Wednesday, October 8, 2014

11 Objections on Giving to the Poor Answered by Jonathan Edwards

One of the best sermons of all time is Jonathan Edwards’s “The Duty of Christian Charity: Explained and Defended.” In it, he argues that helping the poor is one of the highest duties of the Christian. It is not a just a small duty, but a great duty — and even heaven and hell lie in the balance with how we respond to the poor (Matthew 25: 41-46). Further, Christians are not just to help the poor from a little bit of their surplus, but are to be abundant, liberal, and utterly generous in giving to the poor (Deuteronomy 15:7-11; Psalm 37:21, 25-26; 112:5; Proverbs 11:24-25; 2 Corinthians 8:1-7; 9:6-11).

Edwards not only goes into all the passages which command helping the poor as “one of the three chief duties of true religion” (Micah 6:8; Matthew 22:23; 1 John 3:17-19), but also all the commands to do this with great generosity. Then, he goes into the vast promises that God makes to those who help the poor. The promises Edwards outlines are amazing and incredible (Deuteronomy 15:10; Psalm 37:25-26; Proverbs 11:24-25; 12:9; 19:17; 28:27; Ecclesiastes 11:1-2, 6; Isaiah 32:8; Luke 6:35-36; 12:32-34; 14:13-26; 2 Corinthians 9:6-11), and show that the ultimate foundation and motive for helping the poor is not only love but also faith – faith in God to fulfill his promises. (Thus, refusal to help the poor reveals not only a lack of love for people, but also lack of faith.)

Edwards argues that “God, in his providence, generally smiles upon and prospers those men who are of a liberal, charitable, bountiful spirit,” whereas “God has threatened to follow with is curse those who are uncharitable to the poor [consider Proverbs 21:3; Ezekiel 16:49].” In calling Christians to take seriously these promises that God makes to generosity, he encourages us to remember these things.

[Summary by Matt Perman]

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