Sabbath School Lesson for February 11-17, 2023

Overview of Lesson 7, Unto the Least of These

Memory Text: ” ‘Then the King will say to those on His right hand, “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” ‘ ” Matthew 25:34 NKJV

This week we will explore these topics:

  • Sunday: Jesus ministered to the underprivileged and forgotten while on earth.
  • Monday: God the Father made provision for the poor and needy during Old Testament times.
  • Tuesday: The rich, young ruler lost eternity because he loved his riches more than God.
  • Wednesday: Zacchaeus gave evidence of his conversion by helping those less fortunate.
  • Thursday: Job, though wealthy, was a champion of the poor.

The Bible repeatedly tells us to help widows, the fatherless, and strangers in the land: anyone in society who may be struggling for a livelihood. This extended beyond the borders of their close-knit, local community. As a matter of fact, they were even told to help their enemies.

Doing so was never an option. It was something that should grow naturally out of their love for God. Jesus even verified that it was really Him they were helping. Managing for the Master includes our tithes and offerings, which show our respect for God as outlined in the first Four Commandments. But it also includes what we do for others in need. This is how we show love and respect for our neighbor, covered in the last Six Commandments.

Our stewardship is incomplete and worthless without evidence of this kind of generous benevolence. Our giving could be in the form of money, but even more importantly, God designed it to be expressed in our words and actions. Seeing firsthand how our help benefits someone tends to increase and multiply the love God places in our heart. It is the perfect way to glorify God and share what we know of His loving character.

Sunday: The Life and Ministry of Jesus

At the beginning of Jesus’ Galilean ministry, He visited His hometown of Nazareth and was invited to read the Scripture during Sabbath worship at the synagogue (Luke 4:16-19). He was handed the book of Isaiah and chose to read His mission statement in Isaiah 61:1, 2.

This passage speaks of the humble work of the Messiah to preach the gospel to the poor, heal the brokenhearted, and restore sight to the blind, all the things Jesus was already doing as He traveled through the region.

These evidences of the Messiahship had been overlooked by most of His Jewish peers. They looked down on the poor, thinking they were cursed of God, and were instead focused on eliminating the Roman government’s control over their lives. They were deeply alarmed and offended when Jesus suggested a poor, lowly Messiah with a different agenda in mind.

Even John the Baptist was confused about these dual prophecies in Isaiah and the nature of Christ’s kingdom. Jesus informed John’s disciples of His true mission in Matthew 11:1-6.

How easy it is for us to misinterpret prophecies today. While we must study them thoroughly, we then simply should promote the gospel and trust the prophetic details to the Father’s all-knowing power and love.

Bible Verses for Thought and Discussion:

Luke 4:16-19, 28-30 and Matthew 11:1-3

  • How had those in Nazareth, and even John the Baptist, become so confused about the Messiah’s mission? How had they misunderstood the First and Second Comings of Christ?
  • Is it possible for us to focus too intently on the role and activity of the pope, for instance, and perhaps overlook more important, last-day events?

James 1:27

  • How is our religion to be experienced in a way that blesses us and those around us?
  • Why is this kind of religion so vital for our spiritual growth–both on the individual and church level?

Monday: God’s Provision for the Poor

Even before Jesus’ time, God encouraged helping others. Deuteronomy 15:11 says they were to open their hand wide when giving to the poor and needy, whoever they were. The fields lying fallow every seventh year, and gleaning that was permitted at all times, were some of the ways that God commanded they look out for the needs of their neighbors.

Isaiah 58:6-8 sounds like we should be proactive in these efforts. It’s not enough to sit back and let someone else do the work. Job said he was a father to the poor and he searched out cases where he could help others (Job 29:16). Social justice and activism have a strong basis in the Bible. Psalm 82:3, 4 supports this by saying, “Defend the poor and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and needy; free them from the hand of the wicked.”

Both those who give and those who receive will benefit from this kind of generous giving. Proverbs 28:27 says, “He who gives to the poor will not lack.” And Psalm 41:1 says, “Blessed is he who considers the poor; the Lord will deliver him in time of trouble.”

Bible Verses for Thought and Discussion:

Deuteronomy 15:11 and Matthew 26:11

  • Why are the poor always with us, as stated in these verses? And how does that affect how we should treat them?
  • What did it mean by saying we should open our hand wide to help them?

Psalm 41:1 and Matthew 25:40

  • Why is there a blessing for us when we help those in need? In what ways are we blessed?
  • What does this tell us about how God feels about “the least of these”?

Tuesday: The Rich Young Ruler

Although we know very little about the rich young ruler who came to Jesus one night, his story must have greatly impressed the disciples. His brief encounter with Jesus is told with little variation in three of the Gospels (Matthew19:16-22 , Mark 10:17-22, and Luke 18:23).

It seems obvious that the young man had a selfish and works-oriented heart with the question he posed to Jesus. He wanted to know what HE could DO to inherit eternal life–as if there’s anything we can do on our own that would ensure our salvation.

Jesus stressed the importance of keeping the Commandments, even mentioning a few of them from the Decalogue. The rich young ruler’s quick assessment that he was already keeping them, and had done so from his youth, was a signal to Jesus where the real problem was to be found.

Jesus then counseled him to sell all his possessions and come and follow Him, in essence to become one of His close disciples. Unfortunately, the young ruler failed to recognize the value of Jesus’ invitation and turned away from the very thing that would have given him what he needed to be saved. His riches meant more to him than the chance to follow God’s Son and minister to others in meaningful ways.

Bible Verses for Thought and Discussion:

Mark 8:34-37

  • How do these verses indicate the importance of our priorities in life, and what should they be?

Matthew 19:23-26

  • How is it hard, but not impossible, for a wealthy person to be saved? What makes it possible?

Wednesday: Zacchaeus

Jesus had told His disciples that it was possible with God for wealthy people to be saved, but the conversion of Zacchaeus showed them firsthand that this was true. The Holy Spirit of God had been speaking to the heart of a certain tax collector in the town of Jericho, named Zacchaeus.

Like the rich, young ruler, Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus for himself, after hearing that the itinerant preacher was such a wise teacher and that people were flocking to hear Him. Zacchaeus, too, wanted to know how he could secure eternal life. What would it take to become a true follower of God? He hoped Jesus had the answer to his burning questions.

It seemed obvious that Zacchaeus’ meeting with Jesus was no accident. After all, Jesus stopped right under the tree Zacchaeus had climbed and invited Himself to the house of this socially-unacceptable, even-despised, tax collector.

Zacchaeus then, surprisingly, without even being asked, offered to give back fourfold all the wealth he had taken unfairly, and in addition he would give half of his remaining wealth to the poor. Doing so willingly, without prodding, was a definite sign that a true conversion had taken place in the heart of rich Zacchaeus.

Bible Verses for Thought and Discussion:

Luke 18:25-27, 19:1-10

  • This story is full of “impossible” things that God did for wealthy Zacchaeus. What part of the story stands out the most to you?
  • How did Zacchaeus’ generosity show that he was a changed man?

Thursday: Consider the Man Job

Job, a patriarch in the Old Testament, was known as a man with an impeccable character. God described his servant Job as blameless and upright, someone who worshipped God and turned away from evil (Job 1:8).

After all his trials and having his friends call his character into question, Job defended himself by pointing out all the ways he had reached out to his neighbors. He had actively searched out the poor and needy and did all he could to comfort and deliver them from their troubling circumstances (Job 29:12-16).

The prophet Isaiah outlined how much God values this kind of generosity (Isaiah 58:6-8). God longs for us to feed, clothe, and provide housing for the needy. This is the kind of “fasting” that pleases God, that He has actually chosen for each of us. We must not only tell of God’s love, we must show it by our loving deeds for those who suffer.

Bible Verses for Thought and Discussion:

Job 29:12-16 and Isaiah 58:6-8

  • What kind of generous giving is recommended for those who love God?
  • What more can we do, as individuals and as a church body, to provide this level of care to our communities?

Friday: Final Thoughts

Although our focus has been on the wealthy this week, almost all of us have something we could share with our neighbor who might be in need. Jesus emphasized this duty to help others when He declared that those who did not help their neighbor would not be welcome in His kingdom. He compared the Judgment to a shepherd dividing the sheep from the goats, and went on to describe who those two classes of people were–in essence, those who gave and those who did not. See Matthew 25:31-45.

We are told in 1 Timothy 6:18 about the kind of riches all of us can have. We can become “rich in good works” by being “ready to give, willing to share”. It’s not how much we give, but how willing we are. “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).

Next Week: Planning for Success

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