Showing Concern for the Poor
THE charity drives in connection with Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day occur as regularly as the perennial monsoons. In a downpour of editorial and oratorical tears the cry for money to help the poor goes out from press and pulpit, while on the relentless winds of advertising—by radio and television, billboard and poster, and by many tricky devices—the heart-touching appeal is carried to the public. So great is this deluge of propaganda and so emotionally touching is the appeal, in many instances the poor and needy themselves are victimized as the principal contributors. The saddest part of this distressing picture, however, is the fact that in addition to the ever-increasing number of those in need of physical assistance the people in general are spiritually and morally destitute and in a perilous condition.
But why, thoughtful persons ask, do such conditions exist? In native Africa the religion of witchcraft and demonism is the basic cause, for it keeps the people in ignorance, superstition and fear. The same is true among all primitive races. The backward living conditions in India are primarily due to age-old religious superstitions and fears. In godless communistic countries, it is “Red religion”, or the worship of the state, that holds the people in virtual captivity and slavery. And in Christendom, surprising as it may seem to some, the false religious teachings, creeds, traditions and commandments of men are both directly and indirectly responsible for the physical and spiritual misery of the poor, notwithstanding Christendom’s showy display of charity.
It does not shift Christendom’s responsibility to say that the increasing numbers of widows, orphans, cripples, and the mental, moral and physical wrecks of this age are only by-products of wars, crimes and calamities. It is Christendom herself that is largely responsible for such death-dealing conditions. Had Christendom chosen to do so she could easily have prevented World Wars I and II. If Christendom chose to be Christian her land would not be filled with crime, violence and immorality. And if the people of Christendom were taught God’s laws and commandments her spiritual poverty would not exist.
SHAM CONCERN FOR POOR EXPOSED
Listen to Jehovah God’s denunciation of Christendom’s prototype: “For among my people are found wicked men: they watch, as fowlers lie in wait; they set a trap, . . . they plead not the cause, the cause of the fatherless, that they may prosper; and the right of the needy do they not judge.” “Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evil-doers, children that deal corruptly! they have forsaken Jehovah.” And even though the Lord God extends mercy and calls upon them to repent, they refuse, as it is further written: “Wash you, make you clean; . . . cease to do evil; learn to do well; seek justice, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.” “Thus hath Jehovah of hosts spoken, saying, Execute true judgment, and show kindness and compassion every man to his brother; and oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the sojourner, nor the poor; and let none of you devise evil against his brother in your heart. But they refused to hearken.” Christendom’s pretended interest in the poor is sheer hypocrisy.—Jer. 5:26, 28; Isa. 1:4, 16, 17; Zech. 7:9-11, AS.
Were he living today the Lord’s prophet Ezekiel could not give a more exact description of Christendom than what he wrote 2,500 years ago. “Her priests have done violence to my law, and have profaned my holy things: . . . Her princes in the midst thereof are like wolves ravening the prey, to shed blood, and to destroy souls, that they may get dishonest gain. And her prophets have daubed for them with untempered mortar, seeing false visions, and divining lies unto them, saying, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, when Jehovah hath not spoken.” And, as a result, “the people of the land have used oppression, and exercised robbery; yea, they have vexed the poor and needy, and have oppressed the sojourner wrongfully.”—Ezek. 22:26-29, AS.
Oh, wicked Christendom! why have you forsaken God’s clean worship? Why have you joined forces and become a part of Satan’s wicked organization that oppresses the people? Why have you failed to show concern for the poor as Jehovah commands: “Is not this the fast that I have chosen: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him?”—Isa. 58:6, 7, AS.
JEHOVAH’S PROVISIONS FOR POOR
Knowing that “the poor shall never cease out of the land” until Armageddon destroys this system of things, Jehovah God made definite provisions for the care of the needy, not only of those who were Israelites but also the poor among strangers and sojourners in the land, including widows and orphans and those who were victims of old age and sickness. At harvesttime, by special command from God, the corners of the grain fields were to be left for the poor. Also the gleanings of the vineyards and of the olive trees belonged to the poor and needy. A practical illustration of this law was in the case of Ruth.—Lev. 19:9, 10; 23:22; Deut. 15:11; 24:19-21; Ruth 2:2, 3.
Furthermore, every third year a tenth or tithe of all the crops was to be devoted to the care of orphans and widows and those in need. And then every seven years, when the land was not to be sown or cultivated, the produce that grew of its own accord was for the needs of the poor. (Ex. 23:10, 11; Deut. 14:28, 29; 26:12, 13) The God of all mercy and tender compassion also set forth in his code of laws other regulations for the care and protection of the poor.—Lev. 25:25, 35-41, 47-54; Deut. 16:11, 14; 24:12-15.
It is true that Christians are not bound by the Law covenant that was inaugurated at Mount Sinai, which covenant with its many ordinances was blotted out and nailed to the torture stake by Jehovah, yet the principle of showing liberality and helpful assistance to the unfortunate and oppressed is binding on Christians today. There was a beggarly and downtrodden element in the days of Jesus’ ministry and it was to such a class that he and his disciples paid particular attention.
In this connection McClintock & Strong’s Cyclopedia makes the following interesting observation under the subject “Poor” (vol. 8, p. 400): “This word, in the Scriptures, often denotes not so much a man destitute of the good things of this world, as a man sensible of his spiritual wants. In this sense the greatest and richest men of the world are on a level with the poorest in the eyes of God.” So we find Jesus declaring in his famous Sermon on the Mount: “Happy are those who are conscious of their spiritual need, since the kingdom of the heavens belongs to them. Happy are those hungering and thirsting for righteousness, since they will be filled.”—Matt. 5:3, 6, NW.
Throughout his ministry Jesus lovingly did all he could to comfort and help the sick and needy. He said to John’s disciples: “The blind are seeing again, and the lame are walking about, the lepers are being cleansed and the deaf are hearing, and the dead are being raised up, and the poor are having the good news declared to them.”—Matt. 11:4, 5, NW.
In turn the apostles and disciples kept before their Christian brothers the necessity of clean and pure worship of Jehovah. The poor were not to be pushed to one side at the congregational meetings to make way for the rich. The needy, the orphans, the widows and the poor were to be helped in every way possible. “The form of worship that is clean and undefiled from the standpoint of our God and Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their tribulation, and to keep oneself without spot from the world [of which Christendom is very much a part].”—Rom. 15:26; Gal. 2:10; Jas. 1:27; 2:1-9, 14-17, NW.
LET POOR REJOICE AND BE HAPPY!
In various ways Jesus described how leaders in the false religious systems make an outward show of charity amid much trumpet-blowing, appearing before others as very pious due to their long prayers, yet inwardly such hypocrites are covetous to the point of devouring widows’ houses. (Matt. 6:1, 2; Luke 20:46, 47) They are like the rich young fellow who posed as good yet was saddened by the instruction to dispose of his material possessions in the interests of the poor and follow Jesus. They are like the grumbler Judas Iscariot who made such a pretense of loving the poor. The little charitable help the poor get from Christendom is like the crumbs the beggar Lazarus picked up from the rich man’s table, while the dogs licked his ulcerous sores. Neither the crumbs nor the licking remedy the beggarly condition. Only Jehovah can effect a rescue.—Matt. 19:16-24; Luke 16:19-21; John 12:3-6.
How comforting then for the dejected, downtrodden people of the earth to learn that there is One ‘higher than the highest’ of Christendom’s moguls. (Ex. 22:22-24; Eccl. 5:8, 9) Yes, Jehovah the Almighty hears the cries of the half-dead ones, and hearing, He answers their prayers and sends his ‘good Samaritans’ to the rescue, even his witnesses who are despised by Christendom. With them are companions who have demonstrated that they too have regard for people hungering and thirsting, and those sick, naked and imprisoned.—Matt. 25:34-36, 40; Luke 10:29-37, NW.
Those who oppress the poor reproach Jehovah and “shall surely die”. (Prov. 14:31; Ezek. 18:12, 13; Jas. 5:1-6) On the other hand, those who are generous, who “follow the course of hospitality”, who are not stingy with their gifts, as Ananias and his wife were, who are openhanded and distribute freely “with liberality”, “not grudgingly or under compulsion,” certainly such ones “shall be made fat” and will “reap bountifully” of Jehovah’s love and mercy. “God loves a cheerful giver,” and “there is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving”, provided it is done out of love.—Prov. 11:25; Acts 5:1-6; 20:35; Rom. 12:8, 13; 1 Cor. 13:3; 2 Cor. 9:5-7, NW.