On one occasion Jesus made this statement: “Ye have the poor with you always.” (Mark 14:7) It is so obviously true. Even in a land as prosperous ours. Even with our fifty some years of war on poverty, still it has not been completely eradicated from our own land. But not only is there the ever-present poor in the world – we have an ever-present responsibility to help.
A while back as I stopped by a drug story to pick up some medicine, a young lady asked me for help. Usually in Winston-Salem those who stand at traffic lights to ask for help, have a badge indicating that the person has been cleared by the authorities to ask for alms. This lady, however, had no badge. So before helping her I ask the druggist if he knew her. He did not but he made a statement which has stuck with me. He said, “If that’s her way of making a living, it would be okay to give her a couple of dollars.” I know one or two of those who stand on the corners with a sign asking for help. And I know personally that some of them at least work when they can get work. And when there is no work, asking alms is their only means of livelihood.
How should we view the poor? Some of them at least are doing the best that they can. We should see them as a real opportunity to practice true religion. Remember the Proverb: “He that hath pity upon the poor lends unto the Lord; and that which he hath given will be paid him again.” (Proverb 19:17)
The Prophet Malachi wrote, “If ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? And if ye offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? Offer it now unto thy governor; will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person? saith the Lord of hosts.” (Malachi 1:8)
God deserves and expects our best. This is Malachi’s point. God would not accept as sacrifice the blind, lame or sick from the flock. He demanded the best. The same is true for us. We must do as one of our songs suggest: “Give of your best to the master.”
Again Malachi drove this point home in these words: “Ye brought that which was torn, and the lame, and the sick; thus ye brought an offering: should I accept this at your hand? saith the Lord.” (Malachi 1:13) And again, “Cursed be the deceiver, which hath in his flock a male, and voweth, and sacrifices unto the Lord a corrupt thing.” (Malachi 1:14)
What are we offering to the Lord? Are we giving Him the best that we have?
When the devil tempted Jesus saying, “If thou be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread,” Jesus answered, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.” (Luke 4:3-4) Jesus’ answer was taken from Deuteronomy 8:3.
We recognize the necessity of bread, that is, food to sustain physical life. But real life is more than that – there is a moral and spiritual side to human life. And for this we most certainly need the guidance of God’s word.
We live in an age in which there is too great an emphasis on the material and temporal. Our national concerns are over national security and economic conditions. These things are important. But knowing God’s word and living by that word is much more important.
The apostle Peter wrote: “All flesh is grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower thereof falls away: but the word of the Lord endures forever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.” (1 Peter 1:24-25).