Helping the Helpless
God values relationships. He values His relationship with man. But He also places a high value on the relationships that man has with one another. Throughout the scriptures, God has shared high expectations in how we treat one another.
The Torah had expressed commands to provide protection for the helpless. God expressly forbade the exploitation of those in need. Through Moses He said, “You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child.” (Exodus 22:21–22). The Israelites were instructed to open wide their hands to those in need rather than close their fists (Deuteronomy 15:7, 11).
Most are familiar with the story of Ruth and Boaz. Boaz ensured that Ruth could receive the food she needed by having his workers leave extra for her to harvest. He went further than the Law commanded. But the Law did command that all of Israel should leave the edges of their fields unharvested in order to provide for others (Leviticus 23:22).
It is interesting to note that Israel’s mistreatment of the helpless was always a sign of their departure from the Lord. Notice what Amos says of Israel:
“Thus says the Lord: “For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment, because they sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals— those who trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth and turn aside the way of the afflicted; a man and his father go in to the same girl, so that my holy name is profaned;” (Amos 2:6–7) Israel took advantage of the less fortunate. They trampled those in need. And God considered this a form of profaning His name.
This same theme is continued in the New Testament. In Matthew 25, Jesus presents three stories about judgment. The final story is the judgment scene where the Son of Man sits on the throne of judgment. What separates the sheep from the goats in that story? The way the people cared for those who were in need (vv. 35–45). This follows the command Paul gave to, “…do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10).
Jesus was the ultimate example of this care and concern for those in need. John compares His sacrifice to our love and care for others. He wrote:
“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 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? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” (1 John 3:16–18)
Jesus expects this love and concern to be manifested in action. It is something that is done—not just talked about. Jesus was the ultimate example of that attitude. Paul told the Philippian brethren to put others first and have the same mind that Jesus did (2:3–7). The key to that attitude was counting others as more significant than self.
It is important to realize that providing for those in need includes more than monetary needs. It includes providing for one another emotionally and physically. It includes providing for God’s people in any way possible.
Why did God take so much time to teach on this concept of care for one another? Perhaps it is because He knew it was contrary to the flesh. Paul said that jealousy and strife were characteristics of the “human way” and contrary to being “spiritual people” (1 Corinthians 3:1–3). In other words, God knew mankind would struggle to love one another.
Today, you have an opportunity to provide for the helpless. That can take on a variety of forms: visiting the sick, encouraging the weak, caring for the widow, adopting the orphan, etc. It can simply be a hug offered to the hurting person in the pew next to you. It may be defending someone who has been the subject of gossip. Any and all of those things are forms of providing and loving the helpless. Will you seize those opportunities this week?
Understand that we often overlook those opportunities because we simply aren’t looking for them. Rather than going through life understanding we have a responsibility to share the love of Christ with others in need, we walk through life looking for the next way to take care of self. We view people as a way to get to our destination rather than someone who needs assistance. So much so, that we often overlook those in need. Or worse, we cross the street to avoid them because they don’t figure into our plans. That’s what the priest and the Levite did when they saw the victim in Luke 10:29–37. They avoided him at all cost. Are you more like the Samaritan? Or the priest and Levite?
This week, will you help the helpless? Or, will you simply take care of you? Which one does God want you to do?