Helping the needy was a central activity of Jesus during His short public ministry. Whether He was healing the sick, feeding the poor, even raising the dead, we see Jesus helping the needy in various ways. In fact, his reputation for helping the needy spread and great crowds would come to be healed or fed. But is helping the needy why He came?

The modern day “mission trip” is in some ways modeled after Jesus helping the needy. For many young Christians, a ‘mission trip’ is a rite of passage. However, even if these were originally inspired by spreading the gospel to others, some mission trips today don’t include much teaching and are only about helping the needy – some even advertise as “non-religious“.

Was helping the needy why Jesus came…or even part of why He came to earth?

how Scripture answers "Was helping the needy why Jesus came to earth?"

Scripture shows us that helping the needy is not why Jesus came to earth1,2,3,4,5. His purpose was spiritual1,4, and only spiritual2. The several “negative instances”2,4,5 shine a spotlight on this, as well as the fact that if helping the needy were why He came, we failed miserably. Instead, we can find definitive Scripture that speaks to the great success of why Jesus did come to earth.

the answer above is based on and footnoted with the following Scripture Blocks
1

Jesus said, For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.

Jesus came into the world for judgement, the result of which would be the blind seeing and the seeing becoming blind.

Jesus has just healed a man blind from birth.  The man testifies to the Pharisees about the man that healed him.  Not believing him, they then called his parents who only confirmed he had been blind from birth.  Calling him back a second time, the Pharisees refused to credit Jesus with the miracle.

How does it inform?

Against the backdrop of healing a man that was physically blind, Jesus states a spiritual truth, explaining that His judgement will cause the blind to see and the seeing to be blind. The contrast is clear between the formerly blind man – a disregarded “sinner” [blind] that believed in Messiah [gained sight] – and the Pharisees who witnessed the miracle [saw] but refused to believe [became blind].

!! study note: context is extra important here !!

Does it apply? Yes

2
And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.

Jesus did not do many works there, because they were not believing.

Jesus is teaching in his hometown of Nazareth.  Luke records Him teaching in the synagogue where He read from the scroll of Isaiah (Luke 4:16-20).  It’s where He also reminds them that Elijah only helped one widow (when there were many) and Elisha only helped one leper (Luke 4:23-27).

How does it inform?

Jesus’ miracles were to a spiritual end. While it was certainly a good work to heal and feed, His purpose was not for good works but to demonstrate His divine authority and purpose.

Does it apply? Yes

3

And Jesus said to him, Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.

Jesus, the Son of Man, came to seek and save the lost.

As Jesus was passing through Jericho he encountered Zacchaeus, famously perched in a sycamore tree in order to catch a glimpse of Jesus.  Being a rich tax collector, Zacchaeus wasn’t well-liked among his countrymen, but his demonstration of faith (acknowledging Jesus) and actions (giving to the poor) were recognized and praised by Jesus.

How does it inform?

Jesus came to seek and save the spiritually lost.

Does it apply? Yes

4

Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to peace but a sword! For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.

Jesus didn’t come to earth to bring peace, but conflict (“a sword”).  The conflict will be personal, even within one’s household.

Jesus is sending out the twelve to teach.  He has given them “authority over unclean spirits so they could cast them out and heal every kind of disease and sickness” (vs 1).  However, he has warned them that they will be “like sheep surrounded by wolves” (vs 16) and that “Brother will hand over brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rise against parents and have them put to death.” (vs 21)

How does it inform?

Jesus’ legacy – if not to save – would be strife and conflict. Material “peace and harmony” is the exact opposite of what Jesus says he would bring.

Does it apply? Yes

5
For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.
The poor will always be here, unlike Jesus.
Jesus returns to Bethany and the house of Mary, Martha and Lazarus (recently raised from the dead).  Mary is attempting to anoint Jesus’ feet when Judas objects, arguing that the expensive ointment should be sold and given to the poor.
How does it inform?

Jesus isn’t dismissing the needy here, but emphasizing the importance of tending to spiritual needs above anything else.

Does it apply? Yes

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