What is our social responsibility toward the poor in our neighborhoods and near the assembly hall?
Our main responsibility to the poor is to share the gospel with them. The Lord highlighted this in His ministry as He read from Isaiah 61 at the commencement of His public ministry (Luke 4:18) and also as He summarized His work for the sake of John the Baptist (Luke 7:22). Although we are to share the gospel with all, we often notice a lesser receptivity to the gospel among the wealthy and seemingly self-sufficient.
The term “social responsibility” in the question, however, seems to ask about financial or material support. Certainly the Scriptures are replete with counsel to help the poor and God’s anger toward those who oppress them – take a quick look through these verses to get a taste of it – Deuteronomy 15:11; Psalm 10:2; Proverbs 14:31; Isaiah 10:1-2; Ezekiel 16:49; Luke 14:13. Our first responsibility in this area is to our Christian brothers and sisters. When Paul says in Galatians 2:10, “they asked us to remember the poor,” he is speaking of financial help to needy believers in churches in Jerusalem and Judea. Likewise, the concern in 1 John 3:16-18 is a “brother in need.” If there aren’t any needy saints in your local church, there are many elsewhere in the world.
But Galatians 6:10, while acknowledging that first responsibility, widens the sphere of our kindness – “let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” Yes, we have a social responsibility to help poor people. The questions are: how and whom specifically? Bible principles and experience teach us five things:
1. Christianity and giving go hand in hand, and the mindset that you will only give or help if they come to meeting next Sunday is wrong. Not everyone the Lord healed physically repented spiritually. He kept healing, and sowing the seed. Sometimes, after giving or helping, you will feel you’ve been “burned.” It comes with the territory. Don’t develop a hard heart.
2. We are not to be wasteful and 2 Thessalonians 3:10, “if any would not work, neither should he eat,” teaches us that giving money or food to one not willing to work contributes to the problem. Some people have never learned to manage money and giving it to them is sure to cause you frustration and be of little lasting help to them.
3. Giving money is not the only way you can help, though. Clearly the Lord and His disciples did give money to the poor or bought things for the poor (John 12:5-6; 13:29). But that wasn’t the only way the Lord served the poor. Many of you reading this have excess food, toys, furniture, or time that could be of use to others. You could help them with job resumés. Invite their children to join yours in fun activities. As the Lord fed hungry people whom He taught, consider serving meals at your hall on Sunday evenings in connection with your gospel meeting and invite the poor to “come and dine.” Some may not stay to hear the gospel or show no interest in what they do hear on that occasion. Don’t worry about it. Is there anything wrong with showing them kindness and giving them a good meal? Many will stay and listen.
4. Your support of poor people will be easier and go further if you have a relationship with them. This implies that we need to attempt to form some relationships.
5. Giving is an area of personal devotion (Matt 6:3; 2Cor 9:7). God places different burdens upon different people’s hearts. Don’t expect everyone to feel the same way you do about perceived need and the wisest way to help, but don’t let that stop you from using your money and possessions as you feel God would have you.
Remember our foremost responsibilities – the gospel and the household of faith. It will doubtless be a help to testimony (read Matt 5:16) to show practical kindness to people in need.
In what way did the Lord Jesus “increase in wisdom” (Luke 2:52)?
Behind the question is likely this predicament: how can an omniscient, perfect person increase in wisdom? Being fully God, the Lord Jesus is beyond our ability to fully understand and explain. But the verse is a clear affirmation of His true manhood and His natural development as a man, albeit a perfect man.
Verse 40 spoke of His childhood; verse 52 speaks of His teenage and young adult years. In each timeframe, He developed. His growth was perfectly balanced and included both the physical and mental. In every area of His life, there was a beautiful harmony of progress. There may be some uneasiness with some in speaking of His developing mentally. Admittedly, we should be cautious when speaking of the person of Christ, never diminishing the glory of His deity. But it is a misunderstanding to think that our Lord, as a toddler at two years of age, for example, had the capacity or thought processes of a ten year old. At every stage of life, He was perfect for that stage. He subjected Himself to the natural process of human development, but without sin. Thus in our verse, He was a perfect teenager because He was steadily increasing in wisdom.
Wisdom is more than just accumulation of knowledge. It includes discernment, and applying knowledge and principles to circumstances in a way that pleases God (Prov 9:10; Isa 11:2). One difference between v52 and v40 is that growth in wisdom comes first in v52, to show it is now the priority. Coming on the heels of the scene in the temple, it should be no surprise. There is now noticeable advancement in wisdom, which is intricately tied to His personal knowledge of God and His word (Psa 1). As the Lord grew into young adulthood, He faced new situations in life. As Hebrews 5:8 says, “he learned obedience through what he suffered.” As He passed through different experiences, He was called upon to apply the fear of God in ways that He had not previously encountered. The Father was preparing Him for His public ministry ahead of Him. He met every challenge with perfect intelligence and with each new experience, He increased in wisdom.