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Pleading The Cause Of The Poor And Needy


Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
Speak up and judge fairly;
defend the rights of the poor and needy. (Proverbs 31:8-9)

The poor are people having little or no wealth, owning few or no possessions, and lacking in financial or other resources. And they will always be with us, living among us. They will remain as a part of our society. Jesus told His disciples, “For you have the poor with you always, but Me you do not have always.” (Matthew 26:11)

The Bible instructs us to defend those who are destitute and not able to defend themselves, and to speak out for the poor and helpless, seeing that they get justice. God instructs us to show care and concern for them, as they are our brothers and sisters in humanity.

"If there is among you a poor man of your brethren,
within any of the gates in your land
which the LORD your God is giving you,
you shall not harden your heart
nor shut your hand from your poor brother,
but you shall open your hand wide to him
and willingly lend him sufficient for his need,
whatever he needs.
Beware lest there be a wicked thought in your heart,
saying, 'The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand,'
and your eye be evil against your poor brother
and you give him nothing,
and he cry out to the LORD against you,
and it become sin among you.
You shall surely give to him,
and your heart should not be grieved
when you give to him,
because for this thing the LORD your God will bless you
in all your works and in all to which you put your hand.
For the poor will never cease from the land;
therefore I command you, saying,
'You shall open your hand wide to your brother,
to your poor and your needy, in your land.'
(Deut. 15:7-11)

The poor will never cease from the land, and we must open our hands wide to reach out and touch the poor and needy in our land. God commands us to do so because God Himself takes up the task in pleading the cause of the poor and needy.

For He will deliver the needy when he cries,
The poor also, and him who has no helper.
He will spare the poor and needy,
And will save the souls of the needy.
He will redeem their life from oppression and violence;
And precious shall be their blood in His sight. (Psalm 72:12-14)

God promises to satisfy the poor with bread because He cares for them:

I will abundantly bless her provision;
I will satisfy her poor with bread. (Psalm 132:15)

This divine compassion for the poor and needy is clearly rooted in the mission statement of the Gospel of Christ:

The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD. (Luke 4:18-19)

Jesus showed compassion for the poor as He shared the message of the kingdom of God:

Then He lifted up His eyes toward His disciples, and said:
"Blessed are you poor,
For yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who hunger now,
For you shall be filled.” (Luke 6:20-21)

Jesus traveled around throughout all the cities and villages in Israel, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. Wherever He went, He healed people of every kind of illness and disease. He had compassion upon them because their problems were so great, and they didn't know what to do or where to go for help. They were like sheep without a shepherd.

Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages,
teaching in their synagogues,
preaching the gospel of the kingdom,
and healing every sickness
and every disease among the people.
But when He saw the multitudes,
He was moved with compassion for them,
because they were weary and scattered,
like sheep having no shepherd. (Matthew 9:35-36)

Jesus preached the gospel to the poor and needy. He even instructed a rich young man to sell all his possessions, and distribute them to the poor. But the "poor" rich man was not able to do so.

Now a certain ruler asked Him, saying,
"Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?"

So Jesus said to him,
"Why do you call Me good?
No one is good but One, that is, God.
You know the commandments:
'Do not commit adultery,'
'Do not murder,'
'Do not steal,'
'Do not bear false witness,'
'Honor your father and your mother.' "

And he said, "All these I have kept from my youth."

So when Jesus heard these things,
He said to him, "You still lack one thing.
Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor,

and you will have treasure in heaven;
and come, follow Me."

But when he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich.

And when Jesus saw that he became very sorrowful,
He said, "How hard it is for those
who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!
For it is easier for a camel to go
through the eye of a needle
than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

And those who heard it said, "Who then can be saved?"

But He said, "The things which are impossible with men
are possible with God."

Then Peter said, "See, we have left all and followed You."

So He said to them, "Assuredly, I say to you,
there is no one who has left house or parents
or brothers or wife or children,
for the sake of the kingdom of God,
who shall not receive
many times more in this present time,
and in the age to come everlasting life." (Luke 18:18-30)

These truths are very hard to digest. Even now, many Christians choose to remain unconcerned and indifferent towards the needs of the poor living among us. The Church, at large, has lost her touch in ministering to the needs of the poor and destitute. The gospel message is now being preached mainly to those who are rich, wealthy and not poor. We have discriminated ourselves from the poor, and worse still, sometimes against them.

You shall do no injustice in judgment.
You shall not be partial to the poor,
nor honor the person of the mighty.
In righteousness you shall judge your neighbor. (Lev. 19:15)

Today, many church leaders and members still show favoritism to rich people but look down on poor people, judging a man by his wealth and social status. This clearly shows that we are guided by wrong motives and secret agendas.

My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the Lord of glory, with partiality.
For if there should come into your assembly
a man with gold rings, in fine apparel,
and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes,
and you pay attention
to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him,
"You sit here in a good place,"
and say to the poor man, "You stand there,"
or, "Sit here at my footstool,"
have you not shown partiality among yourselves,
and become judges with evil thoughts?
Listen, my beloved brethren:
Has God not chosen the poor of this world
to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom
which He promised to those who love Him?
But you have dishonored the poor man.
Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts?
Do they not blaspheme that noble name by which you are called?
If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture,
"You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you do well;
but if you show partiality, you commit sin,
and are convicted by the law as transgressors.
For whoever shall keep the whole law,
and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. (James 2:1-10)

We must obey our Lord's command to love and help our neighbors just as much as we love and take care of ourselves. Our neighbors include the poor and the needy living among us. We must show them compassion in caring for their needs and well-being. If we employ them, we must never oppress them by withdrawing their wages or what belong to them. They must be paid on a daily basis (not a monthly basis) as they need the money right away.

Never oppress a poor hired man,
whether a fellow Israelite or a foreigner living in your town.
Pay him his wage each day before sunset,
for since he is poor he needs it right away;
otherwise he may cry out to the Lord against you
and it would be counted as a sin against you. (Deut 24:14-15)

Oppressing the poor is like insulting their Maker Who made them, but helping the needy is to honor God.

He who oppresses the poor reproaches his Maker,
But he who honors Him has mercy on the needy. (Proverbs 14:31)

The Lord says, "The people of Israel have sinned again and again,
and I will not forget it.
I will not leave them unpunished any more.
For they have perverted justice by accepting bribes
and sold into slavery the poor
who can't repay their debts;
they trade them for a pair of shoes.

They trample the poor in the dust
and kick aside the meek. (Amos 2:6-7)

Just like the Israelites, many Christians have sinned again and again in taking advantage of the poor and perverting justice even in the courts. Money talks, and gives the rich special privileges and treatments, and very often, against the poor and needy.

You shall not pervert the judgment of your poor in his dispute.
Keep yourself far from a false matter;
do not kill the innocent and righteous.
For I will not justify the wicked.
And you shall take no bribe,
for a bribe blinds the discerning
and perverts the words of the righteous. (Exodus 23:6-8)

For I know how many are your offenses
and how great your sins.
You oppress the righteous and take bribes
and you deprive the poor of justice in the courts. (Amos 5:12)

On the contrary, we must offer help and assistance to the poor freely with open hands.

If there is a poor man among your brothers
in any of the towns of the land
that the LORD your God is giving you,
do not be hardhearted
or tightfisted toward your poor brother.
Rather be openhanded
and freely lend him whatever he needs. (Deut. 15:7-8)

Why? Simply because God Himself shows no partiality and takes no bribes. He gives justice to the fatherless and widows. He loves them, and gives them food and clothing.

For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords,
the great God, mighty and awesome,
Who shows no partiality nor takes a bribe.
He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow,
and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing.
Therefore love the stranger,
for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. (Deut 10:17-19)

We need to share our food with the hungry, giving shelter and clothes to the homeless. They, in God’s sight, are our own flesh and blood.

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? (Isaiah 58:6-7)

God identifies Himself with the poor. When we help the poor, we are lending to the Lord. And He pays wonderful interest on our loans!

He who has pity on the poor lends to the LORD,
And He will pay back what he has given. (Prov 19:17)

Jesus shared a parable about a shepherd separating his sheep from the goats:

"When the Son of Man comes in His glory,
and all the holy angels with Him,
then He will sit on the throne of His glory.
All the nations will be gathered before Him,
and He will separate them one from another,
as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats.
And He will set the sheep on His right hand,
but the goats on the left.
Then the King will say to those on His right hand,
'Come, you blessed of My Father,
inherit the kingdom prepared for you
from the foundation of the world:
for I was hungry and you gave Me food;
I was thirsty and you gave Me drink;
I was a stranger and you took Me in;
I was 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, saying,
'Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You,
or thirsty and give You drink?
When did we see You a stranger and take You in,
or naked and clothe You?
Or when did we see You sick,
or in prison, and come to You?'

"And the King will answer and say to them,
'Assuredly, I say to you,
inasmuch as you did it
to one of the least of these My brethren,
you did it to Me.'

"Then He will also say to those on the left hand,
'Depart from Me, you cursed,
into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels:
for I was hungry and you gave Me no food;
I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink;
I was a stranger and you did not take Me in,
naked and you did not clothe Me,
sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.'

"Then they also will answer Him, saying,
'Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty
or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison,
and did not minister to You?'

"Then He will answer them, saying,
'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch
as you did not do it to one of the least of these,
you did not do it to Me.'

"And these will go away into everlasting punishment,
but the righteous into eternal life." (Matthew 25:31-46)

The message of Jesus is very clear. We must take our responsibility in showing compassion for the poor and needy, ministering to their cares and needs. Jesus also instructed us to invite the poor whenever we have a feast. No poor should be left out!

Then He also said to him who invited Him,
"When you give a dinner or a supper,
do not ask your friends, your brothers,
your relatives, nor rich neighbors,
lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid.
But when you give a feast,
invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind.

And you will be blessed,
because they cannot repay you;
for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just." (Luke 14:12-14)

The apostle Paul exhorted us to always remember the poor, and to do it with eagerness.

They desired only that we should remember the poor,
the very thing which I also was eager to do. (Galatians 2:10)

The apostle John told us how to know true love by following Christ's example, loving in deed and in truth, and not just in words alone.

By this we know love,
because He laid down His life for us.
And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
But whoever has this world's goods,
and sees his brother in need,
and shuts up his heart from him,
how does the love of God abide in him?

My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue,
but in deed and in truth. (1 John 3:16-18)

Finally, to be Christians who are pure and faultless in our Heavenly Father's sight, we must take good care of orphans and widows. We must remain true to the Lord, not contaminated by worldly standards and ways.

Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this,
To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction,
and to keep himself unspotted from the world. (James 1:27)

Source:
Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary

Written on:
27 December 2007