Commands to Christians about the Poor Matthew 5.42…

Commands to Christians about the Poor

Matthew 5.42″Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.”

How many times have I walked past a homeless person who asked for some change? This is a direct command of the Messiah in the Sermon on the Mount. If I am to name Christ as my Lord then I must do as he says (Luke 6.46). Once John Wesley was walking down the road on a snowy day and he passed by a woman who was wearing only a very thin piece of cloth. He reached into his pocket and found only a couple of pennies. Suddenly, a realization hit him as he recalled buying a painting earlier that day: the money that would have clothed this poor creature of God is adorning the wall in my house. He never made that mistake again. He made sure he had money on him to give to him who asked. Do you have extra money on you so that you can “give to him who asks of you?”

Matthew 6.3 “But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing”

Jesus said, WHEN you give to the poor. This is not an optional activity. This is standard operating procedure. Giving to the poor is supposed to be normal. Do you regularly give to the poor?

Matthew 25.31-46 “But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him; and he will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and he will put the sheep on his right, and the goats on the left.

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. ‘For I was hungry, and you gave me {something} to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me {something} to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited me in; naked, and you clothed me; I was sick, and you visited me; I was in prison, and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry, and feed you, or thirsty, and give you {something} to drink? ‘And when did we see you a stranger, and invite you in, or naked, and clothe you? ‘When did we see you sick, or in prison, and come to you?’ “The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of mine, {even} the least {of them,} you did it to me.’

Then he will also say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave me {nothing} to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite me in; naked, and you did not clothe me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit me.’ “Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ “Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ “These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Imagine a college professor giving his students the exact questions that were going to be on the test the next day. Imagine if he gave both the questions and the answers. Wouldn’t it be bizarre if one of the students said, “I know he said these are questions and answers but I’m not sure if I really believe him. Does he really expect us to take him literally?” Jesus has already told us what he is going to say on Judgment Day. He is going to divide the people into two categories based on how they treated the hungry, thirsty, strangers, naked, sick, and imprisoned. I am not implying that if we do this one thing then we can “earn” our way into the kingdom but I’m sure of one thing: if we don’t do this we will be thrown into the “eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels.” Do you seek out the hungry, thirsty, sick, strangers, naked, and imprisoned in order to minister to Jesus by providing for their needs?

Luke 6.20, 24 “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God…but woe to you who are rich, for you are receiving your comfort in full.”

When is the last time you visited a poor Christian’s house and thought to yourself, “God must really be blessing this person, look how poor they are.” It is just the opposite. We enter a wealthy Christian’s house and they show us all of their “blessings” from God (big screen TV, Play Station 3, stylish curtains, fancy woodwork, rare paintings, etc.). How did we ever get so confused? Jesus is in the business of flipping everything upside down and we need to adjust our mindset to match his words. He said, “Blessed are the poor” that means the poor are blessed, simple as that. [Note: I am not saying that the poor who live in a constant state of covetousness are blessed. The ones who have to have the most stylish clothes, live above their means, play lotto incessantly, and have satellite hookups to watch worldly entertainment, have not “died to self” and need to repent. I am talking about followers of Christ who are poor]. Do you consider the poor blessed?

Luke 14.12-14″When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, otherwise they may also invite you in return and that will be your repayment. But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

Have you ever done this? Have you ever, even once, thought to yourself, “Who should I have over for dinner tonight, hmm… the Jones are pretty poor, they can’t even afford a car, I think I’ll invite them because they can’t repay me.” Of course not, we think to ourselves, “I’d like to have the Browns over because I enjoy their company and I’ll have a good time.” Perhaps we need to make a mental change here. Will you invite over the lame, blind, crippled even if it makes you uncomfortable?

Luke 19.8-9 “Zaccheus stopped and said to the Lord, ‘Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham.”

The specific thing he mentioned to Jesus was that he gave to the poor and didn’t rob anyone through collecting taxes. Jesus response was simple, ‘Today salvation has come to this house.’ He could have eaten with anyone, why did he choose Zaccheus? Isn’t it ironic that we are not as righteous as this tax collector?

Acts 6:1-3Now at this time while the disciples were increasing {in number,} a complaint arose on the part of the Hellenistic {Jews} against the {native} Hebrews, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily serving of food.} So the twelve summoned the congregation of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve
tables. “Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task.

The early church took care of widows as part of their daily ministry. In fact, this issue was so important to them that they searched to find seven men who were “of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom.” This was an important job that needed to be done right and the early church understood that taking care of the poor was crucial. Do we find our top people to take care of our poor, or is the care of the poor an afterthought?

Acts 10.3-4″About the ninth hour of the day he clearly saw in a vision an angel of God who had {just} come in and said to him, ‘Cornelius!’ And fixing his gaze on him and being much alarmed, he said, ‘What is it, Lord?’ And he said to him, ‘Your prayers and alms have ascended as a memorial before God.'”

Why did God send Peter to Cornelius? I’m sure there were plenty of others around that needed to hear the life-saving gospel of the kingdom. However, Cornelius was “a devout man and one who feared God with all his house-hold, and gave many alms to the Jewish people and prayed to God continually” (Acts 10.1). Nonetheless, when the angel spoke to Cornelius he mentioned his prayers and alms had ascended to God and that is why men from Joppa are coming to give you a message. Do your prayers AND alms ascend to God?

1 Corinthians 13.3 “And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.”

Giving to the poor needs to be the expression of love not some mechanical, heartless endeavor. There is no profit in God’s eyes for grudgingly giving out of obligation. Is your giving to feed the poor done out of love?

Galatians 2.9-10And recognizing the grace that had been given to me, James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, so that we {might} {go} to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. {They} only {asked} us to remember the poor–the very thing I also was eager to do.

The only thing James and the apostles were concerned with was giving to the poor. It is remarkable that taking care of the poor was such a priority for the early Church. Paul is delighted to hear this request because giving to the poor was “the very thing I also was eager to do.” Are you eager to give to the poor?

James 1.27 “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world”

Is your Christianity pure and undefiled? If so then you visit the less fortunate and you are not conformed to the world. Giving to the poor is a central part of being a disciple of Christ. May God grant us repentance in this area of our Christian walk. What excuse can I bring to the Lord of Lords on the Day of Judgment? When he says to me, “Why didn’t you care for the hungry, sick, thirsty, lame, downtrodden, widows, orphans, social outcasts, and imprisoned?” Will I say to him, “they were the lazy poor” or “they would have gotten drunk with the money” or “they would have gambled with it” or “it’s better to teach a man to fish than to give him a fish” or “welfare takes care of them” or “I didn’t know.” Then he will say, “‘Depart from me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave me {nothing} to eat…” There are plenty of Christians in third world countries slowly starving to death. We need to get outside of our little box and really seek to do what our Lord has commanded. Do you need to repent?


9 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by SteveP on December 17, 2006 at 3:53 am

    Bro. Sean,

    If we’re really serious about obeying the Lord’s commandments to give to the poor, then the first place to start is to, quite honestly, address the modern church structure which insists on collecting “tithes” to support buildings and programs, parsonages and pastor’s salaries.

    Then the money which is collected to pay for the overhead of the church building and for the professional ministers could instead go to meet the needs of the poorer saints, who ARE the church, and who scripturally speaking, are therefore the “storehouse”.

    Choose which you think might most please God:

    • $1,000 to a poor family to help with food and needs?
    • $1,000 for new sound equipment, building fund, or budget?
    • $1,000 to a white-suited, jet-flying TV evangelist?
    • $1,000 tithe to the Mercedes-driving pastor of a mega-church?
    Which most fits the expressed, written will of God to the Church?

    Which is most likely to be a blessing to the giver and the receiver? Which do you think most pleases God according to scripture?

    I think that what you wrote was right on point, but a big part of the problem is the modern church structure wasn’t designed or ordained by God. It robs the poor by taking the offerings meant for the needy and using it to pay the bills for the church building, etc.
    The offering were supposed to go to the saints – not the elders first, and then the leftovers to the needy saints.

    (1 Cor. 16:1) “Now concerning the collection FOR THE SAINTS, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye.”

    More on this later.

    In Him,



  2. Posted by sean on December 18, 2006 at 2:09 am

    Steve, great points there. I don’t think that the two are mutually exclusive. The simple fact is almost no one actually even gives 10% of their funds. There are few who even give regularly at all. It is not that people are tapped out financially and want to give to the poor. It is rather that we don’t really care abou the poor. We have been saturated with News about poor people in far away countries, welfare scams, and drunk/drug using pan handlers. The problem is us. We need to give to the poor. Obviously I also advocate supporting the local kingdom-unitarian ministry as well. Each individual can still give directly to the poor…not necessarily to a ministry that gives to the poor.


  3. Posted by SteveP on December 18, 2006 at 3:14 am


    Yes, but most churches still teach tithing and hold it like a sword over the membership. Tithing was part of the law which was fulfilled by Christ (like sacrifices). Everything we own now belongs to the Lord- 100%, and we are accounted as stewards over it.

    If churches operated according to scripture, then as Victor pointed out, all things would be held in common, and the needs of the poorer members of the Body of Christ would be met by the abundance of others. The poor Christ spoke of are the brethren first, not the unbelievers. I see nothing wrong with giving to unbelievers, but the needs of the poorer saints, widows, and orphans should come first.

    If the pastors today were truly following the scriptures, they would rely solely on faith, and live off of offerings and gifts, given from a cheerful giver. They would not teach tithing, nor would they refer to Malachi.

    “In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall all things be established.” You can’t find two or three witnesses for tithing in the New Testament. Tithing robs the poor in the church, who ought to receive first from the offerings collected for the saints.



  4. Posted by Preacher B on September 21, 2007 at 12:16 am

    “If the pastors today were truly following the scriptures, they would rely solely on faith, and live off of offerings and gifts, given from a cheerful giver.”

    1 Cor 4:11 To the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless.
    1 Cor 4:12 And we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure;
    1 Cor 4:13 being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things until now.
    1 Cor 4:14 I do not write these things to shame you, but as my beloved children I warn you.

    Fancy suits, fine cars, and fat bellies do not a preacher make.


  5. “Fancy suits, fine cars, and fat bellies do not a preacher make.”

    “Those who find My word and by faith speak My word it will be done. But, if they have never sought Me to find My will for them, they work iniquity and that is all the reward they will ever get.”

    “Those who have built monuments unto themselves called churches, that is all the reward they will ever get. They built not the body spiritually, but they built brick and mortar physically.”

    “Those who have built their ministries by shearing and fleecing My sheep. That is all the reward they will ever get.”

    “The many works that are being done on a regional or global scale in My name that is not of My will, but man’s plans, that is all the rewards they will ever get.”

    “When the denominational churches meet nationally called conventions and congratulate themselves on building projects, growth, and make plans for more of the same, that is all the rewards they will ever get.”

    “If we hold our works of God up before the world and our fellow man shouting look at what I am doing for the Kingdom and seeking approval from the world and fellow man, that is all the reward we will ever get.”

    “Only My disciples who obey My teachings by listening to the Spirit and obeying the Spirit feeding My sheep will have the greater rewards of heaven.”


  6. Hello, Give something to help those hungry people from Africa and India,
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  7. Posted by nabil bahou on November 25, 2008 at 8:37 am

    My beloved ones,

    Christianity is for serving the poor who are in need. Christ came to the poor and asked the rich to give. For the rich do not be afraid God will give more that you gave, the most important is giving not taking. That’s what differs us from other religion. We are commited to the poor and we let the poor to
    be the king. Wether Jesus is coming now or later just be prepared to the serve the poor and you will be rewarded after.
    I know that the Jews, moslims, buddist give to the poor but they not like us as committed to the poor because if we don’t put the attention to focus on the poor we are not Christians.

    Nabil Palastine


  8. Posted by TJ Barringer on June 19, 2012 at 6:12 pm

    I loved your article. It taught me many things including: Always have extra money with you to give to the needy, whenever someone is asking you for money give to them, and don’t treat people who can repay you but those who can’t.


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