Proverbs takes a turn, and delves into how we are to respond to one another. We are going to look at this, Biblically, because in our culture today, there are going to be some hard things to chew on here.
Starting in Proverbs 3:27, we are commanded to not withhold good from those who are owed it. Especially when we are able to do good. Good is what we would expect it to mean. Goodness, pleasantness, etc. Therefore, as believers, we should do good to those around us.
This instruction is carried from both Old and New Testament. In the Old Testament, we find such ideas as:
1. Those who leave the home as former slaves were not to be released empty handed – Deuteronomy 15:13.
2. Those who work for you for a living, are to receive their wages (the text would imply a daily pay, but we would also make the case that if agreed upon, a different pay sequence could be fine as well) each day. - Deuteronomy 25:15
In the New Testament we find:
1. If someone wants something or to borrow something, let them – Matthew 5:42
2. On top of #1, if someone takes something, don’t ask for it back – Luke 6:30
3. Lastly, we are called to owe no one anything except love – Romans 13:8
These are hard teachings, especially today. In our culture, these concepts are completely ignored. But yet, here in Proverbs 3:27, we are called to give the good. But, lest we think this only deals with those we like, let us ratchet up the pressure:
1. We are to give all their due: Taxes, customs, fear, and honor – Romans 13:7 (I am sure we all love paying our taxes and just get great joy out of it. Never complaining, murmuring, or wishing ill on them...right?)
2. We are to do good to everyone. That everyone means...EVERYONE. Including our enemies (Matthew 5:44; Luke 6:27, 35). But notice, there is a special clause. The group we should ABSOLUTELY do good to are those of the household of faith! - Galatians 6:10.
See, it isn’t just enough to do good to those whom we like (although, granted, that is easy), it is also the call to do good to everyone especially those who are of the faith. Many times, and it has been said a lot, Christians are the hardest people on earth. Our old pastor, Pastor Davis, once said,
“Only in the Christian army do we shoot our own wounded.”
This should not be. We may not agree with each other, or we may have been hurt. Does that warrant the cold shoulder, the short, curt, rude comment in the halls? The blatent ignoring of one another? The turning away and abrupt absence from one another? The answer is NO! We are called to be there for one another, to carry one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2) for we are one body with many members that sometimes cause hurt to the other part of the body (ever hit your thumb with a hammer?) (1 Corinthians 12:12, 14, 20).
If we have the ability to do good, then we are compelled, by the Lord, to do good. And we have enumerated the connecting verses that show us the depth this should go. This is God’s expectation.
Then, Proverbs 3:28 lays out that we should not only do good, but we should not delay doing good. There are some who may think,
“I’ll do good, but that will be tomorrow”.
There is a sign that says,
“I can only please one person a day. Today is not your day. Tomorrow is not looking too good either.”
We can laugh at this, but there are some, make that many, who live this as their motto in life. The Bible says that if we can help someone and we have the ability to do it now, do not send them away saying “tomorrow”. Now, is this taught elsewhere? Yes.
1. Do not keep the wage of the worker over night – Leviticus 19:13; Deuteronomy 24:12-15
2. We should be READY to do good to our neighbors – 1 Timothy 6:18.
3. Do not send anyone away that is in need while giving them a blessing – James 2:16.
Therefore, some may be thinking, we give to everyone, everything! If that is what God calls for us to do because we have an idol in our life of our possessions, then I would say, yes (Mark 10:22).
Let us address a glaring situation in our day and age. We see this in many states. Homelessness, and those who are standing on the street corner. How do we respond? Well, depends. Of course some may say,
“After all you said, you say, ‘depends’?”
One one hand, we take pity on their plight, and we should have mercy for their position. At the same time, there are several things to note
1. Many who stand on the corner are there because it is easier than working.
2. There are many who want to play on the emotions of people
3. There are many who want a handout rather than a hand up.
There are, of course, some overlap, but how does a Christian respond to this? For if we are to do good, should we not do good to the less of these? Perhaps. Let me start by saying our modern day concept of welfare, and social programs are not Biblical.
This may be harsh, but hear me out. God is the one who created work (Genesis 2:2). God gave mankind work as a blessing, not a curse (Genesis 2:15). God tells everyone to work or not eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10). There is a blessing to work (Psalm 90:17). We are told to be satisfied with the fruit of our own labor (Ecclesiastes 5:18). The call to work is what will bring reward (Proverbs 14:23). Work allows us independence (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12). We can go on, and on, and on about the virtues and blessing of work.
Our modern day welfare and social services turn this around. Instead of working, there is a desire for free handouts. Instead of making something with their own hands so as to live quietly, if checks or deposits are not made, riots break out. Many look for handouts rather than hand ups. There is no longer the demand for personal improvement, personal responsibility, and personal integrity. Our modern welfare system has bred a new mindset that everything is owed and there should be no limits to what the government hands out. Government becomes the dependence and the god rather than God Himself.
As a Christian, we should be appalled at this. What do we see in society? Selfishness, demanding, demeaning, angry, and self destructive behavior, all being rewarded for their own failure to work with their hands. If you have, the expectation is that you will give to those who have not and have no intention on doing anything to help themselves. In essence, if we, as our nation was founded on Judeo Christian values, would simply put 2 Thessalonians 3:10 into practice, there will be a large work force ready to go. Work is good and healthy. Our society has made it too easy to be lazy.
We have seen this play out before in America. We will not delve into it now, but do a search for the Common Storehouse System in Jamestown and Plymouth (here is a good link: https://www.pennlive.com/opinion/2018/08/from_jamestown_on_the_free_mar.html). Sound familiar to our modern day? I think so. Except it is now becoming less and less carrying the financial burden and more and more taking out. This is backward to what God established and the result has been devastating to our nation and culture.
A Christian should not fall into this trap. They should look at what the Bible says about work, working, and working with the hands. They should desire to be content with their labors so they have enough. This then allows them to be generous (We could note many Bible verses, but here are two good searches: https://dailyverses.net/work; https://www.openbible.info/topics/working_with_your_hands).
I know the argument will now be made.
“Are you willing to starve everyone? That is not very Christian.”
The answer, what does the Bible say (2 Thessalonians 3:10), and it depends? Are we helping peoplt to climb up, or stay where they are? I think the welfare system should be overhauled and I do believe it should be returned to the local communities, not the federal government. But beyond this, the local church and ministries really played a large part in helping with the hungry. Larry Burkett lays out a very powerful article which goes into detail about welfare and work. Read what is said. The focus is not on maintaining the state of dependence, but moving those recipients to a state of productivity. There are times when there is a need for help from the government. I myself have been a recipient of said help. However, I got the help, got reestablished, and got off the social help as fast as I could. I did not stay on it permanently. That is an acceptable way to use the system. It is a help up and not a hand out.
Here at Calvary, we have a few criteria for giving of help. The first is if they are part of our local body of faith. We are to care for our church body and their needs. Second, we, as a church, support many organizations that are the outside arm of our church helping those with many needs. Third, we have a ministry that goes into the community around us and feeds the hungry. The name of that ministry is “Feed the Hungry”.
It is amazing, after these things are in place, how an attitude changes from one of asking for help to absolute anger that we would “expect” there to be some form of criteria in the local body of faith (whether that is ours or we refer them to their own). Most want handouts without any attachment of responsibility.
With all that being said, Jesus Himself says we will always have the poor (Matthew 26:11). It is impossible, whether a church or a government, to have an endless bank roll without major consequences. When we read in Proverbs 3:27-28, I see that we are to do good but we are to do good with the intent that we are helping people up, not just giving away handouts. Laziness should never be rewarded.
For those who are truly needy, lets say they do have a need or an issue that keeps them from working. The church should be the first ones to help or help get the help needed. That is what we find in the Bible. Acts 2:44 and Acts 4:32 does not support communism or socialism at all. What we find is the body of faith helping the body of faith (Galatians 6:10). Therefore, a church, and believer, based on Proverbs 3:27-28 can and should reach out, but that is why I say, maybe.
Getting back to our text, we find then another qualifier. We find the ones asking are not unknown to the individual. Either the one who is due good earned the good (Proverbs 3:27) or they are neighbors (Proverbs 3:28). Therefore, there is some familiarity here. Notice the key words in both: due, as in earned (Proverbs 3:27) and neighbor, as in one who is close (Proverbs 3:28. Who is our neighbor? Jesus answers this in Luke 10:30-36. I agree we should show kindness. And the Samaritan even helped cover some possible future expenses. Notice what is not said here. The man who was beaten did not wake up and say,
“You know. I can just live here. I know, I’ll just stay here, the Samaritan can continue to pay for my stay, food, clothing, enjoyments. Yeah. I’m entitled to this and I believe the Samaritan can just be forced to cover for me.”
The goal was to get the man better and back on his feet. This Samaritan did that which we find commanded here in Proverbs. The very thing we should all desire to do. The very thing we are called to do as a Christian.
Next week, we are going to look at what we should not do. However, we should really focus on what the Biblical standard is for help and not our cultural standard for help.