He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward him for what he has done.
I had to read this verse a couple of times to catch it. God says, "If you are kind to the poor, I regard that as kindness to me. And I will reward you for the kindness you have shown."
Jesus said the poor are always with us. There will always be someone who needs help, someone who lost a job because of downsizing, outsourcing, a sagging economy, or illness. People in these circumstances need help. They especially need help around holiday time. Some stores put up a Christmas tree with the names and wish lists of local people who need gifts for their children. Prison ministries provide names to local churches to help supply Christmas for the children of inmates. Community food banks raise and distribute food for those who are financially stressed.
Proverbs says, "God regards any help you give these people as help you have given him." That should encourage a kind and generous heart!
But what about people who are poor because they choose to be? It is not because of downsizing, outsourcing, a sagging economy, corporate misdeeds, or illness that has them out of work. They just don’t want to work. They may have discovered that social agencies and local churches are a great source of blessing even for those who don’t want to work! What do we do with them?
In the New Testament, the apostle Paul said, "If a man will not work, he shall not eat" (2 Thess. 3:10). Sounds harsh, but Paul has a purpose in offering this charge. He is concerned that men are idle. Because they had too much time on their hands, they became busybodies and caused trouble. One of the remedies is for them to "settle down and earn the bread they eat" (2 Thess. 3:12). That is, they should work.
I agree with that. But what about the children? What about the children of those who refuse to work? They can’t help it that mom or dad is an idler, a busybody or a lazy person. Should they go without food too?
Verses like Proverbs 19:17 help me process this problem. "He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord." I can’t ever know all the circumstances behind a person’s poverty, whether it is circumstances beyond their control or laziness. This much I can know: God sees and rewards the efforts of those who are kind to the poor.
This message is not limited to Proverbs alone. The prophets especially renounce those who neglect or abuse the poor. The Law and the Psalms extol the generous heart that shares with the poor. "Maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy" (Ps. 82:3–4).
Even though I may not ever know the circumstances that create poverty for a family’s life, whether it is beyond their control or is the direct result of their own choices, I can know this: God is pleased with the person who is moved with compassion for the needy and steps in to help. "He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward him for what he has done."
If you happen upon someone today who needs help, let your actions be shaped by the one who is concerned with the needy and is waiting to bless you for the good you will do.
From Roaring Lions, Cracking Rocks and Other Gems From Proverbs. I will have a drawing for several copies of this on Family Fountain in a couple of weeks.