I am glad to see a fresh move among born-again believers to care for the poor and do good works. It is a much-needed shift. For years, many believers have only played a one-string guitar; they focused on one truth, and missed other things that were also important. The evangelical church has rightly emphasized salvation by faith, but has often downplayed the ministry of good works. Because salvation cannot be earned by works, some threw the baby out with the bathwater. Mainline churches that emphasize works but not radical faith have been criticized and have even been looked at with distain. They are totted as having a social gospel that lacks spiritual substance. They are seen as void of the Holy Spirit, unfamiliar with Biblical revelation, and lacking a genuine walk with God. This maybe true, but Evangelicals should look at the beam in their own eyes. They should study the subject of good works in the Bible and rediscover a forgotten essential. They need to put more strings on their guitar and widen their gaze. Works are not just a matter of correct doctrine; they are a doorway to blessings and a catalyst for joy. God’s word teaches us that good works are necessities that cannot be overlooked.
Jesus Taught Works
Eye witnesses reported that, “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power and … he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.” Acts 10:38
As this scripture teaches, the essence of Jesus’ ministry was twofold: 1. – doing good works and 2. – freeing people from the devil’s power.
To make it even more clear, He said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your father which is in heaven.” Mt. 5:15-16
Jesus said of Himself, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to
proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Lk. 4:18-19
He was anointed and sent from heaven to help the poor. He came to bring them the good news, not judgment or condemnation. He came to free them from bondage, open their eyes, break off their oppression and to proclaim God’s favor and blessings over their lives.
In other scriptures, He made it clear that He was not just talking about spiritual blessings and supernatural miracles. He instructed us to give material, economic blessings as well. He taught that tangible provisions should be given as part of the gospel. In actual fact, that would promote the economic level of one’s financial class and help lift the poor to a higher standard of living. Furthermore, He did not expect it to come from the Roman government but from the people of God. If you have difficulty grasping this truth, read the following scripture. It will clarify the kind of good works and blessings that Jesus emphasized.
“Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom that was prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing. I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The king will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’” Mt. 25:34-36
Jesus instructed us to feed the hungry with real food, to give water to the thirsty, to welcome strangers into our homes, clothe the naked, visit the sick and visit those in prison. It doesn’t get more practical or more clear than that.
Jesus multiplied bread, wine and fish when people were in need. He inspired Zacchaeus to give to the poor and when he did, Jesus told him that salvation had come to his house. He even told one rich man to sell all that he had and give it to the poor and follow him.
Jesus confronted the expert of the Law with the story of the good Samaritan.
The religious leader knew the Bible but did not reach out to help his fellow man. In the good Samaritan story, a traveler was beaten and left to die. A priest and a Levite were shamed because they ignored the man and did not help him (see Lk. 10:25).
Jesus told us to do good works even if it takes us beyond our comfort zone. He said, “When you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” Lk. 14:13
Speaking about clothing the needy, He said, “Give to the one who asks and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” Mt. 5:42
He said, “He who believes on me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these” (Jn. 14:12 NKJV)
The Early Church and Works
The apostles continued the message of caring for the poor. We read, “There were no needy persons among them … those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the Apostles feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.” Acts 4:34
The task of the first deacons was to serve food to widows because their needs had been overlooked (see Acts 6:1-6).
It is amazing; Salvation came to the Gentiles because of Cornelius. He was chosen by God because of his generous gifts to the poor and his life of prayer (see Acts 10).
James gives us the Biblical definition of pure religion. It includes helping the poor. “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (Js. 1:27).
James goes on to say that blessings that are not practical are empty. He says, “If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?” Js 2:16
Even Paul was asked to help the poor. “All they asked was that we should remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along.” Gal. 2:10
Old Testament Works
Caring for the poor did not began in the New Testament. It was God’s directive right from the start. The oldest book in the Bible is Job. You can read how he helped the poor in Job 31:16-23.
Throughout the books of Moses and in all the other prophetic books, the Lord insists on justice and care for the poor.
Read through Isaiah 58 and discover the blessings that will come to you if you care for the poor. This is God’s chosen fast. Isaiah 58 is profound.
From start to finish, the Bible instructs us to do good works. Helping those in need is an essential part of the Gospel and when we stand before God on judgment day, we will give an account of our good works (see Re. 20:12). Do the works that Jesus did. Let your light so shine and glorify your Father. AΩ