Christianity’s Contributions: Charity increased (Part 2)

This month we examine the impact of aid given to the needy due to God’s Word and the charitable institutions that arose from the influence of the Christian church.  As we saw previously, charity wasn’t part of the fabric of Greco-Roman life.  It was, however, woven throughout the pages of the Bible.

In the Old Testament, showing mercy and love through physical assistance is commanded since that is what God did to Israel.  Deuteronomy 10:17-19 says, “For the LORD your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality nor take a bribe.  He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing.  So show your love for the alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.”

One specific way to show love by giving food was the concept of gleaning.  Harvesters were to leave the edges of the field or what falls to the ground for the poor and foreigners to gather up and thereby have food.  Leviticus 23:22 says,  “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you. I am the LORD your God.”

In the New Testament. Jesus tells the parable of the “Good Samaritan” (Luke 10:25-37).  In it, the Samaritan bandages the wounds of an injured traveler and takes him to an inn so he can recover.  At the end of the parable, the Samaritan tells the innkeeper, “Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.” Jesus told this parable to answer the question, “Who is my neighbor, that I should love him?”

In another parable, Jesus speaks of the “Sheep and Goats” (Matthew 25:31-46).  On Judgment Day, Jesus will explain to believers and unbelievers alike that when they gave (or failed to give) to people who needed food, water, and clothes, they were treating Jesus the same way.

There are more commands in the Bible to help those in need.  Those passages will be shared in the next blog.

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