Giving to the Needy (Proverbs 14:21)
Topic: Proverbs Passage: Proverbs 14:21
Season of Giving
Giving to the Needy
December 1st, 2013
(One Truth: Walk in Truth)
I. Giving or Getting
Let me ask you this: which do you like better...giving or getting? Now be honest. Would you rather let go of something or take hold of something? Would you rather pour out your cup, or have your cup filled to the brim?
Turn over with the Acts 20. The Apostle Paul is speaking here to the elders of the church in the Greek city of Ephesus. Listen to what Paul tells them here, as part of the farewell address that began back in verse 18. Paul tells them this:
“In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Acts 20:35)
Now there are a couple of really interesting things about this verse. The first is that it contains a quote from Jesus that is not recorded in any of the four Gospels. Yes, Jesus does appear and speak outside of the four Gospels, like to Paul in Acts 9, or to John in the Revelation, but this is a quote of something He said during his earthly ministry; and it's preserved for us here in the book of Acts.
But the second really interesting thing is really, really interesting. If you think about it, this quote from Jesus runs contrary to just about everything we think and feel as human beings. More blessed to give? More blessed to let go, to empty...than to receive, than to take hold, than to be filled up? Really? Really? Does anyone really believe that? We should.
So how in the world is it more blessed to give? Well that's exactly what we are going to find out over the course of the next four weeks. So often, this time of year is referred to as the “season of giving”. A lot of people are giving gifts, some people are giving of their time, and others are giving financially to charities and ministries as the end of the year draws near.
Now because of this, I thought it would be a wonderful time to think about what the Bible teaches us about giving, especially in light of Jesus' words here in Acts 20:35. Of all people, every day of every week, of every month, of every year, should fall squarely into a season of giving! Of all people, we know which gift, we know whose birth, gave birth to this “season of giving”, don't we.
And so, throughout this Advent season, I want to, with God's word and by God's Spirit, I want to 'prime the pump' of radical giving in your life; so that radical giving is something that characterizes us more and more throughout the year. And not only are we going to learn about and be remind of what the Bible teaches, but we're also going to have opportunities to practice what was preached. I'll tell you more about that in just a little while.
II. The Passage: “Blessed is He” (14:21)
But let's do this: let's try to figure out why it IS more blessed to give than to receive by looking at this theme of giving in Proverbs 14:21. Look at that verse with me in your Bibles. Listen to what King Solomon said about giving...
Whoever despises his neighbor is a sinner, but blessed is he who is generous to the poor.
So here is a direct connection to the teaching of Jesus we found in Acts 20:35. This proverb also talks about being “blessed”, AND giving, or as we see here, giving generously. But notice the object of this generosity: “the poor”.
Did you know the Bible contains hundreds and hundreds of verses about the poor? And I mean those who are materially and financially needy, not just the spiritual poor. Hundreds and hundreds of verses! Look at the contrast in this verse. Some may look at this and think, “Well, if I'm being honest, I don't see myself on either side of this proverb. I certainly don't “despise” my neighbor, but I also don't give very generously to the poor.”
But we need to see what the verse implies: it makes a connection between the poor and my neighbor, and thus is speaking about the needy among those I come into contact with. AND if I am not generous with those in need, the verse seems to be saying I AM despising them by acting indifferently in the face of their poverty.
But why is there a blessing connected with giving to the poor? Well, let me give you a five powerful reasons from God's word:
First of all, the Bible teaches us over and over again that God cares deeply for the poor.
Listen to what King David wrote: All my bones shall say, “O LORD, who is like you, delivering the poor from him who is too strong for him, the poor and needy from him who robs him?” (Psalm 35:10)
His Solomon make a similar point in Proverbs 22...Do not rob the poor, because he is poor, or crush the afflicted at the gate,  for the LORD will plead their cause and rob of life those who rob them. (Proverbs 22:22-23)
Both David and Solomon must have known what God's law taught in the book of Deuteronomy, chapter 10, verse 18...
He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. (Deuteronomy 10:18)
The fatherless and the widows were the most vulnerable in the ancient world, since both had few options for making a living and providing for themselves. But as we see here, God wants us to be generous to the poor because He cares deeply about their needs.
But, second, I think we can also say we are blessed when we give to the poor because we glorify God when we care for those whom God has created. We read this very thing in Proverbs 14:31...
Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him. (Proverbs 14:31)
When you see the poor and needy, what's the first thing you think about? Is it that he or she is made in the image of God, and that God cares about that person's condition? By loving those whom God loves, and by caring for those whom God has created, we are honoring God and acting in faith, in light of His word.
Third, it's very simple: God wants to richly bless those who bless the poor.
Again, David put it this way: Blessed is the one who considers the poor. In the day of trouble the LORD delivers him... (Psalm 41:10)
We also read in Proverbs 19:17: Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will repay him for his deed. That ties into our first point: God cares about and takes care of the poor. So when we take care of them, it's almost like we are lending to God. We can give to them with the assurance that God will take care of us.
Earlier in Proverbs, Solomon wrote: One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.  Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered. (Proverbs 11:24-25)
Isn't this what Paul wrote in II Corinthians 9, concerning the collection he was taking up for the poor in Jerusalem?...
The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.  Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.  And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.  As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.”  He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.  You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. (II Corinthians 9:6-11)
And listen to how Jesus utilized this same principle when He instructed his listeners about giving to the needy and being careful about their motives:
He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid.  But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind,  and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” (Luke 14:12-14)
Number four, there is a blessing connected with giving to the poor because giving in faith to those in need indicates the right spiritual outlook. Remember how Paul encouraged Timothy to encourage those who had plenty to share?
As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.  They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share,  thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life. (I Timothy 6:17-19)
At the same time, the Apostle John expressed this in the negative:
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.  But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him?  Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. (I John 3:16-18)
So our generosity can be an indication of a healthy spiritual outlook, and our lack of generosity can be equally telling about the condition of our heart. Solomon also talks about God's displeasure when we are indifferent to the needy. He wrote: Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered. (Proverbs 21:13) I don't think that means God cuts us off the selfish Christian. But I think it means, in His love, He will discipline us in order to rouse us from our indifference.
Fifth, and finally, we are blessed when we give to the poor because we are rehearsing the gospel itself when we give to the poor.
Carefully consider how Paul shared the gospel with the Corinthian church in II 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 by his poverty might become rich. Do you see what Paul is saying there? The generosity of the Son of God, in coming to earth in the form of a man and emptying himself on the cross, has enriched US...which implies we were spiritually poor before “he became poor”.
Jesus says the same thing to the church of Laodicea in Revelation 3:17-18:
For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.  I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see.
We are spiritually bankrupt apart from the grace of God. And so when we give generously to the poor, we are tangibly representing the most powerful spiritual act of all time. Ultimately, we give to the poor, because Jesus gave to us in our poverty; AND because we want to honor the gospel, and exalt it, and point to it in all we do. Right?
III. How to Give to Those in Need
And so if we understand WHY we should give, and WHY we are blessed when we give, what about the HOW? What does the Bible teach us about how we should give to the poor?
Number one, God calls us to action, not just a soft hear and/or a sweet tongue.
Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. (I John 3:16-18)
If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food,  and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? (James 2:15-16)
Number two, God calls us to meet the physical needs of the poor.
Number three, God calls us to give generously of His wisdom to those who are in need of wisdom.
Two reasons for poverty: 1) Something bad happens to someone (robbed, hurt, etc.), 2) laziness. God’s wisdom speaks to the subject of laziness:
Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us.  For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you,  nor did we eat anyone's bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you.  It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate.  For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.  For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies.  Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. (II Thessalonians 3:6-12)
Whoever loves pleasure will be a poor man; he who loves wine and oil will not be rich.
Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise.  Without having any chief, officer, or ruler,  she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest.  How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep?  A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest,  and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man. (Proverbs 6:6-11)
Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. (Ephesians 4:28)
Number four, Above all, God calls us to help the needy in terms of their greatest need.
The gospel! It heals the heart (poverty is so often a symptom of a heart that is struggling with sin), and it keeps us humble!
Which poor? The Bibles does emphasize caring for our brothers and sisters in Christ, in terms of our first priority. But the parable of the Good Samaritan, as just one example, reminds us to help all who are in need.
More in Season of Giving
December 22, 2013Giving to Those on Your Path (Psalm 119:103-105)
December 15, 2013Giving to Your Church Family (Ephesians 4:25-32)
December 8, 2013Giving to God's Global Work (II Corinthians 9:6-15)