Some estimates say the scriptures mention poverty more than 2,000 times. Life in the city mentions it on many street corners, under bridges, and in alleys at night. Someone needs or wants, and they ask. Or someone needs, which asks something of us.
“You will always have the poor among you,” Jesus said in John 12:8.
In Deuteronomy 15:11, God said, “There will always be poor people in the land.”
Jesus said, “Give to everyone who asks you” (Luke 6:30), echoing what God commanded in Deuteronomy 15:11: “Be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.”
In this, Jesus provides no caveats such as, “Unless you think he’ll spend it on alcohol or drugs”; “only if you know he really needs it”; “if you can afford it”; or “but if you’ve tithed you don’t have to.” He just tells us to give.
Why this? We could make the case that Jesus is teaching us to be like himself in all his teachings. He teaches us to give.
Perhaps he tells us to give so that we interact with those we’d prefer to ignore. This giving connects us to those society forgets.
Perhaps he tells us to give that we might learn to do so. This giving teaches us what God is like: He gives because we need. He gives because we ask. He gives because he loves.
Perhaps he tells us to give so that we might remember that our possessions don’t exist for us. This might separate us, even slightly, from loving our goods or money more than we should.
Jesus does not stop with his words. He lives a life exemplifying what he taught. Whatever you see Jesus teach, you’ll see him live. He says, “Forgive,” and he forgives. He says, “Reconcile,” and he reconciles. He says, “Love,” and he loves. He says “Heal,” and he heals. He says “Give,” and he gives. See the gospels, because he gives it all. He gives his life.
“Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends,” Jesus said.
When he tells us to give to the poor, he is teaching us to love. As children crawl before they walk, so we must learn to give our possessions before we can give everything.
Why do I not give to the poor? What are my reasons? How do I get off the hook?
Do I give other things, like time or affection?
With what am I unwilling to part? Why can’t I give something?
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