41:17 When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the LORD will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them.
Over and over the Scriptures talk of the poor and needy. Passages could fill pages of the verses. We need to understand how God feels about these “lower class” citizens.
Care for the poor. Too often the conversation is fluent about what should and should not be done while the actual doing is stammered and halted. Recently, I was approached at a gas station by someone asking for some spare change. In his request, he said he just wanted to buy some food and some cigarettes. We gave him what we normally give: $5 with a tract. I thought only for a moment of the many that would say “Don’t give it to him, hes going to waste it on cigarettes!” That is not up to me. Besides, the Bible never says “Do not smoke,” and it does make it obvious that the wicked are those that neglect and oppress the poor. They need to know there is a great God that owns, loves, and requires things of them, not that they shouldn’t smoke.
I am to give to the poor and needy. I am to not despise them. I am to give to them lest they cry out to the Lord against me, for He will hear. Others say, “$5 is a lot. Why not just give the change in your car seats?” Because I am to open my hand wide to them. I am not saying $5 is wide. I think it is a step. I don’t know if it is enough but it is a start for us.
Remember that during these months, giving is heightened for everyone, but this season will soon pass. The poor will still be there. The cold will still be cold. The needy will still be in need. We are not to shut up our bowels of compassion to them. We are to be generous, not just giving out of our extra, but making a sacrifice to give to someone who does not have.
I don’t say this to the exclusion of the Gospel. I am not advocating that we socially try to bring reform and in the process give the Gospel. Caring for the poor is not just a nice thing to do, it is a command and it is close to the heart of God.
Ps. 41:1 Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the LORD will deliver him in time of trouble.