By Tim Shoemaker
The meaning of benevolence is the “disposition to do good; kindliness; any act of kindness.” This is one of the things that God has always required of His people. Under the Old Testament Law the people of Israel were required to be a benevolent people. God did not allow His people to charge interest (Lev. 25:36); when anyone harvested his vineyard he was not to gather every grape but was to leave the corners of his field for the poor and any that fell to the ground was to be left for the poor and the stranger. God expected not only that His people would “offer to Him the first fruits he was also to honor the Lord’s claims upon harvest by generously sharing with the needy” (Lev. 19:10 – “And you shall not glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather every grape of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger: I am the LORD your God”; 23:22 – “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field when you reap, nor shall you gather any gleaning from your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the stranger: I am the LORD your God”).
In the New Testament Christians are encouraged to care for the poor. When Jesus came into the home of Zaccheus to eat with him, we see a great change taking place in this man. “But Zaccheus, presenting himself before Jesus, said, Master, half of my goods I will give to the poor; and if in anything I have wronged any man, I will restore fourfold” (Luke 19:8). Zaccheus would correct any wrong he had done by giving forefold back to them and he would give one half of all he had to the poor. In the story of the good Samaritan Jesus lets us know that we need to lend a hand to all those in need.
When we show our love and care for the poor and needy, we are manifesting God in ourselves for we are doing exactly what God desires of us and commands of us and it has a big impact not only upon the poor but also upon ourselves and the world around us. Solomon reminds us of this in his writing in the book of Proverbs. First of all he tells us that “He who has pity on the poor lends to the LORD, And He will pay back what he has given” (Proverbs 19:17). Giving to the poor is like lending to the Lord and who among us would hesitate to give to the Lord, realizing that He will give it back to us. The poor is impacted by the love and mercy shown to him and the one giving is impacted by the blessing being returned to him from the Lord. This same thing is taught by Solomon in Proverbs 28:27. “He who gives to the poor will not lack, But he who hides his eyes will have many curses.” When we give to the poor, God will see to it that we do not lack.
In Psalms 41:1-3 David declared, “Blessed is he who considers the poor; The LORD will deliver him in time of trouble. 2 The LORD will preserve him and keep him alive, And he will be blessed on the earth; You will not deliver him to the will of his enemies. 3 The LORD will strengthen him on his bed of illness; You will sustain him on his sickbed.” Again we see that both the poor who is aided and the one who aids him are impacted for good.
In his letter to the Galatians, Paul recounted his visit with the apostles and other church leaders in Jerusalem. Paul showed that he had obeyed the same gospel they had obeyed and he preached the same gospel they preached. Thus they extended the right hand of fellowship requiring only “that we should remember the poor, the very thing which I also was eager to do” (Gal. 2:10). The church here desires to do no less as we seek to help those who are poor especially those who are followers of Christ. This is the will of God and it is a powerful way to impact our community. We try to aid those who have those physical needs but do not have the means of providing them for themselves. When the church is able to help people in their time of need it has a profound impact upon those who are helped for it helps them to see the love of God in us.
Robert Burns wrote:
“But deep this truth impress’d my mind:
Thro’ all His works abroad,
The heart benevolent and kind
The most resembles God.”
May we give generously on purpose Sunday!