Objections to Helping the Poor

In 1733 Jonathan Edwards, the great New England pastor, preached a sermon entitled “The Duty of Charity to the Poor.” A significant part of that sermon consisted of common objections to helping the poor that Edwards encountered in his ministry. He patiently and pastorally answered each objection by pointing the congregation to the gospel of Christ.

Because the objections are common in our day and Edwards’ answers are so biblical and helpful, I thought it might be good to look at some of them in light of last Sunday’s sermon. Of course I’m summarizing Edwards but I’d urge you to read the whole sermon yourself. Before diving in, let me remind you that When Helping Hurts and Generous Justice are both very helpful books to read on this topic.

Objection: Some object to helping the poor because although they are needy they are not absolutely destitute.

Answer: Edwards says that attitude violates Jesus’ command to love your neighbor as yourself. When it comes to our needs, we don’t wait till we are in utter misery before taking steps to alleviate our problems.

Objection: The person is jerk who treats other people poorly.

Answer: Jesus helped us when we were in worse condition. Romans 5:8 “But while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

Objection: I don’t have any money to spare.

Answer: One of the main lessons from the Good Samaritan is that genuine love requires sacrifice. What our objection really means is that we can’t help others without sacrificing something ourselves.

Objection: What if they are in poverty due to their own laziness and unwise choices?

Answer: We are not excused from all obligation to help them unless they continue in their sin and foolishness. And again he points to Jesus saying that Jesus did not require us to get our act together before helping us.

Objection: What if a person continues to make foolish choices and refuses to work hard?

Answer: This is a difficult question but we have to take into consideration the rest of their family including their children.

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