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We had a discussion about giving to the poor as many Christians tend to do. Our small group had a big argument on who qualifies as "the poor". Some said it is anyone in need, others said is only believers who are struggling, and then some picked places in the middle to stand.

Basically we were just all giving our opinions and had to solid ground to stand on.

Sometimes I feel like the whole idea isn't about the poor, but rather me. That by giving I show care for others, I trust God to care for me, I show others God cares for them, that I'm not attached to material things or making an idol out of them by hoarding, etc. Are there any details on "the poor" in the old testament? I ask because, if the bible doesn't focus on who the poor are or try to qualify them, then maybe I shouldn't either.

Maybe there is something back in the Pentateuch which I have not read all of. Do you know any Old Testament passages that help define who the poor are?

Is there any Jewish oral history that relates to this topic?

  • It sounds like you've answered your own question. There aren't many options, and it sounds like you've covered both of them: "People in need" and "Christians in need." If you're looking for something more than this, can you be a bit more specific? – Flimzy Sep 29 '15 at 18:08
  • I'd assume there is a difference between people caught in their own sin and in need vs people who are suffering from the sinful choices of others and are in need. Further I'd expect some clarification on if it matters how the 'giving' is used and if there is any expectation that the giver have or develop a relationship with the person in need. Finally is giving believed to be a material concept, or does spirituality come into play. My question has defined some definitions of how to answer the question, but not what any given denomination has determined the answer to be. – Adam Heeg Sep 29 '15 at 18:18
  • Those may be reasonable questions, but that's not what you've asked. Further, most of those questions must be scoped to a very specific denomination to be answerable here. – Flimzy Sep 29 '15 at 18:21
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    In summary, my view is that this issue is too messy to address in a "summary" question, beyond what you have already summarized in your question. Anything else requires more specific questions. – Flimzy Sep 29 '15 at 18:35
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    And a personal observation, which may be entirely off base: Those I've met who have made the distinction at all have seemed to do so out of, what I perceive to be, a warped sense of self-preservation and entitlement, not out of a heart of helping. Put another way: It's an search for an excuse not to help those people which are deemed "unworthy" by a personal standard, rather than a heart of love and charity, which Christ demonstrated. If at all accurate, finding a denominational justification for the view to only help "Christians in need" may be difficult (but I won't say it doesn't exist.) – Flimzy Sep 29 '15 at 18:36