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What the Bible says about Charity
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Deuteronomy 14:23-26

Verses 23-26 contains admonitions to go to the place God chooses, turn the increase into money if needed, and to spend it on whatever the heart desires, rejoicing with each other before God. However, the chapter's theme remains as a vital component of the instruction. God wants us to enjoy the fruit of our labors, as He also does when we obey Him. He also wants our relationship to be many-layered. Our focus, of course, should be off the self, centered on God, and extending outward toward others.

The rest of the chapter addresses this outward orientation with teaching to share with those who are less fortunate. It tells us to make sure that the needy are also able to rejoice and enjoy this time of fellowship and prosperity. The chapter ends by telling us that when we do these things, we give God good reason to bless us in whatever we set out to do.

Throughout these verses, we see God, very active in the lives of His people, admonishing His people to follow His lead. God is quite concerned about His people and His spiritual body. He cares what we do to ourselves both inwardly and outwardly, physically and spiritually (I Corinthians 3:16-17; Ephesians 2:18-22), and He cares how we treat each other as members of "the body of Christ" (I Corinthians 12:27).

While He allows us to partake of things we desire, Deuteronomy 14 shows that God does impose limits; He wants us to exercise self-control. He expects us to be givers and not just takers. This applies to sharing our money, food, drink, activities, and fellowship with others, and we should make special effort to share ourselves with Him in prayer, study, meditation, and church services during this time of plenty. After all, one of the purposes of going to the Feast is to learn how to fear God, and we do this by spending time with Him.

Whatever Your Heart Desires

Psalm 41:1-3

Here are some wonderful promises for those who consider the poor. But what does it mean to "consider the poor"?

The Hebrew word in verse 1 translated as "considers," sakal, is quite interesting. One Hebrew lexicon defines sakal as "to look at; to look at with the mind; to consider; to attend to." As Hebrew is a picturesque language, the word runs the gamut of possible definitions. It begins with looking at something, then mentally investigating it, and finally, all the way to attending to it. It is a word, then, that encompasses a process.

The definition continues, giving more figurative meanings: "To be or become intelligent, prudent, or wise. It implies maturity of understanding or judgment." We can now plug these definitions back into verse 1: "Blessed is he who intelligently, prudently, or wisely, with maturity of understanding and judgment, considers the poor."

The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, page 877, comments on this word: "Sakal relates to an intelligent knowledge of the reason. There is the process of thinking through a complex arrangement of thought resulting in a wise dealing and use of good practical common sense. Another end result is the emphasis upon being successful.'"

So, what is David truly saying? By using this word, he does not say simply, "Blessed is he who sees people in need." We could take it that way, as the most basic definition of sakal is "to look at," but by using sakal,? with its gamut of definitions, he implies a great deal more. He is really saying, "Blessed is he who sees a need, and then looking at the complex situation surrounding it, thinks through how he could best, most intelligently, and wisely bring about a successful solution to it."

That is the essence of this word, sakal. It is not just seeing a problem that needs fixing. It is seeing a situation—a person in need—then taking stock and determining what one has to give that will fulfill what the other person really needs, investigating the needy person's situation and attitude (as much as possible), considering God's involvement, and extrapolating what actions and methods one may take to produce the best possible solution. After all that, one must actually do what needs to be done to bring the situation to a successful conclusion.

That is a lot of work! There is a great deal involved when a Christian goes about doing good (Acts 10:38)!

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
"If I Have Not Charity"

Proverbs 29:7

The righteous person not only sees the need, but he also thinks about it and works to solve the difficulty. However, notice the contrast here. A wicked person, lacking that missing dimension of God's love, cannot even comprehend the process. He does not know why it is necessary. He cannot figure it out why it even matters.

He lacks the ingredient—the missing dimension of God's love—to see that there is any difference between thinking about the poors' plight or not. It is as simple as that. He reckons that it is good enough just to throw money at the problem or offer a stopgap measure. The righteous, though, considers the cause of the poor; he thinks it all the way through.

The dividing point in this particular verse between the righteous and the wicked is the thought process—what goes on inside their heads.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
"If I Have Not Charity"

Proverbs 31:8-9

Basically, God says here, "Go to bat for the disadvantaged." However, He admonishes us to judge righteously.

We know that there are people in the world who, perhaps because they have too much time, money, or guilt on their hands, make it their duty to become advocates for various causes, often doing it without regard for the possible consequences. They may think they are supporting something that is good, but they sometimes never think through what their support might mean and what will result from it. If many of the causes out there were actually followed through to the end, we would be living in a socialist or communist state, and no one would like it. Nobody would be free.

Jesus says, "The poor you will always have with you." Because that is the case, the question then becomes, "How best can we help them?" Remember Martha and Mary and what Jesus had to say to Martha? "Martha, you are getting overwrought about all this. But Mary has chosen the better thing" (Luke 10:38-42 paraphrased). Jesus is teaching that there is a point at which service and good works become a distraction and a worry, crowding out the higher duties of listening to Him.

Thus, we need to remember that, even though we want to do good works, they will never save us. They are a fruit of righteousness. They are not the ultimate goal or the end. They just show that we have inculcated into us part of God's character, and the natural outgrowth of that is good works (see Ephesians 2:10).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
"If I Have Not Charity"

Jeremiah 22:15-16

God is saying, "Do you think you are ruling because you have the trappings of royalty, because you have money, power, and prestige, because you are the sons of David, the literal sons of Josiah?"

To put it more plainly, He says, "Your right to reign does not rest on your wealth or position." It relied on God Himself. His statement probably infuriated them.

"Did not your father eat and drink, and do justice and righteousness?" may sound a bit odd, but He is painting a word picture. Just as Josiah, their father, ate and drank, it was also a normal part of his life to do justice and righteousness. To him, those godly acts were like eating and drinking.

They are supposed to be innate to us too, as natural as eating and drinking to do righteousness and justice! Josiah was a child when he came to the throne, and by the time he was sixteen, he had begun to purge Judah of idolatry. He did a splendid job of putting Judah back on track, as much as any man could do.

Then God says, "Then it was well with him." That is the way it works. That is how blessings come. Verse 16 continues the thought: "'He judged the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well. Was not this knowing Me?' says the LORD."

Here is a critical point. We should not think that just judging the cause of the poor and the needy is involved in knowing God. It is certainly part of knowing God. The thought stems from the earlier mention that Josiah performed justice and righteousness naturally, as part of his everyday behavior, and it manifested in defending the cause of the poor and needy. Through this process, he came to know God.

Knowing God was the ultimate result of thinking through the good works he was doing, considering how they would work out, weighing the various ways he might work through the various situations, and then carrying them through to its end.

Why is this? Because God does things the same way! He does this all the time! He is constantly thinking, working the problem, and projecting how things will work out if He does this or that. If His choices seem equally good, He will figure out which one will work the best to bring about His ultimate aim.

When we begin to do things as He does, we come to know Him. The mind of God starts to form in us. We learn to judge situations—people's actions, situations, everything—as He does. As a result of our imitation of God, our relationship grows because we are becoming like each other. We enjoy each other's company because we see ourselves in each other.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
"If I Have Not Charity"

Matthew 5:42

Some commentators cannot understand why Jesus places this example with the other three, as it does not seem to show having a good attitude under trial. However, having a godly attitude in parting with what we hold dear can be a test for us as well. The parallel scripture in Luke 6:30 shows that it follows the pattern of the previous illustrations: "Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back."

Many believe that what Jesus requires here is foolish, that is, to give to everyone who asks of us and to allow our goods to be plundered without objection. Perhaps Luke 6:34-35 helps to clarify what Jesus intends:

And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Highest. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil.

His illustration in Matthew 5:42 deals with borrowing and lending, not with allowing oneself to be plundered. As in the other illustrations, His primary point is that it is preferable to suffer loss or harm than to retaliate or worsen the situation. When we give to someone in need, we should not expect to be repaid for our generosity, and we should certainly not take steps to force reimbursement. Christian charity should be done without expectation of gain. Yet, God sees, and He will show us favor: "He who has pity on the poor lends to the LORD, and He will pay back what he has given" (Proverbs 19:17).

If a person asks for a loan of money or goods, we should approach the request assuming that he makes it in good faith, if there are no extenuating reasons to doubt his sincerity. We should, however, keep in mind other principles from God's Word, such as being good stewards of what God has given us, taking care of our own, not encouraging laziness or sustaining the idle, not supporting vices (alcohol, drugs, or other addictions), and not being a party to shady or dubious get-rich-quick schemes. Jesus' suggestion is that, if we do lend to others, we might as well consider that money to be gone forever. The struggle to regain it will probably not be worth the effort, not to mention the damage it could do to relationships and one's character.

In short, what does His final illustration require of us? It asks of us, not only that we should lend without suspicion and with no eye to profit, but that we also should have a generous spirit of outgoing concern for a brother or sister in need.

John O. Reid (1930-2016)
Go the Extra Mile

Matthew 6:1

The word in the New King James Version rendered "charitable deeds," and in the King James, "alms," is best translated as "mercifulness" or "mercy." There are some who believe the word should actually be "righteousness." This comes from the Hebrew concept of good deeds or alms. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word used most often for the idea is sadaka, translated most often as "righteousness." Rather than saying "doing good deeds," the Hebrews would say "doing righteousness."

The idea here is obviously righteous acts—good works. The Greeks did not have a word that worked exactly, and so Matthew chose the word that means "mercies."

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
"If I Have Not Charity"

Luke 11:41

What He is saying is that God does not expect us to give out of our own poverty, to put our family at risk to help other people, or to give in any way things that we do not have. The best gifts that we can give are things that we already have to give—things from inside us, as it literally says. The margin reads, "Give alms of what is inside."

Give alms—give help to others from what is produced by the character we have already built. That way, we know it will be a pure offering and acceptable, not only to the person who receives it, but also to God. We are to be living sacrifices, sweet savors in our dedication to both God and to man. It comes out in our good works.

If we give of what we have already built within us, it will be an acceptable and a pure offering before God. Remember the widow's mite? It was not the amount she gave but the relative value of it that impressed Jesus. She gave of what she had.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
"If I Have Not Charity"

Related Topics: Alms | Charity | Living Sacrifice | Widow's Mite


1 Corinthians 13:3

One could be the wealthiest person in the world and die poor because of giving it all away to various charities and the needy throughout the world, but if there is not that bit of agape love behind it, there is no profit in it. It is like money down a rat-hole.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
"If I Have Not Charity"

Related Topics: Agape | Amassing Wealth | Charity | Spiritual Wealth | Wealth


1 Corinthians 16:1-3

What do these verses say? Protestants think they mean three things:

1. That a collection should be taken up for an offering to God.
2. That it should be done every week at church services.
3. That we should attend church on the first day of the week.

Actually, these verses do not mean these things at all.

Immediately, we notice that this collection, a gift from the congregation in Corinth, was for "the saints" (verse 1). It was not a tithe or an offering to God for the support of the ministry and its work. Notice Paul's salutation to the Philippian church: "Paul and Timothy, servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi . . ." (Philippians 1:1; see Romans 1:7; II Corinthians 1:1). The brethren of the church are the saints. Thus, this collection was a gift from the Corinthian congregation to the one in Jerusalem (I Corinthians 16:3).

Why had Paul "given orders to the churches of Galatia" (verse 1) to send a gift to Jerusalem? The immediate context does not say, but other verses fill in the missing details:

And in these days prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch. Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar. Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea. This they also did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul. (Acts 11:27-30)

Knowing that a severe famine was to strike the Roman world—and hit Judea especially hard—church members everywhere decided to give their brethren in the area of Palestine as much aid as they were able to provide. Though they may have wondered why God would allow them to endure this harsh trial, the members of the church made the most of the situation, trusting that God would bring them through it and bless them for it. The easiest and least expensive way to accomplish this was to send their contributions with Paul and Barnabas as they returned to Jerusalem.

When Paul reminded them of the collection, he did not mention a church service. Knowing that it took time to reach each of the churches, he told the people to lay aside what they were planning to give, so that when he arrived he would not have to wait while they gathered it (see II Corinthians 9:5). He specified the first day of the week for this task. As this work was strenuous, he did not want them to do any of it on the Sabbath day.

Nor does Paul specifically mention money in these scriptures. He uses the words "collection," "something," and "gift." How do we know the gift was not just money? The apostle writes, "And when I come, whomever you approve by your letters I will send to bear your gift to Jerusalem" (verse 3). If it were simply money, he would not need a bearer; he could put the money in a bag and carry it himself.

In a parallel passage to the church in Rome, Paul explains, "Therefore, when I have performed this and have sealed to them this fruit, I shall go by way of you to Spain" (Romans 15:28). Literally, the phrase "sealed . . . this fruit" means "secured this produce." It is likely that the Corinthians were sending foodstuffs, which would require the help of others during the trip to Judea.

One aspect of the famine and the churches' relief has not yet been emphasized: The Jews in Judea suffered, and the Gentiles of Achaia and Macedonia sent them aid. Years before, when they heard that God was increasingly calling Gentiles into the church, the Jews had harbored hard feelings against them and required things of the Gentiles that God had not (see Acts 15:1-5). This had inflamed existing frictions between the two groups, and Paul spent years trying to heal the wounds.

Even though the church members were converted, the old prejudices continued to crop up from time to time. But God in His love and wisdom used the famine and the Gentiles' aid to help the church to learn and grow together as a family. Understanding this, Paul asks the Romans for prayers about this matter (Romans 15:27, 30-32).

Paul's intent was to use the collection of food for the Judean brethren as a means to mend and build the relationship between the Jews and the Gentiles. He desired to see them join together in loving acceptance and appreciation of their equality in Christ (Galatians 3:26-29; Ephesians 2:11-22). And these things did indeed occur. II Corinthians 8 and 9 describe the spiritual fruit—the love, zeal, liberality, submission to God—that was produced in the Macedonian and Achaian churches through their generous gifts.

John O. Reid (1930-2016)
During a Famine, What Is the Work?

Related Topics: Charity | Sunday Worship


2 Corinthians 8:12

God judges according to what we have and what we do with it. Thus, we should give freely, generously, and cheerfully without grudging, knowing that we will reap what we sow. God never expects us to give more than we have. If you have a willing mind to give, give what you have. God will notice.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
"If I Have Not Charity"

Galatians 5:22

The Greek word chrestotes is translated "kindness" in the NKJV and "gentleness" in the AV and RV. Chrestotes denotes goodness of heart, kindness, graciousness, and includes gentleness. Kindness has many synonyms: benevolence, generosity, mercy, charity, philanthropy, sympathy, compassion, tenderheartedness, friendliness, etc. Kindness is a major attribute of moral excellence and is intricately entwined with the other fruit of the Spirit. Chrestotes is translated as "goodness" in Romans 2:4 and 11:22 (3 times), so chrestotes is love in tender action, a quality of goodness, and certainly requires gentleness in word and action.

Martin G. Collins

Galatians 6:9-10

An American cliché runs, "Charity begins at home." Unfortunately, the fellowship of a local congregation is frequently the most difficult place to do good in the right spirit. This may be partly because of such misguided expectations that Christians "shouldn't have such problems," "shouldn't be causing such offenses," "should know better than that," or many other accusations about character and personality flaws that we might make.

We draw back and become weary for many reasons that appear justified: There is so much opposition to good plans for doing things. There is so much to do and, it seems, so few to do it. There are so many calls upon our time in other legitimate areas. There is all too often so much ingratitude among those whom we try to help that we become disheartened.

God has called the weak of this world, and we have brought our character weaknesses and odd personality traits with us into the church. We see people in the church who are so depressed it seems they never have a bright day. Others have cups overflowing with troubles, and they want to dump on any willing to listen. The sick, poor, foolish, weak, cynical, stubborn, critical, cutting, arrogant, aggressive, vain, discouraged, suspicious, pompous, hypocritical, and sarcastic are in every congregation. As the cartoon character Pogo said, "We have met the enemy, and they is us!"

But God calls upon all of us to "strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees" (Hebrews 12:12). We are to open our hearts wide in listening and generously give the benefit of knowledge, understanding, comfort, exhortation, inspiration, hope, and encouragement from our experiences, especially to those in the church. At the proper time, we can give correction in meekness, considering our own weaknesses. He commands us to open our hands wide to the poor, and He says it will be as though we are loaning the money to Him. We are to "be there" for them, not as a "know-it-all," but as a "maybe-this-will-help."

Can we not be kinder in our evaluation of another's character? If we hear a derogatory story about a brother or sister, should we not ask ourselves, "If someone heard this story about me, would I not want him to disbelieve it until he searched it out and made quite sure that it was true?" Is there not as much wickedness in believing a lie as in telling one? If we are always ready to believe derogatory stories about others, what does that say about our minds? That is hardly a kind attitude described by chrestotes, the Greek word for kindness. Will such an attitude produce unity, peace, and warm, loving fellowship?

No slanderers would exist among us if no one received or believed slander, for when there is no demand for an article, no one will produce it. If we will not believe evil reports, the discouraged talebearer will leave off his evil practice or take it elsewhere.

What if we are compelled by the facts to believe the report? A kind person shows his kindness by not repeating it. He will reason to himself, "Though this thing is true, and I am very sorry, why should I spread it to others?" It is the Christian's responsibility not to expose the brother to further disgrace unless it be absolutely needful—as sometimes it is—but always to deal with the brother in the most gentle, kindest manner possible. As the Golden Rule is commonly recited, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

God's instruction here is that "as we have the opportunity, let us do good to all men." Regardless of their station in life, regardless of whether they are in the church, this high requirement stands fast. His only modification is that our brethren in the church have a higher claim on our resources. A teaching we can glean from the Parable of the Good Samaritan is that the Samaritan did not inquire whether the wounded man was "one of his own." The only criterion was that he needed an act of kindness performed for him in his desperately weakened situation.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Kindness

Colossians 3:12-13

The very fact that Paul urges us to dress ourselves with these virtues signifies that none of us has "arrived" spiritually. All of us are flawed, deficient, and weak in some respects. As we yield and develop these virtues, we must be forbearing and forgiving toward our brothers on the basis of Christ's example of forbearance and mercy toward us. The enabling power of God's Spirit is already within us, or this exhortation would be in vain.

It can be done if we will choose to humble ourselves and act when we become aware of the need of a brother or of the church itself. God calls upon us here not merely to act but to do it with affection. In all cases, we must let our heart dictate to our hand, to let our most tender feelings encounter the miseries of those in distress, just as Christ did in descending to clothe Himself in clay. We need to let our feelings be at hand and readily touched that we might open our hands wide in help.

This world has hardened us. We have seen so much arrogance and cruelty that God warns that at the end people will be "without natural affection" (II Timothy 3:3, KJV). We are this end-time generation, and we must go a long way even to start to be like Christ in kindness. But we can do it! Perhaps we can liken beginning to be like this to learning to swim by just "jumping in." Kindness is something that we must develop, and we can do it because God has already enabled us by His Spirit. This fruit is especially sweet tasting and a major factor in producing unity.

Never forget God's character, His example, and this promise He has given to us in Isaiah 54:10: "'For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but My kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall My covenant of peace be removed,' says the Lord, who has mercy on you."

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Kindness

Related Topics: Affection | Charity | Humility | Kindness | Love | Unity


James 1:27

The apostle presents Christian living as a two-pronged endeavor that we can perhaps simplify or summarize even more. The first is doing good works: visiting orphans and widows in their trouble. The second prong is to become holy or build righteous character in ourselves in cooperation with God.

We could also divide it into the practical and the spiritual sides of life. Obviously, when a person does good works, it is a practical application of what he has learned and put on as spiritual character.

Another way to look at it is to say that James divides it into the outward and the inward. Part of Christian living goes on inside an individual, and something—a work, an action—comes out of him as a result.

However we want to name this two-pronged approach, we must realize that neither of these prongs is sufficient alone, which is why James presents them together. It is "pure and undefiled religion" to have an inward and an outward aspect or a practical and a spiritual aspect.

The apostle John agrees with James in I John 3:16-19. Pure religion requires both of these elements:

By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him.

He says that, if we do not manifest God's love by giving, helping, and caring for others, then we have not fulfilled anything. We cannot be sure that the love of God is actually in us if it is not coming out in some sort of physical work that we do, some act of love.

In this church's teaching, we tend to stress only one of these prongs. It is not that we do not talk about the other, but we tend to stress the inward, the spiritual, the holy, the righteous character part—the second prong that James shows in James 1:27. There is good, sound, solid, biblical reason for this. Basically, it is that the spiritual aspect is the more important of the two.

The inward, the spiritual, the holy, the righteous-character part of Christian living is the foundation—the wellspring, the fertile soil—out of which good works grow. One could go so far as to say that effective and truly good works cannot be done without godly character or a right relationship with God.

This means that we must have godly character before we can even begin to do good works properly! Without godliness, good works are simply common and rather empty, humanistic philanthropy.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
"If I Have Not Charity"

Find more Bible verses about Charity:
Charity {Nave's}
Charity {Torrey's}

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