[Where I live, lots of people ask me for money. This post is one of several in search of a biblical view of giving to the poor. The introduction is here. I believe the process of finding a biblical stance is at least as important as the conclusions to which I come. For this reason, I intend to post portions of several 3-column studies that have helped me arrive where I have on these issues. For the sake of brevity (not one of my gifts), I’m not including all I’ve discovered in these studies, but rather only those realizations which have pointed me toward my current stance on giving. For a better understanding of what a 3-column study is and why it’s important, see these instructions.]
Rather than post column 1, I will simply direct you to Psalm 112. Below is a summary and restatement in my own words:
Praise God. The man who delights in God and his commands experiences true life. His children are influential and privileged wherever they go. He always has plenty, and his right relationship with God lasts forever. Even in bad times, good is just around the corner for this man — because he is concerned about others and takes care of them. Good things come to this man who regards everyone as valuable and generously gives and lends his money to others. He stands firm, unmoved by the shifting world around him, his character never wavering. He is not disturbed by bad news, because his heart is wholly given to God, and he trusts him in every situation. He is never afraid, even among his enemies, because he knows he will triumph in the end. He already has spread his wealth among the poor, and his good reputation will endure for all time and bring him honor. Wicked men see his life and are troubled, because it is a reminder and forewarning of what is coming for them: misery and broken dreams.
What I’ve learned:
- This passage describes 1) the man who loves God and obeys his commands, and 2) the blessings and happiness that are his as a result.
- He always has plenty (wealth and riches…).
- He is concerned about others and takes care of them.
- He counts all people as important and worthy of his attention.
- He generously gives and lends his money to those in need.
- He receives good things in his life as a result of his giving to others.
- He has scattered his gifts to poor people everywhere.
Compassion and concern for the poor are ever-present realities in the life of the Christian. Caring for those less fortunate is a necessary response if we love God and are to be obedient to him. Giving to those in need is inseparably linked to righteousness.
It’s interesting that in this passage we find only three tangible actions listed to describe this man: 1) he conducts his affairs with justice, 2) he generously gives and lends to others, and 3) he has spread his wealth out among the poor. All three have to do specifically with how we treat others, namely those who are less entitled; and two of them explicitly demonstrate giving or lending to these less fortunate.
Other items of note:
- It is at least implied (if not stated plainly) that the giving here is of wealth, money, and/or material goods. Not Bible instruction, prayer, or good advice.
- The legitimacy of the need, or the standards by which legitimacy is determined, are not discussed in this text. Though it does seem to be clear that the righteous man is giving and lending to those who are actually poor.
- There seems to be a connection (or even a promise) between giving to others and receiving wealth ourselves.
- There is definitely a connection (and promise) of blessing and good things for the man who is generous.
- Not directly related to giving, but it’s so important that we see the link between loving God and being obedient to him.
- Also not directly related to giving, yet important, is that we see the link between righteousness and my own happiness. My righteousness even affects the happiness of my children — and their future blessings and influence.
If you care to join me in this study, I’d encourage you to do so. Especially if you’ve never attempted a 3-column study before. The next post in this series will come from 2 Corinthians 9:6-15.