God’s heart for those people who are unable to help themselves is overwhelmingly apparent during a reading of the Scriptures. I thought I would go through and find the many times He has made His heart visible to us, either by expressions of his compassion for the poor or His direction for us to act as His hands and feet to serve the poor. It turned out to be a greater task than I had expected. I kept seeing more and more verses and passages where God’s heart for those who are struggling was evident. I don’t claim to have nearly all of them simply because there are many passages that can be interpreted as directions to serve and help those less fortunate, far more than I can list here.
Some of the early verses in the Torah were directed at God’s chosen people, the Israelites. And in the New Testament there is a special affection shown by God for followers of Jesus. But God made it clear that His heart cries out for all His children, Jews and Gentiles alike.
25 “If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not treat it like a business deal; charge no interest.
11 but during the seventh year let the land lie unplowed and unused. Then the poor among your people may get food from it, and the wild animals may eat what is left. Do the same with your vineyard and your olive grove.
10 Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the LORD your God.
22 “‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you. I am the LORD your God.’”
35 “‘If any of your fellow Israelites become poor and are unable to support themselves among you, help them as you would a foreigner and stranger, so they can continue to live among you.
36 Do not take interest or any profit from them, but fear your God, so that they may continue to live among you.
37 You must not lend them money at interest or sell them food at a profit.
39 “‘If any of your fellow Israelites become poor and sell themselves to you, do not make them work as slaves.
7 If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them.
8 Rather, be openhanded and freely lend them whatever they need.
10 Give generously to them [poor Israelites] and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to.
11 There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.
19 Do not charge a fellow Israelite interest, whether on money or food or anything else that may earn interest.
12 If the neighbor is poor, do not go to sleep with their pledge in your possession.
14 Do not take advantage of a hired worker who is poor and needy, whether that worker is a fellow Israelite or a foreigner residing in one of your towns.
9 The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of trouble.
17 The wicked go down to the realm of the dead,
all the nations that forget God.
18 But God will never forget the needy;
the hope of the afflicted will never perish.
14 But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted; you consider their grief and take it in hand. The victims commit themselves to you; you are the helper of the fatherless.
5 “Because the poor are plundered and the needy groan, I will now arise,” says the LORD. “I will protect them from those who malign them.”
7 You, LORD, will keep the needy safe and will protect us forever from the wicked,
10 My whole being will exclaim, “Who is like you, LORD? You rescue the poor from those too strong for them, the poor and needy from those who rob them.”
1 Blessed are those who have regard for the weak;
the LORD delivers them in times of trouble.
2 The LORD protects and preserves them—
they are counted among the blessed in the land—
he does not give them over to the desire of their foes.
3 The LORD sustains them on their sickbed
and restores them from their bed of illness.
4 Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me.
7 Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings.
33 The LORD hears the needy and does not despise his captive people.
4 But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who long for your saving help always say, “The LORD is great!”
30 With my mouth I will greatly extol the LORD;
in the great throng of worshipers I will praise him.
31 For he stands at the right hand of the needy,
to save their lives from those who would condemn them.
5 Good will come to those who are generous and lend freely,
who conduct their affairs with justice.
12 I know that the LORD secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy.
5 Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the LORD their God.
6 He is the Maker of heaven and earth,
the sea, and everything in them—
he remains faithful forever.
7 He upholds the cause of the oppressed
and gives food to the hungry.
The LORD sets prisoners free,
8 the LORD gives sight to the blind,
the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down,
the LORD loves the righteous.
9 The LORD watches over the foreigner
and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
21 It is a sin to despise one’s neighbor,
but blessed is the one who is kind to the needy.
31 Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker,
but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.
17 Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD,
and he will reward them for what they have done.
22 What a person desires is unfailing love;
better to be poor than a liar.
13 Whoever shuts their ears to the cry of the poor
will also cry out and not be answered.
26 All day long he craves for more,
but the righteous give without sparing.
9 The generous will themselves be blessed,
for they share their food with the poor.
22 Do not exploit the poor because they are poor and do not crush the needy in court,
27 Those who give to the poor will lack nothing,
but those who close their eyes to them receive many curses.
8 Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
9 Speak up and judge fairly;
defend the rights of the poor and needy.
17 Learn to do right; seek justice.
Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
plead the case of the widow.
1 Woe to those who make unjust laws,
to those who issue oppressive decrees,
2 to deprive the poor of their rights
and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people,
making widows their prey
and robbing the fatherless.
3 What will you do on the day of reckoning,
when disaster comes from afar?
To whom will you run for help?
Where will you leave your riches?
17 “The poor and needy search for water, but there is none; their tongues are parched with thirst. But I the LORD will answer them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.
Isaiah 58 is a wonderful chapter with dialogue that clearly shows God wants more than just ceremony and worship in a service; He wants worship through how we treat others. Formality, ritualism, and religiousity are not what God is seeking from His followers. God clearly wants us to care for all of His children.
3 ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,
‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
and you have not noticed?’
“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
and exploit all your workers.
4 Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
and expect your voice to be heard on high.
5 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
only a day for people to humble themselves?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the LORD?
6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
9 Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
11 The LORD will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
8 And the word of the LORD came again to Zechariah:
9 “This is what the LORD Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another.
10 Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.’
By the time of the New Testament and Jesus, the early appearance that God’s heart was only for His Chosen People had vanished. Understand that God’s heart did not change, but His prophet’s message and their writing did. It is undeniable that God’s compassion is to all people, the Gentiles as well as to the Jews. His Chosen People will always have a special place in His heart, but God’s love is for all people.
42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.
42 And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”
10 “What should we do then?” the crowd asked.
11 John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”
30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.
33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.
35 In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
13 Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
10 All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along.
1 Timothy 5:8
8 Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
1 Timothy 5:16
16 If any woman who is a believer has widows in her care, she should continue to help them and not let the church be burdened with them, so that the church can help those widows who are really in need.
1 Timothy 6:17-19
17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.
18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.
19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.
10 God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.
2 Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.
3 Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.
16 Do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
27 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.
1 John 3:16-18
16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.
17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?
18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
After a review of those verses, I doubt it is possible for anyone seeking the heart of God to not feel His compassion for those in need and to at least begin to feel the same compassion.
The real question is not what God’s heart is, but rather what you will do about it now. The one option you do not have is to do nothing.
13 Whoever shuts their ears to the cry of the poor
will also cry out and not be answered.
For a few ideas of how to get started, give us a call at The Idlewild Foundation at (813) 264-8713. It is our mission to motivate, educate and facilitate a spirit of Godly stewardship and radical generosity for the Kingdom of God and we would love to encourage you to walk closely with God.
About the Author
John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus. He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016. He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.