Remember the Poor

In Galatians 2:9–10, Paul writes that James, Cephas, and John extended fellowship under one condition:  “Only, they asked us to remember the poor…” Remember the poor? Of all the important things these three original ­apostles could have suggested, they chose benevolence.

The work of benevolence is one that has always been expected among God’s people. The Law of Moses demanded it (Ex. 23:10–11; Lev. 19:9–10; Deut. 15:7–11). The prophets encouraged it (Jer. 22:16; Dan. 4:27). Amos ­chastised the people of his day for oppressing those in poverty (Amos 2:6–7). Throughout Israel’s history, their treatment of the poor is a sign of their relationship with God.

Jesus taught of the need to care for the poor as well (Matt. 7:12; Luke 6:36, 38; John 13:29). We are told when we fail to meet the benevolent needs of our brother, we fail to truly love him (1 John 3:14–18). Just like the Israelites then, our relationship with God is manifested in how we treat the needy and downtrodden.

Certainly, there are limitations to benevolence. Benevolence in the form of a work of the church is only seen in scripture extended to Christians. (There is no example of a church extending benevolence to one who is not saved.) But as individuals, our responsibility is to help all men (Gal. 6:10). Sadly, it appears we spend so much time dwelling on the distinctions and limitations that we fail to help those who are in need. I wonder if we are as “eager” as Paul was to be mindful of the poor.

Or, are we guilty of showing preference to those who are wealthy over those in poverty? Do we look at certain people who dress certain ways, live in certain areas, or perhaps have certain skin tones and consider them as more worthy of our aid? James said we should avoid such prejudices (James 2:1–9). Paul said we should help “all men” (Gal. 6:10).

We must remember the judgment scene depicted in Matthew 25. When Jesus warned the Jews about the ­coming ­judgment, He didn’t focus on doctrine or even how they accepted Him as the Messiah. He focused on their ­treatment of others (Matt. 25:31–46). When asked when they had done those things listed, Jesus said, “…as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers…” (v. 40).

In Leviticus 19:9–10, the Israelites were told to leave the corners of their field for the poor. Perhaps we can learn from that. As you budget this month, don’t budget right up to the edge of your ability. Leave the corners of your budget untouched so that you can help the poor when you have the opportunity.

Paul was eager to remember the poor. Are we?