I have experienced this command from the Lord personally. Living in New York City makes one highly aware of one’s surroundings. The internal radar for shady characters is often alerted – sometimes without cause.
Being new to the city I felt like I was always in Mother Bear mode – especially when someone came near our apartment.
Early one afternoon I heard a noise near our outdoor trash cans. I checked out the window for the source. A hunched-over figure was searching through our recycling bin.
I knocked on the window to scare the intruder away. As she turned toward me, I saw the humiliation on her face.
She hurried away. I felt ashamed.
Every week on the same day she would return to our recycling can. If I was home I wrestled with whether I should send her away.
It bothered me enough to ask the Lord what I should do. I didn’t want a stranger in my backyard where my children often played.
But the scripture concerning the poor kept pushing closer to the front of my mind, checking my heart. Psalm 19:17 says, “Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the LORD, and He will repay him for his deed.”
It was the Holy Spirit defending this poor woman to me. I resigned to let her take our cans and bottles.
Months later, while driving down a nearby street early in the morning I saw her. Hand raised, cupping her eyes, she peered into the pharmacy window. In her other hand was an empty prescription bottle. She looked worried. The pharmacy was closed.
I nearly cried.
Questions raced through my mind. Is she sick? Or a family member? Is this why she collects cans and bottles?
How often I was in line at the pharmacy for a sick child but always with the means to make my needed purchase?
I prayed earnestly that God would forgive my sin. For being a miser.
I asked for a second chance to be a blessing to this woman. Sadly, I didn’t see her in our neighborhood for months.
What moves God? What causes Him to take notice?
Psalm 12:5 says, “Because the poor are plundered, because the needy groan, I will now arise,” says the LORD; “I will place him in the safety for which he longs.”
The poor have a special place in the heart of God. The poor and needy are mentioned 79 times in the Old Testament alone.
The God of Israel gave careful instructions for how His people are to deal with those in need. The corners of the field were to be left unharvested for the orphan, widow, sojourner – the needy in the community (see Leviticus 23:22). They were to live off the remnants of those fields and vineyards.
God commands our hand. How?
He explains in Deuteronomy 15:10-11 “You shall give to him freely, and your heart shall not be grudging when you give to him, because for this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore, I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’”
Proverbs 19:17 kept running through my mind. When I awoke, it would be repeating over and over in my heart. “He who lends to the poor . . . lends to the Lord.”
It was almost as if God was building my faith little by little. If I gave to the poor I would not receive anything in return from them but God himself was signing the IOU.