— Should Christians give money to the needy? Should Christians help the homeless? —
He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the LORD; and that which he hath given will he pay him again. – Proverbs 19:17.
The question of whether to give money to the person who approaches on the street is often debated among Christians. Is it wise to give money to panhandlers when we do not know what they will do with the money? Is it safe? Should Christians just focus their giving on church? These are all valid questions and the Bible has the answer: Christians should absolutely help the poor and those in need. Not only is it an expression of the love of Christ, it is pleasing to God and leads to more blessings for the giver.
Scriptures On Helping The Needy
If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren within any of thy gates in thy land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother: But thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth. – Deuteronomy 15:7-11.
Helping the poor is such an integral part of Godly living that The Lord even put it into the Mosaic Law. Notice the law identifies where giving starts: in the heart. We are commanded not to “harden our hearts” towards the poor. Ignoring those in need, looking down on them, making stereotypical judgments about their lifestyle and other callous behaviors should not be in the heart of a Christian (and Beloved, if those feelings have been in your heart in the past, repent to God and pray or more compassion). In discussing the reign of the Godly, faithful King Josiah, The Lord said through the prophet Jeremiah: “He judged the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well with him: was not this to know me? saith the LORD.” Jeremiah 22:16. Giving, charity and compassion are a part of God’s nature and God’s children should reflect this.
Proverbs 31:9 states: “Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy.” Helping the poor should be a part of a Christian’s nature. Proverbs 29:7 says: “The righteous considereth the cause of the poor: but the wicked regardeth not to know it.
These are just a sample of the many Old Testament verses that emphasize assisting those in need. At the same time the Book of Proverbs carries many warnings for those who neglect the poor:
“He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker: but he that honoureth him hath mercy on the poor.” – Proverbs 14:31.
“Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard.” – Proverbs 21:13.
He that giveth unto the poor shall not lack: but he that hideth his eyes shall have many a curse. –Proverbs 28:27.
The New Testament And Giving
Jesus Christ regularly remembered the poor and taught His disciples to assist the needy:
Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. – Matthew 5:42.
In instructing the Disciples on not having concern for how they would survive day to day Jesus said: “Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” – Luke 12:33-34.
The Lord Jesus Christ also instructed on how to give:
Take heed that ye do not your alms [giving to the poor] before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly. – Matthew 6:1-4.
Giving to the poor should not be done for show or approval of others. Note that in these instructions, Jesus assumes that a Christian will be giving to the poor. It is expected that believers will help those in need.
Matthew 25 contains a prophetic passage regarding the Judgment of Nations right before the Millennial Reign of Christ. After Jesus’ Second Coming, when He returns to rule the Earth for 1,000 years, He judges the nations of the world. In describing this future event, Jesus said:
When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. – Matthew 25:31-40.
Jesus compared the treatment of Israelites in need in the end times to treatement of Himself personally. It should be no surprise that the Apostles of Jesus stressed giving as well.
“Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.” – 1 John 3:16-18.
Arguments Against Giving
“I don’t give money because I don’t want the person to use it for drugs or alcohol.”
While this may sound like a noble reason, it has several flaws. For one, it is often based on a pernicious stereotype that all homeless and needy people are drunken, drug abusers. If a person is intoxicated when asking for money (or if you know the person and thus know their intentions), then that is obviously a fair assessment. But assuming that the poor will use money for sinful and/or criminal purposes is judging based on appearance – the exact type of judgment that Jesus warns against. Nowhere in Scripture do we see any instruction to “investigate” what the person in need is going to do with the money they are given. We are just told to give. If this remains a legitimate concern an alternative would be to buy restaurant gift cards or food for the person in need.
“I get scared when a homeless person approaches me”
This is a very reasonable argument. This author lives in a major urban area where muggings are commonplace. If it seems too intimidating to give to homeless people on the street there are other ways to help those in need. Giving money to local homeless shelters, food banks or orphanages are great alternatives that still provide a chance to give money to those in need. Additionally, many churches do their own ministry to assist the poor in their areas, which gives a chance to go out in groups and remove concerns for safety.
“I don’t have a lot of money”
Another legitimate reason. As mentioned above, this is where working in a church ministry that assists the poor comes in handy. A ministry can provide an opportunity to give your time in helping the poor by distributing clothing and supplies or working a kitchen to feed those in need. Some churches do local missionary work, using ministry to build or repair homes, set up health care stations or provide numerous services to the poor. So there are many ways to help those who need it the most without spending any money.
Share The Good News of Jesus Christ
Now Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour. And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms of them that entered into the temple; Who seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple asked an alms. And Peter, fastening his eyes upon him with John, said, Look on us. And he gave heed unto them, expecting to receive something of them. Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk. And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up: and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God: — Acts 3:1-9.
What a surprise for this crippled man who was asking for money. The Apostles Peter and John gave him something much better – healing in the name of Jesus Christ. Not only did this healed man go on to proclaim his faith in Jesus Christ, the miracle and the man’s testimony drew a crowd which gave Peter the opportunity to preach, bringing in 2,000 new people into the church! Giving to the poor provides an opportunity to share the Gospel. When giving money or food, why not also hand the person a Gospel tract or a Bible? It could also be an excellent opportunity to invite the person to church. Or just engage the person in conversation and tell them how to get to Heaven. It should be clear as the Apostles stated, that when you are giving, you are doing so in the name of Jesus Christ. Not only are you showing the love of Christ by helping someone, you are giving them the way to eternal riches and salvation. There is no greater expression of Christian love than sharing the good news of eternal life and forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ.
Give To The Poor
Throughout the Bible, charitable giving is encouraged, expected and applauded as a integral part of the life of a Christian believer. Jesus said the poor will “always be with us” providing a constant way for Christians to show love, compassion and charity. And maybe in that giving a soul can be led to faith in Christ and eternal life.
“Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the Lord will deliver him in time of trouble. The Lord will preserve him, and keep him alive; and he shall be blessed upon the earth: and thou wilt not deliver him unto the will of his enemies.” – Psalm 41:1-2.