Isa. 58:6-7 π Lk. 16:20 π Jn. 15:5 π Acts 3:2 π Jas. 2:15-16
In the time the Bible was written - as is also true in many third world countries even today - there were many, many beggars who lined the streets begging for money or even food. The Bible even points out the custom of beggars sitting next to the gate of the Temple ( Acts 3:2 ) and near the gate of rich men. ( Lk. 16:20; top ) Thus begging was done personally - and the giving of money to these beggars was done personally.
And, for the Christian, this is as it should be. God said to Isaiah: "Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter - when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?" ( Isa. 58:6-7; top )
To miss the personal nature of the Lord's words to Isaiah is more than having a pronoun problem - it is having a complete misunderstanding of the Lord's intentions toward the poor and afflicted.
James reiterated this concept in the New Testament. "If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,' but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?" ( Jas. 2:15-16; top )
Again, we must notice the personal nature with which James addresses this to "you." If you do not give them something to meet their need, it is worthless.
In our materialistic culture, we have come up with a curious solution to meeting the needs of the poor and afflicted - and in so doing we have insulated ourselves from them. First, we instituted a bureaucratic solution - we pushed the poor and afflicted away from the churches and to the government where they can now receive financial and housing assistance. Then technology has given us a second way to insulate ourselves from them - the automobile. We just lock our doors, roll up our windows and press the accelerator a little harder (and harden our hearts in the process) and soon the poor and needy (should they happen to place themselves on one of our streets) are soon left behind - out of sight, out of mind.
This insulating ourselves from the poor and needy has a twofold effect. First, it causes our own hearts to be hardened and calloused. We have no firsthand knowledge of the suffering in this world the way our loving Savior does - and, as a result, we are not as motivated as He is to reach out and meet needs. Oh how we need a revelation of His heart toward the suffering widows, orphans and "leasts" of this world!
Second, we learn to rely on vicarious methods to express our "love" for these people. We place offerings in the box or plate earmarked for the "homeless ministry" or we send a contribution to this or that charity - and we think we have fulfilled our Biblical obligations to the poor! Nothing could be further from the truth. As was said above, to miss the personal nature of the Lord's words is more than having a pronoun problem - it is having a complete misunderstanding of the Lord's intentions toward the poor and afflicted.
None of this is to suggest that we should rush out and try to meet every need everywhere. Not only is it physically impossible, but it would prove personally debilitating as well. What I am suggesting is that we open our hearts to the Lord that we might receive a revelation of His compassion for the lost and hurting people of this world - and that we might then open our ears to His Holy Spirit who would personally direct us in meeting specific needs of specific people so that they might see that Jesus truly lives in us.
To do anything less is to participate in the current New Age gospel of practicing random acts of kindness. Unless our every action is being guided by the Holy Spirit, our "charity" is only going to be self-serving and devoid of any eternal fruit. Jesus still says, "Without Me, you can do nothing." ( Jn. 15:5; top )
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