In Charity: The Place of the Poor in the Biblical Tradition, University of Notre Dame theologian Gary A. Anderson challenges Protestants to take seriously the biblical commands—and promises—about giving to those in need.
Nineteenth-century evangelicals were noted for their devotion to the poor. (Wesleyan denominations such as the Free Methodist Church and the Salvation Army were born out of this passion). But when it came to the poor, 20th-century evangelicals needed a kick in the keister. Future CT editor Carl Henry did that with The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism (1947). So did Evangelicals for Social Action founder Ron Sider with Cry Justice: The Bible on Hunger and Poverty (1980), an overwhelming 220-page compendium of Bible texts.
With their help we learned that the Bible does not ignore poverty, hunger, and the poor. But despite the reawakening of evangelical social justice consciousness in the past few decades, we still need help reading the texts with biblical eyes.
Anderson's book offers a glimpse of what giving to the poor meant to Jews in the centuries before Jesus' birth. It doesn't provide the comprehensive survey that its subtitle might suggest, but it does plow a new furrow that will be helpful both to those who are called to preach about giving to the poor and to those who are called to give (all of us).
'He Who Is Kind to the Poor'
Anderson's new furrow begins in a field unfamiliar to most evangelicals. He examines the way intertestamental Jewish writers applied the message of Proverbs 19:17: "He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord and will be repaid in full." During the Second Temple period, writers such as Ben Sira equate giving ...1
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