Christian Universe ™
Love Your Neighbor
Part 1: Am I My Brother's Keeper?
August 09, 2009
God has always commanded His chosen people to look after one another, and to provide for the poor among them, including strangers who dwelt among them. The tithes and other offerings were to provide for the priests and other Levites, but also for the widows, the fatherless, and the needy strangers among them. This example was later followed by the Christians.
Love Your Neighbor
Part 1: Am I My Brother’s Keeper?
by Bernie Parsons
presented to the Globe church of Christ on 08-09-2009
In the Churches of Christ there is a doctrine that says that Christians are commanded to contribute to a collection, or treasure, on a weekly basis. My church brothers even go so far as to say that it is one of five things commanded to take place each Sunday. I disagree. Instead, I see an example of how we can take care of the poor and needy, as well as those who labor in the work of the Lord, based upon both Old and New Testament scriptures.
Let’s first examine God’s attitude about helping others, beginning in the OT scriptures.
Genesis 4:8 “And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.
9: And the LORD said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother's keeper?
10: And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground.
11: And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand;
12: When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth.”
This establishes that God expects us to do no harm to each, but even more, to be aware of the condition of others, and to be responsible for their well-being. This is borne out in the laws given to the children of Israel regarding care for the poor and the needy, whether Israelite or stranger. One such law had to do with leaving enough in the fields after harvest.
Leviticus 19:9: “And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not wholly reap the corners of thy field, neither shalt thou gather the gleanings of thy harvest.
10: And thou shalt not glean thy vineyard, neither shalt thou gather every grape of thy vineyard; thou shalt leave them for the poor and stranger: I am the LORD your God.”
Leviticus 23:22: “And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not make clean riddance of the corners of thy field when thou reapest, neither shalt thou gather any gleaning of thy harvest: thou shalt leave them unto the poor, and to the stranger: I am the LORD your God.”
Deuteronomy 24:19: “When thou cuttest down thine harvest in thy field, and hast forgot a sheaf in the field, thou shalt not go again to fetch it: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow: that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hands.
20: When thou beatest thine olive tree, thou shalt not go over the boughs again: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow.
21: When thou gatherest the grapes of thy vineyard, thou shalt not glean it afterward: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow.
22: And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in the land of Egypt: therefore I command thee to do this thing.”
We see here an admonition not to be greedy, while at the same time meeting the needs of the community’s poor, such as widows and the fatherless, as well as Gentiles who were in the land, who could not own the land, which was kept in the Israelite families.
Aside from leaving crops in their fields and vineyards to help the poor and needy, there was a provision to bring tithes into storehouses overseen by the priests and Levites.
Deuteronomy 14:28: “At the end of three years thou shalt bring forth all the tithe of thine increase the same year, and shalt lay it up within thy gates:
29: And the Levite, (because he hath no part nor inheritance with thee,) and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, which are within thy gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied; that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hand which thou doest.”
Deuteronomy 26:10: “And now, behold, I have brought the firstfruits of the land, which thou, O LORD, hast given me. And thou shalt set it before the LORD thy God, and worship before the LORD thy God:
11: And thou shalt rejoice in every good thing which the LORD thy God hath given unto thee, and unto thine house, thou, and the Levite, and the stranger that is among you.
12: When thou hast made an end of tithing all the tithes of thine increase the third year, which is the year of tithing, and hast given it unto the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that they may eat within thy gates, and be filled;
13: Then thou shalt say before the LORD thy God, I have brought away the hallowed things out of mine house, and also have given them unto the Levite, and unto the stranger, to the fatherless, and to the widow, according to all thy commandments which thou hast commanded me: I have not transgressed thy commandments, neither have I forgotten them:”
One thing that we need to acknowledge is that the Law of Moses provided for the care of the needy Gentiles who lived among the Israelites. God has never said that it is okay to neglect those who are not among His elect people, as we often here declared today. In fact, He has said the opposite. The strangers were to be helped as well as God’s chosen.
It is not enough to try to round up resources when the need arises. The example is to do gather the resources ahead of time, to be dispensed as needed.
Nehemiah 13:4: “And before this, Eliashib the priest, having the oversight of the chamber of the house of our God, was allied unto Tobiah:
5: And he had prepared for him a great chamber, where aforetime they laid the meat offerings, the frankincense, and the vessels, and the tithes of the corn, the new wine, and the oil, which was commanded to be given to the Levites, and the singers, and the porters; and the offerings of the priests.”
2 Chronicles 31 tells how that the tithes were gathered into chambers and then were dispensed back to the families of the Levites and priests as needed over time. This sets up an example of gathering resources as obtained, to have enough to give out when needed. This is important because trying to scrape up the necessary resources at the time that the need arises is often not feasible.
Malachi 3:8: “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.
9: Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation.
10: Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”
There were storage rooms, or a storehouse, to store the tithes and freewill offerings until they needed to be distributed. This sets the stage for the storage of that which is gathered for later distribution. We have this example from the Law of Moses.
This concept of sharing with others is also borne out by the account of the manna from heaven.
Exodus 16:14: “And when the dew that lay was gone up, behold, upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing, as small as the hoar frost on the ground.
15: And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is manna: for they wist not what it was. And Moses said unto them, This is the bread which the LORD hath given you to eat.
16: This is the thing which the LORD hath commanded, Gather of it every man according to his eating, an omer for every man, according to the number of your persons; take ye every man for them which are in his tents.
17: And the children of Israel did so, and gathered, some more, some less.
18: And when they did mete it with an omer, he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack; they gathered every man according to his eating.
19: And Moses said, Let no man leave of it till the morning.”
The manna was gathered and those who gathered more than their families needed shared with those who had not gathered enough. By the time that Jesus had arrived on earth, the Jews were abusing the system. Instead of using the treasury to help the poor and needy, such as the widows, they were instead abusing them.
From all of the evidence, we see that God’s universal law is to help those in need, and only those who profess to believe in God.
We have Cain, who was responsible for the well-being of his brother, Abel.
We see that excess crops were to be left in the fields and vineyards to supply the needs of the poor, such as the widows, fatherless, and the strangers, that is the Gentiles, who were not of the children of Israel.
We also see that tithes, or ten per cent, of the increase of crops and flocks was gathered into storehouse to be disbursed to those who had need—again, such as the fatherless, the widows, and the strangers in need.
Although that we do not live under the Law of Moses, we have it as an example that we can follow, as it reveals to us the thinking of God on the matter.
Romans 15:4: “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.”
2 Timothy 3:16: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
17: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.”