Trusting All of God’s Promises

“Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.” (Matthew 5:42 NKJV)

Few commands of Jesus are as difficult as this. One would think that the human eye is more easily plucked out and cast away (Matthew 5:21) than for us to willingly part with our money. All reason screams against the kind of generosity that Jesus commends to us in this verse, calling it foolishness. But the Bible says that “He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord, And He will pay back what he has given” (Proverbs 19:17). What sense is there in this? God has made himself the guarantor of the debts of the poor. Jesus tells us to “lend, hoping for nothing in return” (Luke 6:35). This is the calling, this is the expectation.

In his sermon Against Those Who Lend at Interest, St. Basil the Great notes that with this promise and this command, the Christian is unable to bring any reasonable objection to refuse charity. If the wealthiest man in the town agrees to provide security for a loan to the poorest man, only a fool would refuse to do so. And yet, hesitancy to do the good work of charity when we ought to is common enough. Why is this?

To Basil, the answer is that it’s simply a lack of faith. Faith itself is the hand that appropriates and grabs a hold of God’s promises. Faith undergirds all works of the Christian. When the Christian prays, he prays in proportion to his faith, asking for the things he is confident he shall receive. When the Christian buries the dead, he does so in the faith of the resurrection of the dead. To pray and to bury the dead with hope would be absurd things indeed if it were not for faith! And yet, though we trust God that after our skin is destroyed, that in our flesh we shall see God (Job 19:26), and though we trust that there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1) despite our constant sense of our indwelling sin disagreeing with such a notion—in short, we trust God’s Covenant of Grace—despite this we find ourselves doubting that God is faithful to this promise to repay what we give the poor.

Much talk is had about whether it is appropriate to give petty cash to the poor if we are reasonably assured that they’ll spend it on booze and drugs. While there’s undeniable wisdom in not giving our coins to the man sitting outside the liquor store, one has to ask why we believe that only now the poor spend their wealth foolishly and on sin. Wasn’t this so in Jesus’ day? Do we believe that the poor didn’t drink themselves silly with the alms of the pious at the time of this commandment? They certainly did, but that sin remained squarely on the wasteful and sinful, and not on those who sought to keep to the Master’s teaching and give to those who ask from them. The Apocryphal Book of Sirach—of which the Belgic Confession Art. 6 says: “The church may certainly read these books and learn from them as far as they agree with the canonical books”—rightly states it this way: “Many refuse to lend, not because of maliciousness, but from fear of being defrauded needlessly (Sirach 29:7). This hesitancy is understandable but unacceptable.

“Help the poor for the commandment’s sake, and in their need do not send them away empty-handed. Lose your silver for the sake of a brother or a friend, and do not let it rust under a stone and be lost. Lay up your treasure according to the commandments of the Most High, and it will profit you more than gold” (Sirach 29:9-11). Indeed, it is far wiser and more believing for us to “lay up for [ourselves] treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:20). Do we trust God? If so, let us give generously to those who ask from us! “Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart” (Galatians 6:9). This is God’s promise, one that we can rest in.

Published by ClogTheology

23 y/o, in between a B.Th and M.Div

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