A pastor breathed life into the phrase “He’d give you the shirt off his back” when he gave this unsettling challenge to his church: “What would happen if we took the coats off our backs and gave them to the needy?” Then he took his own coat and laid it at the front of the church. Dozens of others followed his example. This was during the winter, so the trip home was less comfortable that day. But for dozens of people in need, the season warmed up just a bit.
When John the Baptist roamed the Judean wilderness, he had a stern warning for the crowd that came to hear him. “You brood of vipers!” he said. “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Luke 3:7–8). Startled, they asked him, “What should we do then?” He responded with this advice: “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same” (vv. 10–11). True repentance produces a generous heart.
Because “God loves a person who gives cheerfully” (nlt), giving should never be guilt-based or pressured (2 Cor. 9:7). But when we give freely and generously, we find that it truly is more blessed to give than to receive.
Lord, thank You for the many ways You bless us. Forgive us for so often taking Your goodness for granted. Show us what we have that we might use to bless someone else today.
Whoever refreshes others will be refreshed. Proverbs 11:25
God reveals His compassion for the poor throughout the Scriptures. In Psalm 72:13, we read, “He will take pity on the weak and the needy and save the needy from death.” The people were to join with God in bringing His compassion to the poor. In the New Testament, Jesus repeatedly expresses the Father’s concern for the poor by portraying them as accepted by the Father (Mark 12:42; Luke 16:20) and stating that His messianic mission, in part, was confirmed by His ministry to the poor (Matt. 11:4–5). Paul picks up the baton of this challenge by commending the churches of Macedonia and Achaia for their financial support of the poor in Jerusalem (Rom. 15:26), while James warns that the poor must not be disregarded because of their socioeconomic status (James 2:2–6).
If our God and His Son are this concerned for the poor, how can we represent that love by caring for those in need?