Can someone who doesn't necessarily give money to the poor but cares for them in other ways such as providing food and clothing receive the same eternal reward as somebody who does? Is money the best and ONLY way to help the needy and receive eternal reward?
Jesus talks numerous times about caring for the poor and needy in tangible ways. Matthew 25:31-40 says,
When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.
In James we learn that true religion is caring for the orphans and widows (James 1:27) and in Luke we read the story of the Good Samaritan and Jesus commands us to “go and do likewise” (Luke 10:25-37). Caring for the poor and needy is obviously very close to the heart of Jesus. And it is clear that believers will be rewarded for the good works that they do (Gal. 6:9, Col. 3:23-24, Heb. 6:10, 1 Cor. 3:12-15).
What is also clear is that God commands us to give both of our money and do good works. I've heard people say, “I don't tithe to my church with my money, I tithe to my church with my time”. This is not what God commands in Scripture. By giving your time and not your money you are robbing God and not being a good steward of what He has entrusted you with. By giving your money and not doing good works you are robbing the body of Christ and failing to be a light in this dark world. Both are sin, both rob others and both harm you. Jesus encourages and commands us to give both our money and our time in caring for others. God will reward us for our faithfulness in both of these areas. In one situation you may be called to give of your time and in another you may be called to give of your money and in some cases you’ll do both.
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Chelsea Dudley works at Eternal Perspective Ministries doing special projects.