INTRO: ILL – You’ve seen them on the side of the road, or sitting outside the restaurant, or lining up to get out of the cold… they have signs that say “broke down, need help,” “unemployed and homeless, anything helps” or “spent all my money on cardboard and markers.” And you ask: Does this person really need help? How do I know this isn’t a con? Can’t they work? Aren’t they just going to use the money for alcohol or drugs? The government has programs to help people like that. Why don’t they go there?
ILL – There was “a man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead.” I imagine the Priest and the Levite asked the same things as they passed by on the other side of the road. And yet Jesus said to go and help the poor, like the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).
Why should we help the poor? We should help the poor, because:
1. God has always provided for them. Exodus 23:10-11
a. There are multiple levels to this command: even the best producing land needed to rest from production occasionally.
b. This command was about the Israelites having enough faith to allow God to provide enough in the sixth year that they didn’t need anything during the seventh.
i. But more than that, the Israelites were to do this to show their compassion on the poor. Sabbath-keeping was intended to be a faith based and humanitarian practice.
c. God did something similar in Leviticus 19:9-10. He commanded them to give up something that they owned for the mercy and benefit of the poor.
d. God has always cared about the poor and helpless. Psalm 146:9 – “The Lord watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless…”
e. God has always taken care of those who cannot take care of themselves.
f. And if God provides for them, so should we, as people of God.
g. We should help the poor, because: 1)God has always provided for them.
2. Jesus cared for them. Luke 14:12-14, and 18:22
a. “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him” (Acts 10:38).
b. Jesus always cared about those who didn’t have. Jesus was always concerned with helping the poor.
c. And as imitators of Christ, we must care for the poor as well.
i. “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4).
d. We should help the poor, because: 2)Jesus cared for them.
3. Compassion is at the heart of pure religion. James 1:27
a. Religion has always been about a relationship with God and others. And giving is at the heart of pure religion.
b. So giving is not just a thing we do, because we are supposed to. Giving is about relationship. I visit orphans because no one else is there for them. I visit widows that are in need because I love them.
c. If I want to participate in pure religion, I have to seek relationships. We must know each other’s needs in order to help. And we must know each other in order to know each other’s needs.
i. And when we know each other, we can more easily see how we can help.
d. Our giving should be first to those who are fellow Christians. But our command to give to other Christians does not eliminate our responsibility to help those outside of Christ.
e. Galatians 6:9-10 – “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”
f. We must find ways to give to non-Christians as well.
g. Jesus often healed and fed people in order to get to know them and teach them.
h. Serving the physical needs of non-Christians may open doors for a relationship and helping them spiritually.
i. We should help the poor, because: 3)Compassion is at the heart of pure religion.
4. Generosity proves that our faith is alive. James 2:14-18
a. Faith has always been about action (Hebrews 11).
i. ILL – Abraham left his home and everything he knew because he believed God would provide a better place for him (Hebrews 11:8).
ii. ILL – Moses’ parents hid him for 3 months as a baby, because they were not afraid of the king and knew God would provide (Hebrews 11:23).
iii. ILL – The Israelites circled the city of Jericho for 7 days because they believed God would destroy the walls (Hebrews 11:30).
b. Our faith today is about action! If we believe God will provide for us, why do we hang on to our stuff so tightly?
c. We must prove our faith! Giving to others not only helps them, but proves to God and myself that I have faith!
d. We should help the poor, because: 4)Generosity proves that our faith is alive.
5. We will be judged by our giving. Matthew 25:31-46
a. The judgment scene only has two possible outcomes: eternal life or eternal punishment. There is no middle ground. There is no third option.
b. Eternal life is a reward for the righteous who obediently serve their King. They inherit the heavenly kingdom that has been prepared for them since before the beginning of time!
i. And their eternal reward is based on their giving to others while they were alive.
c. Eternal punishment is the fate of the wicked who did not obey the King. Instead of being blessed, they are cursed! Instead of enjoying fellowship with God, they are thrown out of His presence. Their end is eternal fire and unending pain.
i. And their punishment is based on what they did in this life and their lack of generosity toward others.
d. “But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him?” (1 John 3:17).
e. God will not judge us solely on how much we give to others. But remember, our giving is a reflection of our spiritual life.
f. If I have a relationship with God, I will give. If I do not give, it is because I am not right with God.
g. We should help the poor, because: 1)God has always provided for them, 2)Jesus cared for them, 3)Compassion is at the heart of pure religion, 4)Generosity proves that our faith is alive, 5)We will be judged by our giving.
CONCLUSION: How is your spiritual life today? Are you going to heaven? One clear sign is to check how much you give. If your generosity is lacking, then it’s time to make some changes – not just with your checkbook, but with your faith!