Proverbs 22:16, 22-23 NRSV
Oppressing the poor in order to enrich oneself, and giving to the rich, will lead only to loss. Do not rob the poor because they are poor, or crush the afflicted at the gate; for the Lord pleads their cause and despoils of life those who despoil them.
Francis Schaeffer was a theologian in the mid 1900’s. In one of the books he wrote, How Then Shall We Live, he talks about the legacies of the Reformation. While the Reformers brought great freedom to the Church, they also, unfortunately, left us with the idea of accumulating wealth without considering those around us.
The United States has a long history of believing that people should earn their own living. And, on one hand, that is a biblical principle. The apostle Paul taught: For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: Anyone unwilling to work should not eat. (2 Thess. 3:10 NRSV) But, I think that we have embraced this idea without the balancing understanding that we are also to help the poor and not to accumulate wealth at their expense.
Currently, in the United States, housing foreclosures are at a new high. Many Christians are having to leave their homes because they’ve lost their jobs. And yet, I think there’s at least a small sense in the Church that these Christians are losing their homes due to their own fault. In fact, some studies should that churches have increased their demands for tithes and giving, even in a time when some of the congregation members are looking at the possibility of being homeless.
When times get tough and there is the possibility of loss, it is human nature to pull in and begin to guard what one has. Giving does go down; so does generosity. Even where we can, we may reach out less feeling that perhaps that person in need isn’t quite as deserving of our generosity.
Giving needs to be wise, but it doesn’t need to be judgmental. What do I mean by that? Well, it’s probably not wise to give a homeless person money, because they may use it to feed their habit. But there’s nothing wrong with buying them a meal or groceries or giving them a lift to the local shelter. However, I’m thinking that it would be better to err on the side of generosity than on the side of judgment. If we give, and the person uses it unwisely, wouldn’t that be better than not giving when they might have used it wisely? Should gifts be given with the idea that the recipient must use the gift in the way it was intended?
Romans 5:8 NRSV tells that God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. I wonder how we prove our love to others?