“These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them… ‘go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And proclaim as you go, saying “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay.'” – Matt 10:5-8
This passage comes in the context of Jesus sending out His twelve on this short term mission trip, as some would call it. Often we find in our translations, “Freely you have received, freely give” (NIV). Many times we take this out of context and say that we need to just give freely to people who are in need because we’ve been given freely by God. Was this really Christ’s motive in telling the Apostles to heal, raise, cleanse, and cast? Christ had a much larger agenda on His mind than a humanitarian, Ghandi-like ministry of helping those in need. Any one can do that. And as we see, that’s generally the case today. More non-Christians are reaching out to the needy than Christians.
But Christ’s desire wasn’t just to help the poor, but to make valid His ministry of repentance and forgiveness of sins through way of miracles. “‘For which is easier, to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say “Rise and walk”? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” -he then said to the paralytic – ‘Rise, pick up your bed and go home.'” (Mt. 9:1-8) The miracles were only to backup the preaching of the kingdom of God.
However, I can’t help but observe that Jesus still healed and met the needs of all the weirdo’s who came to him. When Jesus began His ministry, “all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to him, and he laid his hands on every one of them and healed them” (Lk. 4:40-41). He didn’t hesitate to heal every single person who came to him, no matter how weird, jacked up, deformed, or even selfish in their desires they were, as Luke emphasizes (ο δε ενι εκαστω αυτων, “But each one of them”). Matthew adds that “great crowds followed him from Galilee and Decapolis” (Mt. 4:25). I doubt he had time to talk to each and every one of them, to explain, “hey these healings and miracles, they’re just so i can prove to you that i am the Christ.” At that point, he wasn’t even making it known to people that He was the Christ.
So can we still take Matthew 10:8 for giving to the poor? Sure He’s not addressing the poor, but He is addressing the lost who are in need of a Savior. The homeless, poor, deformed or mentally ill are just the same – fallen sinners in need of a Savior, and our wallets may be one way to their salvation. “What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” (1Cor 4:7).
Most people say they don’t like giving to the poor because they don’t know what they’re doing with that money. For all we know, they could be flat out lying about their situation and just hustling us. But the simple fact that they need to lie and hustle to get a meal while on the streets proves that they’re still much more in need than us, and the fact is, we have been given what they haven’t.
Yet we can’t be content with just sacrificing out of our wallets and feel like we’ve accomplished Christ’s mission. James says “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (1:27). James doesn’t even mention giving, but rather to visit those afflicted and in need, homeless and poor. Christ’s ministry meant to meet the physical needs of people, but only as a path to seek out their spiritual needs. We may not have the gift of healing, but we do have the gift of making money and not being in need. Possibly this is our means of getting the Gospel through new doors?
We may be skeptical, and true, they may be lying (probably 99% of the time), but we have faith that in our giving God will be glorified as He uses His money.
7 “If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, 8 but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be. …10 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. 11 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.’ (Deut 15:7-11).