Is it an assembly’s responsibility to help the poor and needy in the community in which they are located, or is this more of an individual, personal exercise?
I stood in front of the desk where George Mueller’s little Bible lay open, looked at the chair where he sat and prayed, and thought, “Thousands of poor children were fed, had a place to learn how to live – and many came to Christ, because this man cared for the poor.” With a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes I sat down on that chair at the urging of the curator, and felt like I was on holy ground. George Mueller practiced the teaching of James 2:1-18. Read it and weep. Then get up and go minister to the needs of the poor, as “our Savior Jesus Christ” intended His “peculiar people” who are zealous of good works to do (Titus 2:11-15). To individuals: “Do good … be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate” (1Tim 6:19).
Dorcas did it right. She was “always doing good and helping the poor” (Acts 9:36, NIV). It was by the power of God that she was raised from the dead to keep doing her work with this result: “Many believed in the Lord.”
A poor family lost everything in a house fire – they had no insurance, no bank account – nothing. Where does one start? An assembly of nearby believers met together and prayed, planned, prepared, and acted in grace by faith. Assembly funds were used to buy material; lumber was donated, and men took time from their own work to join together and work to build a new house for “the poor and needy.” In one week and one day, the family moved into their new home. Assemblies are not social organizations, but they are to “Remember the poor” (Gal 2:9-10). Galatians 6:10 tells us to “do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.”
Don’t spend too much time trying to find out why a person is “poor and needy.” It may be because of God’s sovereignty (1Sam 2:7-8), human laziness (Prov 6:10-11), or any number of bad things (Prov 13:18; 21:17; 23:21; 28:19). See the need; evaluate the situation; determine the action; and then go and do what is needed under Biblical guidelines and leave the results with our Lord. He “became poor” so that we could become rich. It will not harm us to do with a little less so that the “poor and needy” might have a little more. Personal and assembly responsibility are both needed to help those in the family of God as well as those without the Savior. God helps them (Psa 9:18). We should too, with generosity and wisdom.