The world outside the borders of the United States thinks all Americans are rich. While visiting a church in South America, a man laughed at me when I told him how I grew up in a poor family.
He said, "There is no poverty in the U.S." We know poverty exists in the wealthier nations as well as in the undeveloped countries.
How does God want his people, the church, to respond to the needy? Proverbs 14:31 says God keeps a watchful eye on the poor.
Paraphrased, this proverb says, "Those who oppress or take advantage of the poor insult God who created the poor. However those who are generous with the needy honor God." The Bible continuously commands people with plenty to care for the needy.
More than 3,000 years ago, God taught his people, Israel, to provide for the poor. During the 40 years of wandering, God instructed Israel, Exodus 22:21, "You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt." To the younger generation before they entered the Promised Land, Moses instructed them in 15:7-8, "If there is a poor man with you, one of your brothers, in any of your towns in your land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand from your poor brother; but you shall freely open your hand to him, and shall generously lend him sufficient for his need in whatever he lacks.
The Old Testament prophet, Amos, warned in 2:6, "Thus says the Lord, 'For three transgressions of Israel and for four I will not revoke its punishment, because they sell the righteous for money and the needy for a pair of sandals.'" The situation is bleak for a person in debt to a wealthy person is traded for a pair of sandals. They also sold the righteous for money.
The New Testament places a high priority on helping the needy. When the church began, Acts 2, some of the believers gave all they owned to help those in need. Verses 44 and 45 say, "And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need."
We respond to the needy from our faith in God. One of the first works of our faith encompasses assisting the poor.
James 2:14-17 instructs us: "What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,' and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself."
Faith in this Scripture is a faith that accepts God's grace and continues to trust God. Works result from being saved from our sins and growing in the grace of God. Helping the needy belongs in the category of works.
We do not work to be saved but we work because we are saved. The writer of James confronts people who believe they are saved but refuse to help someone in need of clothing and food. Good works such as providing a home for the homeless provide proof of our genuine faith.
The community of Tiffin, through the efforts of the Mayor's Task Force, plans to develop a home for those in need of transitional housing and emergency housing. This worthy cause needs our prayers and financial support and provides us with opportunities to practice a faith that believes and works.
Our Lord Jesus became poor for us that we may be rich in spiritual blessings according to 2 Corinthians 8:9, "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich."