If there’s one thing that virtually all Christians and non-Christians agree on when it comes to Jesus, it’s that he was deeply concerned about the poor. This is very curious when you consider that in all of the Gospel accounts of his life, there isn’t a single instance where he gives away even one red cent (or shekel) to the poor. There are a couple of oblique references to he and the disciples having a “common purse” that may have been used for charitable giving (JN 12:5 & 13:29), but there are no explicit references to Jesus ever giving money to someone in need.
Why would there be no mention of Jesus, the great advocate for the poor, ever passing out cash? Granted, Jesus made it fairly clear that he had little (if any) money of his own (ref. MT 8:20), but that would make a story of monetary giving seem all the more sacrificial and inspiring – something like, “Jesus gave his last coin to an elderly widow even though he and his disciples hadn’t eaten all day…” It would have been an iron-clad way of making sure that every reader of the Gospels got the clear message that, “Jesus gave money to the poor, so you should go and do likewise.”
While I have no doubt that Jesus was (and is) in favor of sacrificial monetary giving to the poor and oppressed, I think there was a more important principle he was trying to get across in the way he dealt with the poor (and which the Gospel writers faithfully recorded). Instead of getting out the checkbook and giving them a nominal sum and a pat on the head, he gave them Himself. He listened to them. He ate with them. He touched them. He gave them help at the moment he encountered them. By his actions, he was illustrating that the poor and needy are – first and foremost – real people beloved by God, not “statistics” or “problems” to be dealt with via impersonal money transfers.
Too many times, we in the church have missed this message of Jesus and essentially “outsourced” our work with the poor. We simply “cut a check” to pay someone else to deal with the needy. This impersonal arrangement helps neither the recipients to see that they’re beloved by God, nor allows the donors to truly give of themselves as Christ did.
Giving like Jesus – revolutionary giving – isn’t about giving a “tip” to the underclass. It is getting personal with, and working alongside of those in distress. “Revolutionaries” don’t just function as charitable ATM’s. They seize every opportunity to roll up their sleeves, get their hands dirty, and give of themselves to help others and honor the King.
by Eron Elswick, Leadership of Revolution