“If you help them out, they’ll just beg for more.”
This “conventional wisdom” is often the answer people give for not helping those who have needs. Perhaps it comes from being taken advantage of one too many times. In my life, though, it’s been less that than just plain old stinginess.
My life changed a decade ago in this regard when I ran across Proverbs 19:17 in my daily Bible reading:
Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward them for what they have done.
Read that again. Now stop and think about this. When we’re “kind” or “gracious” to those who are poor, we’re actually giving kindness or graciousness to the Lord. Jesus echoes this in the New Testament. As He’s explaining generosity to His followers in Matthew 25:34-40, He concludes by telling them (verse 40), “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
The Word of God made human truly helped us see the sparkling center of the gem of this Proverb: when we are kind and generous to those who are incapable of repaying us, we are actually being kind and generous to the Lord.
We are—to use the language of this Proverb—a creditor for the Lord who is now in our debt.
Before you get too shocked by that and fire off angry emails, read that first phrase of Proverbs 19:17 again: “Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord” (emphasis added). If we’re lending to the Lord, He is—figuratively speaking—in our debt. You can’t miss this. You can’t take it too far, but you can’t miss it either!
It’s because of this relationship that the Lord repays the generous for their kindness to the poor. The poor are incapable of repaying us for our generosity to them, but the Lord owns everything and “He will reward them for what they have done.”
Here’s a word of caution: There’s no promise that the Lord will pay us our money back. The Proverbs as a whole teach us the Lord rewards the faithful with a myriad of blessings, some material and some not.
The point of our generosity and kindness to those who have less than us is not so the Lord will “bless” us. If we are moved, however, by the compassion of the Lord to help others, those kind moments will demonstrate our formation into the image and character of our Master and example, Jesus.
And that “handout of kindness” is the best blessing of all.