Unto the Least of These

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1 Timothy 5, Leviticus 19, Luke 19
Lesson Number: 

Lesson 7

Unto the Least of These

(1 Timothy 5, Leviticus 19, Luke 19)

Copr. 2023, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. If you normally receive this lesson by e-mail, but it is lost one week, you can find it by clicking on this link: http://www.GoBible.org. Pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit as you study.

Introduction: When I first started driving I rarely picked up hitchhikers I did not know. One summer morning I was riding with my brother to a construction job when his fancy, but unreliable, car broke down. Suddenly, I saw things from the other side when I needed a ride! One of my challenges in writing this lesson is that I fear that I have a bias based on a lack of experience and therefore compassion for the poor. Only when I was first married was I poor. Another serious challenge is that the poor in the United States and other democracies have a much different situation than the poor for most of the history of the world. In a democracy the poor can vote and they outnumber the rich. The poor vote themselves money and benefits which are involuntarily taken from the rich. As a result, both the rich and the poor have a sense of entitlement. In the United States, a substantial percentage of the population gives little of its own money to help others because this group is satisfied with voting to redistribute money from the rich to the poor. What does the Bible teach us about a situation like that? What does it mean to have an attitude like Jesus had towards the poor in the context of a society like ours? Let’s plunge into our study of the Bible and see what we can learn!

  1. The Least of These
    1. Read Psalms 68:5 and Isaiah 1:17. What do these two verses suggest about widows and orphans? (God protects them and we should help keep them from being oppressed.)
    2. Read Deuteronomy 14:28-29. What does this say about the tithe and supporting widows and orphans? (In the third year the tithe was brought to town and would be used in part to feed widows and orphans.)
    3. Read James 1:27. What does James say about helping widows and orphans? (The Bible is uniform in describing widows and orphans as those most in need of help. They would truly be “the least of these.”)
  2. Paul and the Least of These
    1. Read 1 Timothy 5:3-5. What does Paul mean when he writes about honoring widows “who are truly widows?” Does he think they have a hidden husband somewhere? (No. Paul defines “widow” to mean an older woman who is truly left alone. She has no family to help her. If she has family, they should help her.)
    2. Read 1 Timothy 5:8. What is the command with regard to supporting family members? (Family members must provide for relatives. This should be a priority for the family.)
    3. Read 1 Timothy 5:16. Who is required to help here? (A “believing woman” who is related to the widow. Once again, we see Paul referring to those who are “truly widows” as a woman without relatives who can help.)
      1. Let’s explore a contemporary context question. If in today’s social welfare system, a widow can depend on the government to support her, is she truly a “widow” for purposes of Paul’s discussion?
      2. Does the government free families from this responsibility?
    4. Read 1 Timothy 5:9 and Acts 6:1-2. What system do we find here? (It is reasonable to conclude that the early church had a welfare system for widows. It is something akin to our modern welfare system in which widows would be “enrolled.”)
    5. Read 1 Timothy 5:9-13. What is the criteria for being enrolled? (There is an age requirement, a character requirement, and a policy that rejects those who would be encouraged to be idle.)
      1. Are these criteria that we should apply today in government welfare programs?
      2. Are these criteria that we should apply in our own charitable giving to the least of these?
  3. The Least of These and Work
    1. Read 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12. Should we give money to people simply because they are poor? Or should we require the poor to work? (This says that those who are not willing to work should not eat.)
      1. Isn’t that a bit harsh? Why would the Bible require work? (We should not encourage people to be idle “busybodies.”)
      2. Should there be an age limit on the work requirement? (Some Christians argue that we should never “retire,” but I don’t think that is supported by the Bible. The priests retired from active service at 50 years of age. Numbers 8:24-26.)
    2. Read Ezekiel 16:49. What does this say about not working? (Laziness can infect both the poor and the rich. Sodom’s problem was not only “prosperous ease,” but not aiding the “poor and needy.”)
      1. Or, is the problem that people with an “excess of food” and “prosperous ease” did not help the poor? Is it simply saying that they had the time and the food to help, as opposed to condemning “prosperous ease?”
    3. Read Proverbs 20:13, Proverbs 28:19, Proverbs 15:19-21, and Proverbs 21:25-26. What is the conclusion to be reached from these texts about being lazy and unfocused? (Sloth has a bad outcome.)
      1. Do we have a Christian obligation to encourage work and goal-setting among the lazy?
    4. Read Leviticus 19:9-10. This is the rule on gleaning. Who is it intended to help? (The poor and the traveler.)
      1. If you have any experience with farming, how do crops grow at the edge of the field? (In my very limited experience, crops do more poorly at the edge. The advantage of this rule to the farmer is that he can concentrate his harvesting on the most productive area of the field.)
      2. What does gleaning require of the poor? (It requires work. They do not need to own the land or cultivate the crop, but they are required to go out and reap or collect the fallen crop.)
    5. Read Leviticus 19:15. What is wrong with being partial to the poor? (God requires justice. He does not allow partiality toward the poor or the rich.)
  4. Unmerited Aid
    1. Read Luke 14:12-14. What principle does this teach about helping the poor? (This is unmerited help. Does the Bible teach us something beyond requiring the poor to work?)
    2. Jesus entered Jericho where a rich man named Zacchaeus wanted to see Him. Read Luke 19:5-8. Why would Zacchaeus give half his money to the poor?
      1. Zacchaeus does not mention a specific person or a specific ministry. Why just give fifty percent?
      2. What did the Jewish leaders think about Zacchaeus? (They called him a “sinner.” Read Luke 19:2 which tells us that he was the “chief tax collector.” Rome subcontracted tax collection to private individuals with the idea that the collector kept a certain amount of the taxes as payment. I suspect the popular view was that Zacchaeus was generally cheating the public. That might have motivated him to say that he would give an arbitrary half to the poor.)
    3. Read Leviticus 25:35. What do you think is meant by the phrase “falls into poverty?” (It sounds like an accident and not a lifestyle.)
      1. What did this poor person do to merit aid? (Nothing except that this was not the normal condition of this person.)
    4. Read Job 29:16-17. What three things did Job do for the poor? (He helped those in need. More than that, he sought out those who needed aid. Finally, he fought those who would take advantage of the poor.)
    5. Friend, we are blessed by helping the poor. But part of that help is to discourage sloth and encourage the poor to learn how to live a better life. Will you commit to helping the poor, especially those who are family?
  5. Next week: Planning for Success.