Motivation for Kindness to the Poor

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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Oh, the joys of those who are kind to the poor! The LORD rescues them when they are in trouble.

Psalm 41:1

Most of Psalm 41 is David’s lament to the Lord and plea for mercy. He has been physically sick and his enemies have been mocking him and hoping for his death. So David turns to God for mercy. But, before asking for divine help, he begins by affirming a bit of wisdom: “Oh, the joys of those who are kind to the poor! The LORD rescues them when they are in trouble” (v. 1). It is as if David is laying the foundation for his supplication. Because he has been kind to the poor, now he wants God to be kind to him.

Such bartering in prayer is common. Most Christians I know, including me, have prayed this way, even though our theology rightly affirms that we approach God on the basis of his grace in Christ, not our own good works. But when we’re desperate for God’s help, we’ll try almost anything.

It is true, however, that the Bible consistently reveals God’s special concern for the poor, and connects his blessing with our generosity to the poor. For example: “If you help the poor, you are lending to the LORD and he will repay you!” (Prov. 19:17). Or consider Deuteronomy 15:10: “Give generously to the poor, not grudgingly, for the LORD your God will bless you in everything you do.” Jesus himself linked our care for those in physical need with divine blessing (Matt. 25:31-46). Thus, though we should care for the poor out of compassion and out of obedience to God’s commandments, we are encouraged to do so also because God promises to bless those who are kind to those who are needy.

It would be wrong, however, to turn this spiritual truth into an economic equation. (“If I give ten dollars to the poor, God will give me ten dollars back, or even more.”) The means and timing of God’s blessings reflect his gracious sovereignty. In my experience, sometimes the blessing I receive for being generous is simply and wonderfully the joy of being used in God’s work and of seeing how my giving makes a difference in people’s lives. I also believe that part of the blessing I receive when I give away money is freedom from the power of Mammon to control my heart and run my life.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: Have you ever tried to barter with God in prayer? How? When? What happened? In what ways do you express tangible kindness to the poor?

PRAYER: O Lord, I know that my relationship with you isn’t a matter of quid pro quo. You give to me so much more and better than I could ever deserve. I expect that my bartering with you is sometimes just plain silly, though I know you understand how I’m feeling and why I can be so desperate.

Nevertheless, though I rest upon your grace and mercy in all things, I do recognize that my generosity to the poor does in fact make a difference to you. Not only does it honor you, but also it leads, in the mystery of your sovereignty, to your blessing in my own life. Thank you, Lord, for helping me to be kind to the poor. May I grow in generosity more and more, so that my heart might be more open to your blessing. Amen.