Leviticus 25:35 And if thy brother be waxen poor, and fallen in decay with thee; then thou shalt relieve him: yea, though he be a stranger, or a sojourner; that he may live with thee.

36 Take thou no usury of him, or increase: but fear thy God; that thy brother may live with thee.

37 Thou shalt not give him thy money upon usury, nor lend him thy victuals for increase.

Deuteronomy 15:7 If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren within any of thy gates in thy land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother:

8 But thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shall surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth.

9 Beware that there be not a thought in thy wicked heart, saying, The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand; and thine eye be evil against thy poor brother, and thou givest him nought; and he cry unto the LORD against thee, and it be sin unto thee.

10 Thou shalt surely give him, and thine heart shall not be grieved when thou givest unto him: because that for this thing the LORD thy God shall bless thee in all thy works, and in all that thou puttest thine hand unto.

11 For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.

Psalm 41:1 Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the LORD will deliver him in time of trouble.

Psalm 112:5 A good man sheweth favour, and lendeth: he will guide his affairs with discretion.

9 He hath dispersed, he hath given to the poor; his righteousness endureth for ever; his horn shall be exalted with honour.

II Corinthians 8:1 Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia;

2 How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.

MEMORY VERSE: Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again. —Luke 6:38

CENTRAL THOUGHT: An important part of the law of God to His people was the command to be merciful to the poor and needy brother or stranger. Both in the Old and New Testaments, God’s true people were characterized by their generosity to those in need or to the work of God.


Leviticus 25:36 “Usury” or “Increase”: interest on a loan.

Deuteronomy 15:9 “Wicked”: worthless; same as the name Belial. “The seventh year, the year of release is at hand”: The seventh year was when God commanded the Israelites to release all debts. A covetous thought would have been, “The year of release is next year! I will have to release my brother from paying back what I have loaned him. I’ll never get it back. I’ll hold off loaning to him until after the sabbath release; that way he’ll have six years to work and I’ll be sure to get my money back.” “Thine eye be evil”: “An evil eye signifies a covetous disposition. See the same form of expression used by our Lord in the same sense (Matthew 6:23): If thine eye be evil—If thou be a covetous person. Evil eye is by our Lord opposed to single eye, i. e., a person of a liberal, benevolent mind. Covetousness darkens the soul; liberality and benevolence enlighten it” (Clarke’s Commentary).

Psalm 41:1 “Considereth”: “It is not a sudden impression at the sight of a person in distress, which obliges a man to give something for the relief of the sufferer, that constitutes the merciful character. It is he who considers the poor; who endeavors to find them out; who looks into their circumstances; who is in the habit of doing so; and actually, according to his power and means, goes about to do good; that is the merciful man, of whom God speaks with such high approbation, and to whom he promises a rich reward” (Clarke’s Commentary)

II Corinthians 8:1 “We do you to wit”: we make known to you; we want you to know; we inform you.


You will notice that in the civil law to God’s people, underlying it all was this dual command: love the LORD your God and love your neighbor as yourself. There were many specific commands concerning the treatment of others—brothers, neighbors, servants, strangers, and the poor, including the command to let the poor glean the corners of the fields or any dropped grain, and leaving the sabbath year’s harvest for the poor (Leviticus 19). God’s people were ever a generous, hospitable people when their hearts were turned fully toward the Lord and He was the object of their worship and love. When the tabernacle was being built in the wilderness, the willing-hearted, both men and women, gave liberally of their gold and jewels. At the dedication, they brought wagons and oxen for the sacrifices (Exodus 35 and Numbers 7).

We also quote from Psalm 41 where David wrote about showing mercy to the poor, listing eight different promises to the one who showed mercy. David loved God and liberally gave gold and silver out of his own treasuries for the building of the temple (I Chronicles 29).

After the captivity, the Israelites liberally brought in gifts for the rebuilding of the temple. Psalm 112 is believed to have been written during that time.

Sad to say, when God’s people would leave off loving and worshipping God fervently, there was a slacking off of their generous spirit and deeds of compassion, as well. The prophets sent messages of judgment for their idolatry and lack of mercy and liberality.

Jesus directed many of His commandments toward deeds of mercy, compassion and benevolence, as in the passage from Luke’s gospel. He pointed out and commended examples of liberality, including the compassionate Samaritan who cared for the assaulted man on the road to Jericho (Luke 10) and the widow who cast into the treasury all she had in comparison to the Pharisees, who gave but little out of their rich stores (Luke 21).

In the early church, the believers shared in common everything they had and continually sent relief to the widows or poor brethren in other cities, as in the scripture from II Corinthians. The Caesarean centurion, Cornelius, was commended as a man who feared God, prayed continually, and gave “much alms” to the people (Acts 10). Tabitha, or Dorcas, was a woman at Joppa who was “full of good works and almsdeeds” (Acts 9:36-41). When she died the people mourned and showed Peter the clothes which she had made for the needy. In answer to Peter’s prayer, God resurrected her, to the joy of the saints and widows who wept for her. In Paul’s writings to the saints, there are many balanced teachings about giving to the needy.

—Sis. Angela Gellenbeck


  1. Give several examples of commands concerning the treatment of the poor in the Old Testament law.
  2. Can you explain the “wicked thought” concerning the Sabbath year?
  3. What verse in the New Testament echoes the thought, “Thine heart shall not be grieved when thou givest,” in Deuteronomy 15:10?
  4. What does it mean to “consider” the poor?
  5. Give several New Testament examples of the generosity of God’s people.
  6. In both Old and New Testaments, what are some ways God’s people responded to needs for God’s sanctuary or the work of compassion for the needy?


When you consider it, hasn’t your life been blessed by the compassionate, generous deeds of the saints of God? I can think of many gifts that have personally been given to me; help, hard labor, financial support just when it was needed, or a delicious meal. As Jesus directed, many times the gift was anonymous or given simply and very quietly without fanfare.

In the early church, the disciples soon ran into problems as they gave support to many widows. Paul wrote to Timothy about the need to make sure the recipients were truly deserving and “indeed” qualified for help. In the Old Testament examples, the poor who were given the leftover grain from the harvest were also to come to the field to pick it up from the ground; thus teaching them the necessity of working for their food. So there is prudence and balance in these teachings. Discernment and wisdom must be used as we seek to fulfil the spirit of Christ’s commands to “give.”

At first glance, it would seem that the community the first believers shared was a form of the type of government that enforces financial equality. However, it differed in that it was voluntary and motivated entirely by the Spirit of God’s love dwelling in the believers; and that your “abundance” that was a supply for my “want” was just as easily turned around and reciprocated when I had the abundance which became the supply for your want. When we are filled with God’s Spirit, it will work just that way, without an outside government to coerce it; nor is there any “working the system” to obtain something for myself at the expense of another.

We can see again how the pilgrim/stranger heart that doesn’t set its affections on the riches of this world, lives a life of faith, earnest prayer and self denial, is zealous and untiring in its efforts to win souls, and manifests the gentle love and peaceable spirit of Christ, is the heart that reaches out its hands to the poor and needy and quietly gives the help, food or financial means to the work of the gospel. This is the heart of the true saint.

—Sis. Angela Gellenbeck

John Wesley
June 17, 1703 — March 2, 1791

John Wesley is most well-known for his evangelism and writings as the co-founder, along with his brother Charles, of the Methodist movement in England, which re-introduced to the world the biblical concepts of sanctification.

However, not many are aware that he lived a radical life of Christian giving and stewardship based on convictions he first felt while studying as a student at Oxford University. His family was not poor, and he was able to buy nearly anything he needed; however, one day a maid knocked on his door and he noticed that her clothing was little protection against the cold. He reached into his pocket for some money to give her for a coat, but found that his pockets were nearly empty. Convicted for how frivolously he had used his Master’s money, he resolved then to limit his expenses so that he would have more money to give to the poor. The first year, with an income of £30, he lived on £28 and had £2 to give away. The next year, his income doubled and he continued to live on £28, and gave £32 away. In year three, with an income of £90, he lived on that same £28 and gave 62 pounds away. Eventually, as his income rose into the thousands of pounds, he gave away the surplus to the poor. One year, with an income of £1,400, he gave away all save £30!

Wesley often preached that Christians shouldn’t merely tithe, but give everything to God’s work once family and creditors were cared for. When he died in 1791 (he had no children), the majority of the 30,000 pounds [that would be 38,100 US dollars today] he had attained in his life had been given away, save for a few coins found in his pockets and dresser drawers.

Quotes Pertaining to His Generosity and Stewardship:

“[When I die] if I leave behind me ten pounds…you and all mankind [may] bear witness against me, that I have lived and died a thief and a robber.”

“Do all the good you can, by all the means you can.”

—Bro. Fari Matthews