Summary: This passage on the care of widows opens up a larger question: what's the place the church should have in the care of the poor (versus the place the government should have)?
THE POINT OF THE PASSAGE: Taking care of the needy widows was a big deal in the early church.
- There was a different societal structure and a lack of social safety net back then. The church stepped in to help.
- Unpack some of the passage.
- The passage raises a more general question: why does the government do more than the church to help the poor in contemporary America?
WHY DOES THE GOVERNMENT DO MORE THAN THE CHURCH TO HELP THE POOR?
QUESTION #1: Is it wrong for the government to be doing something about the poor?
ANSWER #1: In the government designed by the Mosaic Law, there was a 3.3% tax to benefit the poor in addition to other help for the poor.
a. The 3.3% tax to benefit the poor.
- There were three “tithes” that were required of the Israelites in the Old Testament under the Mosaic Law:
1. The Lord’s tithe or the Levite’s tithe.
2. The festival tithe.
3. The poor tithe.
- Because this third “tithe” was only due every third year, it was more like a 3.3% tax.
- I have used the word “tax” here. Under the Old Testament system, Israel was a theocracy, so required giving was akin to our taxation.
- So the taxation added up to about 23.3%.
b. Other help for the poor.
- Some examples:
1. Gleaning the corners of the field.
2. Eating small amounts of produce and grain.
QUESTION #2: Why doesn’t the American church do more for the poor?
ANSWER #2: We spend a lot of our money on buildings and salaries.
a. Compare the idea of house churches.
b. Discuss the structure of NewPoint Church.
- Multi-site, video teaching, lay leadership.
A FINAL QUESTION: How different would things be if we had a heart for the poor?
- I mean that (“different”) both in terms of impact on the community and how the church would be structured.