Biblical Elders Care for the Poor

Friday is for Heart Songs

Broken StairsI am working through a delightful season of training and equipping elders to reinvigorate their understanding of what it means to be an Elder for the church of the Living God. As a part of that time, all the men have read, Alexander Strauch’s classic work, Biblical Eldership: An Urgent Call to Restore Biblical Church Eldership and have begun working through the corresponding workbook that requires a minimum of about 5 hours of study a week in the Scripture. What a delight to be with men who want to make these investments in the work of God and the flock called by His name.

Lesson 1 in the workbook looks at the Old Testament precedents for the concept of what an elder is in his character, and looks specifically at Job as an example of how a Biblical Elder functioned in the time of the Patriarchs. 

In the opening chapters of the book of Job, we get a glimpse into Job’s character

1:1,8; 2:3      Blameless
                        Upright
                        Fearing God
                        Turning away from evil
Hurt and Confusion1:2,4              Managed family well
1:5                   proactive spiritual leader of the family
3:1-26; 4:6   Honesty
4:3                  Admonished many       
4:3-4             Compassion  (16:5)

For me, two things have always stood out in Job’s character: One, his compassion for people seems extraordinary and challenging, and two, his commitment to his children’s righteousness. Both of these have always been a high bar that I thought worth emulation. The verses below summarize his compassion in the first four chapters.

Job’s Compassion

4:3      Admonished many
                   strengthened weak hands
4:4      Helped the tottering to stand
                   strengthened feeble knees
16:5     His words solaced those in pain
29:2    Delivered the poor (who cried out for help)
             Delivered the orphan (Who had no helper)
29:13  Strengthened those about to perish
              [perhaps from starving, or maybe suicidal?]

             Strengthened the widows heart
29:15  He was eyes to the blind
             He was feet for the lame
29:16  He was a father to the needy (30:25)
29:17  He stood against the wicked seeking to exploit others
             He snatched the prey [the vulnerable and threatened] from the wicked

All of this means that …

He was a champion of the poor, the orphan and the widow, a strength to those who were feeble, weak and tottering.  He befriended not the strong or the powerful or the influential but weakest and helpless, the ones without advocate or resource.  He was a minister of mercy.  He gave generous amounts of time, money and effort to the care of the weakest and most draining members of the community

All of this goes well beyond just praying for them or mouthing that we are concerned for the poor and the weak but doesn’t mean that the following questions are a good place to start in our evaluation of steps we need to take to be better able to do what God is calling us to do for our flock and community.

An Application Question:    

  1. Do you pray regularly for your children’s spiritual welfare?
  2. Do you pray regularly for widows and orphans?
  3. Do you advocate for the poor and the weakest members of the body?
  4. Are you uncomfortable using OT patterns for NT forms and functions?

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