Christians Helping the Poor

Many Christians have a heart to help the poor but don't know what they can do to help or have fallen into the trap of waiting for their church to organize an opportunity to serve. That was us 15 years ago. Then we began to more intensely study scripture and read other books that convinced us of two things:

  1. Helping the poor is at the heart of what God wants from us
  2. We couldn't wait for others to arrange it for us

Our goal here is to explore key scriptures about helping the poor, a topic which is at times neglected or even pushed aside for various reasons. Then we'll suggest some ways to get more involved.

An old woman in Malpaisillo, Nicaragua, receiving food from a Sheep Not Goats worker. Christians help the poor, including widows and orphans as demonstrated in James 1:26

Pure Religion

One of many very relevant scriptures is 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.

Clearly the heart of someone motivated to help the needy won't limit their caring to widows and orphans, but neither should they be neglected.

Note that this kind of helping isn't just a nice option. It is given as the very definition of the kind of Christianity that God see as "pure and faultless." As Christians, we all want to walk in that space! The parable of the sheep and the goats found in Matthew 25 also makes it clear that helping those in need isn't optional for Christians (more on that later).

Giving in the New Testament

The most commonly employed scriptures used to promote giving on Sunday mornings actually have nothing to do with paying for buildings, preachers, or missionaries. In 1 Corinthians 16, Paul asks people to set aside money each week so it can be taken to Jerusalem to help poor Christians there, people who were becoming destitute. Such scriptures as:

Now about the collection for the Lord’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made. - 1 Cor 16:1-2 (NIV)

This was a special contribution to help the poor in Jerusalem, not the local church. Looking back about a year later, Paul refers to the generosity of some:

Now, however, I am on my way to Jerusalem in the service of the Lord’s people there. For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the Lord’s people in Jerusalem. - Rom. 15:25-26 (NIV)

Not long after, Paul again mentioned the generosity of the Achaeans.

There is no need for me to write to you about this service to the Lord’s people. For I know your eagerness to help, and I have been boasting about it to the Macedonians, telling them that since last year you in Achaia were ready to give; and your enthusiasm has stirred most of them to action. - 2 Cor. 9:1-2 (NIV)

And a few verses later:

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. - 2 Cor. 9:6-7 (NIV)

All of this is not to say that collecting for the local church is wrong, if that is what the congregation chooses to do. It certainly isn't commanded. But regarding these scriptures, let's always keep in mind the original context and application of scripture and of equal importance the heart behind it - love, caring, and meeting serious needs - not just the mechanics of how it was accomplished.

The Good Samaritan

Go read Luke 10:25-37. We all know the story. A man, presumably a Jew (he was traveling from Jerusalem), is robbed, beaten up, and left for dead.

parable of the good samaritan

Two members of a tribe set aside for God's service, the Levites, pass him by without helping him (one was a priest - priests were Levites who were descended from Aaron). Finally a Samaritan, despised as an unfaithful half-breed traitor to Judaism, bandaged his wounds and paid for his convalescence.

This is more than just an example of one person helping another. It is also a great example of stepping outside the box of social norms and disregarding whether someone in need is part of your group and what they believe. The Samaritan man had every reason to believe that injured Jew would have spit on him under normal circumstances.

Jesus offered the parable in response to the question, "who is my neighbor" as in "love your neighbor as yourself," which he declared to be the second greatest commandment of all, first found in Leviticus.

Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord. - Lev. 19:18 (NIV)

Church Money for Church Members?

Just the other day I read parts of a sermon from a preacher who argued that there is no example in the New Testament of "contribution" being used to help non-Christians or other needs outside of the church and its mission, and thus that church money should not be used as such. In doing so, he was deprioritizing help for the poor outside the church.

Yes, Paul's special contribution quest was indeed for the poor Christians in Jerusalem. And clearly no brother or sister in the church should be in dire need for food or shelter.

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. - Gal. 6:10 (NIV)

So clearly we should care for our brothers and sisters within the church, and perhaps look for and prioritize them first based on severity of need, but let's not overlook Jesus' parable about the good Samaritan or the many Old Testament encouragements to spread his love to those who are not like us and not in our group.

For example:

The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God. - Lev. 19:34

Based on all of this, and from discerning all the meanings within Jesus parable of the Good Samaritan, isn't it short-sighted and selfish to only help people who are in our group of just like us? Perhaps our group doesn't have people in need?

The Sheep and the Goats (Matt. 25:31-46)

This parable emphasizes action, not intentions.

The first thing to understand is that this clearly is talking about the judgement day. It begins:

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. - Matt. 25:31-33

So from the first 3 verses we already know that we want to be sheep, not goats. It goes so far as to equate feeding and clothing those in need with actual service to God himself.

How to Help

Here are a few good ways to help the poor where you are:

  • Homeless Support - Find organizations that truly help the homeless.


 Christians Helping the Poor

Sheep Dreamzzz Baby Blankets is a ministry of Sheep Not Goats, a 501(c) (3) charitable organization founded by Steve and Sandy Jacoby, a Florida couple working in Nicaragua to enable people to care for their families through income opportunities.

We built a farm, but since you are on the Sheep Dreamzzz web site, let's focus there. Sandy has trained a small group of women, all the primary providers for their homes, to knit the beautiful baby blankets that you see on this site. The women receive all of the earnings - nothing goes to anybody else once we've paid the expenses of yarn and other things like this web site.

Christians Helping the Poor

Read about all of the women here. They meet in our home in a small rural town in Nicaragua five mornings a week, working together so that as many as possible finish a blanket each week.

Many people help the poor through donations to one non-profit or another. While we are open to that and accept donations here for Sheep Not Goats, another way to help is to buy a Sheep Dreamzzz baby blanket. You won't receive a tax deduction, but you will be helping to feed a family in Central America's poorest country.

A gift that really makes a difference. So the next time you need to give a baby gift, please remember Sheep Dreamzzz. You can even give a gift card and let someone else do the hard work of choosing from our vast selection.

 See Our Blankets 

Learn more by watching this video: