Submitted Date 07/20/2019

"What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,' but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. . . . For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also." (‭‭James‬ ‭2:14-17, 26‬ ‭NKJV‬‬)


Sometimes when I encounter at an intersection a sign-wielding solicitor, I hear this passage in my head. I expect I am not alone. It is with some degree of angst that I usually drive on by, having seen one too many exposes about the "professional panhandler."

Beggars have been part of virtually every society throughout history. Most often they have been disabled or in some other way unable to earn a living in a more commonly acceptable way. It would seem that most of those we see today do not fit that model, appearing to instead be able-bodied men and women who choose that path. However, not all are such. Therein lies the rub with the drive-by ignoring.

Providing for the poor and indigent has always been part of God's economy. For instance, when harvesting a field or picking fruit from the trees, the Old Covenant Law demanded Israel leave the gleaning (the portion missed on the first pass) for the poor, the stranger, the fatherless or the widow (Lev. 23:22, Deut. 24:20). The lineage of David even included one who had to take advantage of this kindness to survive (Ruth 2:2, 23).

So, while it is important to be good stewards of our resources for the sake of the Kingdom, it is also critical to not let our hearts become hard, hoarding rather than helping others in need. The passage in James 2, however, is less about the unknown beggar and more about someone we may know who is in need.

David wrote, "I have been young, and now am old;/Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken,?Nor his descendants begging bread." (‭‭Psalms‬ ‭37:25‬ ‭NKJV‬‬) When God's people fulfill their duty to one another, needs are met. In the New Testament, this took the form of what might be called a communistic lifestyle (lower case c). "Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles' feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need." (‭‭Acts‬ ‭4:34-35‬ ‭NKJV‬‬)

In today's acquisitive society, this historical fact is often overlooked in the church. Acts 5:1-11 records what happened when a couple tried to fake participation in this largesse, even though such was purely voluntary: "'While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.'" (‭‭Acts‬ ‭5:4‬ ‭NKJV‬‬) Their sin was not withholding but in rather their dissimulation.

Jesus had much to say about caring for those in need during His ministry. In fact, in speaking of how the Son of Man will judge the nations He said, "'And the King will answer and say to them, "Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me."'" (‭‭Matthew‬ ‭25:40‬ ‭NKJV‬‬)

Caring for those in need, especially among the household of faith, is not an option but a priority, a natural outflow of faith. One reason for the massive overreach of governmental programs today is that the church writ large has become lax in its responsibility to the poor and indigent. This is not Social Gospel; it is an essential part of The Gospel itself, the message of Jesus taught.

Is your neighbor in need? Who do you know today who lacks; who is in the hospital; in jail; in dire financial straits; or in some other crisis? Do you have it in your power to visit, to assist, to give, or to aid in some way? Would Jesus help that person? Then, as He said at the end of the Parable of the Good Samaritan, "Go and do likewise." (Luke 10:37)


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