What Boaz did for Ruth, following Mosaic law, was to super-size her potential to gather food for herself and Naomi. Instead of simply giving her the barley outright, he made sure there was extra left over for her to glean behind the regular workers in his fields. Today, this “positive enabling” might be watching kids for a few hours when Mom gets called in to work or giving someone a ride.
1. What are some ways that you can come alongside someone to maximize his or her own potential to escape poverty?
2. How much time do you set aside for helping others in this way each week?
Challenge: Take time to get to know one person who might need your help. Learn about this person at a deep enough level to be able to offer personal support.
Money is our first thought when it comes to giving to the poor. But like the woman at the well, many whose lives are broken need “living water” – the Good News that will restore their spiritual relationship with God. Physical healing was also key for both Jesus and His disciples. Both of these gifts still have the power to lift people from poverty today.
1. When you tell others about Jesus, do you think about how powerful a difference it could make in their lives?
2. People with physical disabilities are among the poorest in the U.S. How can you contribute to their healing?
Challenge: Think about the contributions other than money you can offer those in need. Make one such donation this week.
God gives us a specific list of people who deserve special attention: orphans, widows and foreigners. In biblical times, those groups often had no way to earn enough for basic necessities. Today, there are fewer orphans and widows, but there are many who through no fault of their own are abandoned by parents or husbands.
1. Should we help those who are poor even when it might be partly or completely their own fault?
2. Do you interact with foreigners enough to learn whether they might need help?
Challenge: Examine your attitude about how and why people are in poverty and whether they “deserve” your help.
The story of the Good Samaritan is in part simply about helping someone in need – no money, no clothing, no food, maybe barely alive. In some ways, this seems easy: Who would refuse help when someone is in the most desperate straits? But like the priest or the Levite who ignored the robbery victim, some people do walk on by. The first answer to “When do we help?” is “when someone is in need.”
1. Have you ever ignored someone in need?
2. How do you determine when someone really is in need?
Challenge: Pray that God will attune your spirit to His and upgrade your awareness of those around you who are poor and might need your help – as well as fine-tuning your generosity to be willing to give.
The Sunday school answer to this question is pretty straightforward: Why do we help the poor? Because God calls us to. And the reason He asks us to help the poor seems straightforward as well: God loves them and wants to bless them. But God’s blessings are always multiplied. Something shifts in our hearts, too, when we give for His sake.
1. Beyond church giving, do you regularly give of time or money to help the poor?
2. Can you think of a time when you have given that yielded a specific blessing to you or changed your attitude for the better?
Challenge: Find a specific way to support the poor this week, whether big or small, beyond your normal level of giving.
One of the most awesome things about the Christian faith is we know the end of the story, because God has told it to us. God has promised that one day, this world will end and a new one will come in its place, one free from sin and all that comes because of it. Death will be no more. Sadness and sickness will be gone. Poverty in every sense will end—and it will be Jesus who ends it. We do not need to save the world, for the world is not ours to save. All we can do is what Jesus instructs and be faithful to his Word.
1. Has the never-ending task of helping the poor seemed too overwhelming for you to even think about ways to help?
2. What will it look like to have zero poverty?
Challenge: In your bible time this week, try focusing on the amazing promise we have in the new heaven and earth we will see someday.
The noblest goal of helping the poor isn’t always to give, but to restore the dependent person, if possible, to independence. We should give the poor discipline, not as in punishment, but discipline as in disciple. We should empower people to become disciples of economic independence though education and training. If we do not teach them how to care for themselves, be productive, plan for their futures, and embrace Christian principles of diligence, thrift and stewardship, then we have given them nothing of lasting value.
1. What is a tangible way you could help someone better themselves?
2. Does it ever make you upset that some people may not care about making themselves more independent?
Challenge: Pray for the teachers that lead classes and train others in how to care for their futures.
When we think of helping the poor, we typically think of helping through money. This sometimes makes it hard to think about helping when money can be a strain on many families. There are many ways to give that are not financial. It could be sharing wisdom, love, honesty or accommodations. There is no end to the ways we can help others in need. God has blessed us with countless ways to share.
1. Who needs to receive your gift of sharing today?
2. What spiritual gift do you have that you can use to help others that you may not have thought of before?
Challenge: Find a way of being generous to others this week that does not include money.
When we think of blessings from God, we often think they are things given to us that make us happy. God’s blessings to us are not based on money or only flow when everything is perfect in our worlds. God’s blessings are not always things that bring us feelings of contentment. Blessings are anything that help us build our relationship with God. They can come from trials we go through that push us to hold on to the greatest Savior we have in our lives.
1. What is a recent blessing you have had that causes you contentment?
2. What is a recent trial you have gone through that you can now view as a blessing?
Challenge: Try keeping a blessings journal, adding not just the blessings that bring you joy, but also the blessings you receive in ways you may never understand.
In a Time magazine article, it was reported that at least 1.1 billion people live in extreme poverty, which is defined as deprivation of basic human needs. In Matthew 25, Jesus himself comes to us as one of those in extreme poverty. He sums it up as caring for the poor is not an option, as Christians we are called to do so.
1. What would you be able to say if Jesus asked us someday how we cared for the poor?
2. Have you ever struggled with giving to those in poverty?
Challenge: Pray for eyes that are able to see Jesus in those who are less fortunate.