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 a lack of 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!

I. The Least of These

A. 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.)

B. 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

C. 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

II. Paul and the Least of These

A. 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.)

B. 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.)

C. 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

2. Does the government free families from this

D. 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.”)

E. 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?

III. The Least of These and Work

A. 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.)

B. 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?”

C. 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

1. Do we have a Christian obligation to encourage
work and goal-setting among the lazy?

D. 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

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.)

E. 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

IV. Unmerited Aid

A. 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?)

B. 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

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.)

C. 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.)

D. 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

E. 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?

V. Next week: Planning for Success.

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
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but it is lost one week, you can find it by clicking on this
link: Pray for the guidance of the
Holy Spirit as you study.