Christians should be known as great givers. But what causes should you be giving to? You should support local churches and other ministries in teaching and preaching the grace gospel. But where else should Christians focus their giving?
The Apostle Paul was a church planter and a missionary. He’s best known for preaching the gospel to both Jews and Gentiles all across the Roman Empire. But did you know about his strong concern for the poor? Giving to the poor was part of his commission to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.
When Paul went to Jerusalem to meet the apostles and share with them the gospel he was preaching, they acknowledged his mission from the Lord to reach the Gentiles, but they made a request:
When James, Cephas, and John—those recognized as pillars—acknowledged the grace that had been given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to me and Barnabas, agreeing that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. They asked only that we would remember the poor, which I had made every effort to do (Gal 2:9-10, emphasis added).
Remember the poor.
The apostles agreed that Paul should go to the Gentiles with the gospel, but they asked him not to forget the poor.
Have you ever thought that preaching the gospel and helping the poor go together? The apostles did. And so did Paul—he was eager to do just that.
You see Paul’s concern for the poor in the collections he made for the poor saints in Jerusalem. Paul made an initial collection, urging the Corinthians to give (cf. 1 Cor 6:1-4). Later, Paul made a second collection for the Jerusalem saints. He collected money from the Macedonian churches and made the same request of the Corinthians:
We want you to know, brothers and sisters, about the grace of God that was given to the churches of Macedonia: During a severe trial brought about by affliction, their abundant joy and their extreme poverty overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. I can testify that, according to their ability and even beyond their ability, of their own accord, they begged us earnestly for the privilege of sharing in the ministry to the saints, and not just as we had hoped. Instead, they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us by God’s will. So we urged Titus that just as he had begun, so he should also complete among you this act of grace (2 Cor 8:1-6).
The Macedonians were going through their own trial; nevertheless, despite their affliction, they gladly gave “according to their ability” and even “beyond” it. In fact, they begged to be able to give to support their poorer brothers and sisters in Christ.
What a fantastic attitude!
For them, giving to the poor was not a duty but a privilege. They didn’t give out of a sense of obligation but out of selfless generosity.
Is that your heart's attitude toward the poor? Is that the attitude of your local church? Do you remember to help the poor just as readily as you remember to share the gospel with them?
I can imagine a rich American church making collections to help our poor brothers and sisters in Africa, South America, or Asia. I know we already do that in many ways—through supporting orphanages, sponsoring children, funding missionary hospitals, water well projects, and schools, and giving practical help for famine relief. But what if your church came alongside a sister church in the developing world? What if you developed that kind of personal connection with another congregation? Could there be greater accountability, and shows of love, in that kind of face-to-face relationship between churches?
If you need an added incentive to remember the poor, consider this Proverb:
Kindness to the poor is a loan to the LORD, and he will give a reward to the lender (Prov 19:17).
Thought for the day: If you give to the poor, God will pay you back with interest.
Email your questions or comments to Shawn.