(All Bible Quotations, Except Otherwise Stated, Are From The New International Version).
James 1:27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
The Apostle James summarised one of the qualities of pure and undefiled religion in the verse of his epistle quoted above as involving acts of charity towards the poor and needy. Religion is not just a measure of our relationship with God whom we’ve not seen. It’s also a reflection of our relationship with our fellow men and women whom we see and interact with on a daily basis. We cannot claim to love God whom we’ve not seen, while ignoring and neglecting sons and daughters of God whom we see daily. To claim to love God while despising our fellow men is incongruent with the principle of true religion.
1 John 4:20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.
1 John 3:16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.
1 John 3:17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?
1 John 3:18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
The greatest religious commandment is to love God with all our heart, with all our soul and with all our mind. The second is to love our neighbours as ourselves. On these two commandments revolve the entire Bible. And our neighbours aren’t just the people next door to us that look like us. They’re not just those in our religious assemblies, neighbourhoods, social clubs or political parties, with whom we agree. The man with whom we disagree politically, doctrinally and socially is also our neighbour. The woman with a different skin colour, “funny name” and a gibberish language that doesn’t make sense to us is also our neighbour. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, the Lord Jesus made us realise that every human being (no matter their ethnic background, religious affiliation, social standing or political philosophy) is our neighbour. Anyone made in God’s image and likeness is our neighbour. It’s okay to support those close to us and to assist those in our immediate surroundings who are in need, for piety should begin at home (1Timothy 5:4-8). And if we all can lend a helping hand to just one person in need around us, we’d be surprised how many poor and needy people will be lifted out of distress and trouble. We’d be surprised at the total number of people that will rise above the tide of poverty and despair.
St. Matthew 22:34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together.
St. Matthew 22:35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question:
St. Matthew 22:36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
St. Matthew 22:37 Jesus replied: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’
St. Matthew 22:38 This is the first and greatest commandment.
St. Matthew 22:39 And the second is like it: ’Love your neighbor as yourself.’
St. Matthew 22:40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Romans 13:8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.
Romans 13:9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Romans 13:10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
St. Luke 10:25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
St. Luke 10:26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
St. Luke 10:27 He answered, “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ ; and, ’Love your neighbor as yourself.’ “
St. Luke 10:28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
St. Luke 10:29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
St. Luke 10:30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.
St. Luke 10:31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.
St. Luke 10:32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.
St. Luke 10:33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.
St. Luke 10:34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him.
St. Luke 10:35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ’Look after him,’ he said, ’and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
St. Luke 10:36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
St. Luke 10:37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
True religion is not tested by how much good we do to those who do good to us. It’s not measured by how much we help people in our clique, caucus or comfort zone. If we help only those who help us, we’ve not done anything more than the infidels around us, for they do the same. If we do good only to people we expect good in return, we haven’t done anything of eternal value. If we give expecting something in return, we haven’t sown eternal seeds worthy of eternal rewards. If we want to touch lives in ways that touch God, we should look out for people in real need who can’t ever repay us and make an impact in their lives. When we help such poor and downtrodden people who can’t ever repay us, we’re literally lending to God. When we give expecting nothing in return, we’re sowing eternal seeds that will yield eternal rewards. God is well pleased with such sacrifices!
St. Matthew 5:43 “You have heard that it was said, ’Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’
St. Matthew 5:44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
St. Matthew 5:45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
St. Matthew 5:46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?
St. Matthew 5:47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?
St. Matthew 5:48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
St. Luke 14:12 Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid.
St. Luke 14:13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind,
St. Luke 14:14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
Hebrews 13:1 Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters.
Hebrews 13:2 Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.
Hebrews 13:16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
Some may argue that to help the poor and needy is socialism and a disservice to the Protestant work ethics. Such people may consider all poor and needy people as lazy and indolent people with an entitlement mentality. It’s true that some capable and able-bodied people who find themselves at the low rung of life’s ladder have only themselves to blame, for failing to take hold of opportunities that came their way, and for failing to engage themselves in dignified labour (even if mean and lowly) so as to take care of themselves and others around them. The Bible warns such people who would not work (when they can) not to expect to eat (2Thessalonians 3:10). God doesn’t condone laziness and slothfulness, and he expects able-bodied people to work diligently and to eat from the sweat of their brow. However, there are some people who are physically and mentally challenged and disadvantaged in life who genuinely need help. There are some that life has dealt a cruel blow, who’ve been hit hard by the vicissitudes of life. There are those whose lives have been unravelled literally by unexpected and unplanned calamities, who are down and out in the cold. Unless they get a helping hand to pull them back on their feet again, they may never rise from the heavy blow that misfortune has dealt them. The hands of God to lift up such downtrodden and downcast souls are yours and mine. The God such people expect to bail them out are people like you and I that have enough to eat and to spare. To pray for such people to be clothed and to be filled, while making no attempt to clothe and feed them is to make a mockery of true religion. That’s making a mockery of faith.
James 2:14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?
James 2:15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food.
James 2:16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?
James 2:17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
James 2:18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.
James 2:19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that —and shudder.
James 2:20 You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless ?
James 2:21 Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar?
James 2:22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.
James 2:23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend.
James 2:24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.
James 2:25 In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction?
James 2:26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.
From Genesis to Revelation, we see God passionately involved in the cause of the poor and needy. The Law and the Prophets are filled with divine concerns for the poor, the needy and the downtrodden. The social safety nets provided in the Scriptures for the poor among God’s people (and even for needy foreigners!) would make some people almost think God was a socialist! From mandating a day of rest for menial workers and labourers every week, to advocating fair and prompt wages, to mandating food stamps (storehouses in the house of God) for the poor and needy and strangers in the land, God made it abundantly clear how concerned he was about the lot of the poor. He takes it personal when they’re oppressed and exploited or not paid a prompt, fair wage for a decent job. He threatens vengeance against all those subduing and ignoring the poor. Yes, God encourages people to work hard and be industrious, yet he acknowledges there will be some poor and needy ones among us at all times, and we must be compassionate and empathetic to their cause. We must not disdain or reproach the poor, for that would be directly insulting their Maker.
Leviticus 19:9 “’When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest.
Leviticus 19:10 Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the LORD your God.
Deuteronomy 24:17 Do not deprive the foreigner or the fatherless of justice, or take the cloak of the widow as a pledge.
Deuteronomy 24:18 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the LORD your God redeemed you from there. That is why I command you to do this.
Deuteronomy 24:19 When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.
Deuteronomy 24:20 When you beat the olives from your trees, do not go over the branches a second time. Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow.
Deuteronomy 24:21 When you harvest the grapes in your vineyard, do not go over the vines again. Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow.
Deuteronomy 24:22 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt. That is why I command you to do this.
Deuteronomy 14:28 At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year’s produce and store it in your towns,
Deuteronomy 14:29 so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.
Malachi 3:8 “Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, ’How are we robbing you?’ “In tithes and offerings.
Malachi 3:9 You are under a curse —your whole nation —because you are robbing me.
Malachi 3:10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.
Malachi 3:11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,” says the LORD Almighty.
Malachi 3:12 “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the LORD Almighty.
Proverbs 19:17 Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward them for what they have done.
Proverbs 14:31 Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.
Proverbs 17:5 Whoever mocks the poor shows contempt for their Maker; whoever gloats over disaster will not go unpunished.
Leviticus 19:13 “’Do not defraud or rob your neighbor. “’Do not hold back the wages of a hired worker overnight.
Malachi 3:5 “So I will come to put you on trial. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive the foreigners among you of justice, but do not fear me,” says the LORD Almighty.
We will always have the poor among us, that much was prophesied by none other than the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. And, we should never waste the opportunity of blessing the poor whenever that comes our way. In fact, we shouldn’t wait for the opportunity to come to us- we should go out of our way to look for and bless the poor. The Gospel is particularly targeted at the poor, and we should never forget that. The Lord and his original Apostles made that clear to us, and Peter, James and John made sure Paul understood that as he headed off to minister to the Gentiles (which thing Paul himself had been inclined to do). May we not forget the poor as we practise our religion, as that would dent the quality of our religion before God.
St. Matthew 26:11 The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me.
St. Luke 4:16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read,
St. Luke 4:17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
St. Luke 4:18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free,
St. Luke 4:19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Galatians 2:1 Then after fourteen years, I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. I took Titus along also.
Galatians 2:2 I went in response to a revelation and, meeting privately with those esteemed as leaders, I presented to them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. I wanted to be sure I was not running and had not been running my race in vain.
Galatians 2:3 Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek.
Galatians 2:4 This matter arose because some false believers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves.
Galatians 2:5 We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.
Galatians 2:6 As for those who were held in high esteem —whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not show favoritism —they added nothing to my message.
Galatians 2:7 On the contrary, they recognized that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised.
Galatians 2:8 For God, who was at work in Peter as an apostle to the circumcised, was also at work in me as an apostle to the Gentiles.
Galatians 2:9 James, Cephas and John, those esteemed as pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised.
Galatians 2:10 All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along.
In conclusion, true piety is not limited to loving God alone; pure and undefiled religion also involves loving our neighbours as ourselves. And, love of neighbour must be demonstrated by caring for all, especially the poor and the needy. To neglect the poor and needy in our midst while claiming to love God is a mockery of faith. God loves and cares for all his children, but especially the poor and stragglers among us. There has always been a social safety net for the poor in God’s scheme, and we are the ones enjoined by Scriptures to ensure and enforce that. To look the other way at the plight of the needy when it’s within our means to help is to act like the hypocritical Priest and Levite towards the wounded traveller in the parable of the Good Samaritan. We cannot claim to love God while ignoring and despising the poor of his children. To reproach the poor is to reproach his maker. That is the Gospel truth.
God bless you for visiting and for reading!