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True Christians Will Help the Needy and Afflicted

True Christians will help the Needy and Afflicted

Proverbs 14:31 ESV

Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him.

Proverbs 22:16 ESV

Whoever oppresses the poor to increase his own wealth, or gives to the rich, will only come to poverty.

We'll first take a look at what a messenger of the Lord says about this topic and following this, we'll extend our look at What Does the Bible Say About Generosity and Duty to the Poor?

Ellen G. White

~Welfare Ministry 168.1 through 168.2

A true Christian is the poor man's friend. He deals with his perplexed and unfortunate brother as one would deal with a delicate, tender, sensitive plant. God wants His workers to move among the sick and suffering as messengers of His love and mercy. He is looking upon us, to see how we are treating one another, whether we are Christlike in our dealing with all, high or low, rich or poor, free or bond....

When you meet those who are careworn and oppressed, who know not which way to turn to find relief, put your hearts into the work of helping them. It is not God's purpose that His children shall shut themselves up to themselves, taking no interest in the welfare of those less fortunate than themselves. Remember that for them as well as for you Christ has died. Conciliation and kindness will open the way for you to help them, to win their confidence, to inspire them with hope and courage.—Letter 30, 1887.

If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. James 2, 15-17.


~Welfare Ministry 170.1 through 172.2~

Jesus Associated Himself With the Poor—It has become fashionable to look down upon the poor.... But Jesus, the Master, was poor, and He sympathizes with the poor, the discarded, the oppressed, and declares that every insult shown to them is as if shown to Himself. I am more and more surprised as I see those who claim to be children of God possessing so little of the sympathy, tenderness, and love which actuated Christ. Would that every church, North and South, were imbued with the spirit of our Lord's teaching!—Manuscript 6, 1891.

Christ Came to Minister to the Poor—Christ stood at the head of humanity in the garb of humanity. So full of sympathy and love was His attitude that the poorest was not afraid to come to Him. He was kind to all, easily approached by the most lowly. He went from house to house, healing the sick, feeding the hungry, comforting the mourners, soothing the afflicted, speaking peace to the distressed.—Letter 117, 1903.

“And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up: and, as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto Him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He hath sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.”

This is a wonderful description of Christ's work. The Pharisees and Sadducees despised the poor. The learned and rich neglected them, as though their wealth and knowledge made them of more value than those who were poor. But Jesus declared that it was His work to give encouragement and comfort and help where it was most needed.—Manuscript 65b, 1898.

How Christ Awakened Soul Hunger—Christ's chief work was in the preaching of the gospel to the poor. He chose to minister to the needy, the ignorant. In simplicity He opened before them the blessings they might receive, and thus He awakened their soul's hunger for the truth, the bread of life. Christ's life is an example to all His followers.—Manuscript 103, 1906.

The Evidence of the Divinity of the Gospel—Christ met with the greatest success among the poor, and with this class every human being, whether learned or unlearned, may find abundance to do. The poor need comfort and sympathy, for there are those who without a helping hand will never recover themselves. In working for these Christ's disciples will fulfill their commission. This is the highest credential of the gospel ministry. Had the gospel been of men, it would have been popular with the rich and mighty; but it pours contempt upon the rich and mighty, and calls upon all who accept it to work the works of Christ, helping those who are destitute, despised, forsaken, afflicted.

Those who take hold of the work for the love of Christ and the love of souls will work in Christ's lines. This world is a lazar house of disease, but Christ came to heal the sick, to comfort the brokenhearted, to proclaim deliverance to the captives, to give sight to the blind. The gospel is the very essence of restoration, and Christ would have us bid the brokenhearted, the hopeless, and the afflicted, take hold His strength; for the acceptable year of the Lord has come.—Manuscript 65b, 1898.

Christianity the Solace of the Poor—There is a connection between the religion of Christ and poverty. Christianity is the solace of the poor. There is a false religion, endangering the souls of all who advance it, that teaches that selfish pleasure and enjoyment is the sum of happiness. But the parable of the rich man and Lazarus shows us that this is false. There came a time when the rich man would have given all he possessed to have exchanged places with Lazarus, once poor, and covered with sores.

In the humanity of Christ there are golden threads that bind the believing, trusting poor man to His own soul of infinite love.


~Welfare Ministry 178.1 through 187.3~

Chapter 21—The Poor in the Church

The Needy of the Household of Faith—Our love for God is to be expressed in doing good to the needy and suffering of the household of faith whose necessities come to our knowledge and require our care. Every soul is under special obligation to God to notice His worthy poor with particular compassion. Under no consideration are these to be passed by.—Testimonies for the Church 6:271.

“As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.”

In a special sense Christ has laid upon His church the duty of caring for the needy among its own members. He suffers His poor to be in the borders of every church. They are always to be among us, and He places upon the members of the church a personal responsibility to care for them.

As the members of a true family care for one another, ministering to the sick, supporting the weak, teaching the ignorant, training the inexperienced, so is the “household of faith” to care for its needy and helpless ones.—The Ministry of Healing, 201.

Two Classes to Care For—There are two classes of poor whom we have always within our borders—those who ruin themselves by their own independent course of action and continue in their transgression, and those who for the truth's sake have been brought into straitened circumstances. We are to love our neighbor as ourselves, and then toward both these classes we shall do the right thing under the guidance and counsel of sound wisdom.

There is no question in regard to the Lord's poor. They are to be helped in every case where it will be for their benefit. God wants His people to reveal to a sinful world that He has not left them to perish. Special pains should be taken to help those who for the truth's sake are cast out from their homes and are obliged to suffer. More and more there will be need of large, open, generous hearts, those who will deny self and will take hold of the cases of these very ones whom the Lord loves. The poor among God's people must not be left without provision for their wants. Some way must be found whereby they may obtain a livelihood. Some will need to be taught to work. Others who work hard, and are taxed to the utmost of their ability to support their families, will need special assistance. We should take an interest in these cases and help them to secure employment. There should be a fund to aid such worthy poor families who love God and keep His commandments.

Care must be taken that the means needed for this work shall not be diverted into other channels. It makes a difference whether we help the poor who through keeping God's commandments are reduced to want and suffering, or whether we neglect these in order to help blasphemers who tread underfoot the commandments of God. And God regards the difference. Sabbathkeepers should not pass by the Lord's suffering, needy ones to take upon themselves the burden of supporting those who continue in transgression of God's law, those who are educated to look for help to anyone who will sustain them. This is not the right kind of missionary work. It is not in harmony with the Lord's plan.

Wherever a church is established its members are to do a faithful work for the needy believers. But they are not to stop here. They are also to aid others, irrespective of their faith. As the result of such effort some of these will receive the special truths for this time.

“If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren within any of thy gates in thy land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother: but thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth. Beware that there be not a thought in thy wicked heart, saying, The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand; and thine eye be evil against thy poor brother, and thou givest him nought; and he cry unto the Lord against thee, and it be sin unto thee. Thou shalt surely give him, and thine heart shall not be grieved when thou givest unto him: because that for this thing the Lord thy God shall bless thee in all thy works, and in all that thou puttest thine hand unto. For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.” Deuteronomy 15:7-11.

Through circumstances some who love and obey God become poor. Some are not careful; they do not know how to manage. Others are poor through sickness and misfortune. Whatever the cause they are in need, and to help them is an important line of missionary work.—Testimonies for the Church 6:269-271.

Poverty May Result From Adverse Circumstance—It has not always been regarded as a mark of inefficiency when through adverse circumstances pinching want has made it necessity for a brother to incur debts or suffer for food and clothing even though he was unable to lift these debts, struggle as hard as he might. A helping hand has been reached out to such ones, to place them upon their feet, free from embarrassment, that they might do their work in the vineyard of the Lord and not be oppressed with the thought that a cloud of debt was hanging over them.—Manuscript 34, 1894.

The Responsibility of the Church or Churches—It is the duty of each church to make careful, judicious arrangements for the care of its poor and sick.—Letter 169, 1901.

God suffers His poor to be in the borders of every church. They are always to be among us, and the Lord places upon the members of every church a personal responsibility to care for them. We are not to lay our responsibility upon others. Toward those within our own borders we are to manifest the same love and sympathy that Christ would manifest were He in our place. Thus we are to be disciplined, that we may be prepared to work in Christ's lines.

The minister should educate the various families and strengthen the church to care for its own sick and poor. He should set at work the God-given faculties of the people, and if one church is overtaxed in this line, other churches should come to its assistance. Let the church members exercise tact and ingenuity in caring for these, the Lord's people. Let them deny themselves luxuries and needless ornaments, that they may make the suffering needy ones comfortable. In doing this they practice the instruction given in the fifty-eighth chapter of Isaiah, and the blessing there pronounced will be theirs.—Testimonies for the Church 6:272.

Every Church Member to Do His Part—The Lord's people are to be as true as steel to principle. He has pointed out the work devolving on every church member. He declares that the church members are faithfully to do their duty to those within their own borders. They are generously to support their own poor. They are to engage in systematic missionary work, teaching their children to keep the way of the Lord and to do judgment and justice.

But the light which for years has been before the churches has been disregarded. The work that ought to have been done for suffering humanity in every church has not been done. Church members have failed to heed the word of the Lord, and this has deprived them of an experience they should have gained in gospel work.—The Review and Herald, March 4, 1902.

The poor and the needy are to be cared for. These must not be neglected, at whatever cost or sacrifice to ourselves.—The Youth's Instructor, August 26, 1897.

The Church to Bear the Burden—The churches that have the poor among them should not neglect their stewardship and throw the burden of the poor and sick upon the sanitarium. All the members of the several churches are responsible before God for their afflicted ones. They should bear their own burdens. If they have sick persons among them, whom they wish to be benefited by treatment, they should, if able, send them to the sanitarium. In doing this they will not only be patronizing the institution which God has established but will be helping those who need help, caring for the poor as God requires us to do.—Testimonies for the Church 4:551.

When the Lord's Poor Are Neglected—When the Lord's poor are neglected and forgotten or greeted with cold looks and cruel words, let the guilty one bear in mind that he is neglecting Christ in the person of His saints. Our Saviour identifies His interest with that of suffering humanity. As the heart of the parent yearns with pitying tenderness over the suffering one of her little flock, so the heart of our Redeemer sympathizes with the poorest and lowliest of His earthly children. He has placed them among us to awaken in our hearts that love which He feels toward the suffering and oppressed, and He will let His judgments fall upon anyone who wrongs, slights, or abuses them.—Testimonies for the Church 4:620.

Search Out the Needs—Your good wishes we will thank you for, but the poor cannot keep comfortable on good wishes alone. They must have tangible proofs of your kindness in food and clothing. God does not mean that any of His followers should beg for bread. He has given you an abundance that you may supply those of their necessities which by industry and economy they are not able to supply. Do not wait for them to call your attention to their needs. Act as did Job. The thing that he knew not he searched out. Go on an inspecting tour and learn what is needed and how it can be best supplied.—Testimonies for the Church 5:151.

Do Not Wait for Them to Come to Us—Poverty and distress in families will come to our knowledge, and afflicted and suffering ones will have to be relieved.... Do not wait for them to come to you. Examine their wearing apparel and help them if they need help. We should invest means to help young men and young women to obtain an education in sending the gospel to the poor, in aiding those who have ventured by faith to take their position upon the platform of eternal truth, when by so doing they have placed themselves in an embarrassing situation. Where there are cases of special need the minister must be prepared to relieve those who are in poverty for the truth's sake.—Manuscript 25, 1894.

Help for New Converts out of Employment—In our benevolent work special help should be given to those who, through the presentation of the truth, are convicted and converted. We must have a care for those who have the moral courage to accept the truth, who lose their situations in consequence, and are refused work by which to support their families. Provision should be made to aid the worthy poor and to furnish employment for those who love God and keep His commandments. They should not be left without help, to feel that they are forced to work on the Sabbath or starve. Those who take their position on the Lord's side are to see in Seventh-day Adventists a warmhearted, self-denying, self-sacrificing people, who cheerfully and gladly minister to their brethren in need. It is of this class especially that the Lord speaks when He says: “Bring the poor that are cast out to thy house.” Isaiah 58:7.—Testimonies for the Church 6:85.

Provide Land for Poor Families—Where the school is established [in Australia] there must be land for orchards and gardens, that students may have physical exercise combined with mental taxation, and half and some wholly pay their way at school. Also ground must be purchased, that families that cannot obtain work in the cities because of the observance of the Sabbath may buy small farms and make their own living. This is a positive necessity in this country. Education must be given in regard to tilling the soil, and we must expect that the Lord will bless this effort.—Manuscript 23, 1894.

Our Duty to Poor Families—Inquiries are often made in regard to our duty to the poor who embrace the third message; and we ourselves have long been anxious to know how to manage with discretion the cases of poor families who embrace the Sabbath. But while at Roosevelt, New York, August 3, 1861, I was shown some things in regard to the poor.

God does not require our brethren to take charge of every poor family that shall embrace this message. If they should do this, the ministers must cease to enter new fields, for the funds would be exhausted. Many are poor from their own lack of diligence and economy; they know not how to use means aright. If they should be helped, it would hurt them. Some will always be poor. If they should have the very best advantages, their cases would not be helped. They have not good calculation, and would use all the means they could obtain, were it much or little.

Some know nothing of denying self and economizing to keep out of debt and to get a little ahead for a time of need. If the church should help such individuals instead of leaving them to rely upon their own resources, it would injure them in the end, for they look to the church and expect to receive help from them and do not practice self-denial and economy when they are well provided for. And if they do not receive help every time, Satan tempts them, and they become jealous and very conscientious for their brethren, fearing they will fail to do all their duty to them. The mistake is on their own part. They are deceived. They are not the Lord's poor.

The instructions given in the Word of God in regard to helping the poor do not touch such cases, but are for the unfortunate and afflicted. God in His providence has afflicted individuals to test and prove others. Widows and invalids are in the church to prove a blessing to the church. They are a part of the means which God has chosen to develop the true character of Christ's professed followers and to call into exercise the precious traits of character manifested by our compassionate Redeemer.

Many who can but barely live when they are single choose to marry and raise a family when they know they have nothing with which to support them. And worse than this, they have no family government. Their whole course in their family is marked with their loose, slack habits. They have but little control over themselves, and are passionate, impatient, and fretful. When such embrace the message they feel that they are entitled to assistance from their more wealthy brethren; and if their expectations are not met, they complain of the church and accuse them of not living out their faith? Who must be the sufferers in this case? Must the cause of God be sapped, and the treasury in different places exhausted, to take care of these large families of poor? No. The parents must be the sufferers. They will not, as a general thing, suffer any greater lack after they embrace the Sabbath than they did before.

There is an evil among some of the poor which will certainly prove their ruin unless they overcome it. They have embraced the truth with their coarse, rough, uncultivated habits, and it takes some time for them to see and realize their coarseness, and that it is not in accordance with the character of Christ. They look upon others who are more orderly and refined as being proud, and you may hear them say: “The truth brings us all down upon a level.” But it is an entire mistake to think that the truth brings the receiver down. It brings him up, refines his taste, sanctifies his judgment, and, if lived out, is continually fitting him for the society of holy angels in the city of God. The truth is designed to bring us all up upon a level.

The more able should ever act a noble, generous part in their deal with their poorer brethren, and should also give them good advice, and then leave them to fight life's battles through. But I was shown that a most solemn duty rests upon the church to have an especial care for the destitute widows, orphans, and invalids.—Testimonies for the Church 1:272-274.

Counsel Regarding a Balanced Work—Christ has not bidden us bestow all our labor and all our gifts upon the poor. We have a work to do in behalf of those who are fulfilling His commission, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” The increase of the ministry will require an increase of means....

When you expend money consider, “Am I encouraging prodigality?” When you give to the poor and wretched consider, “Am I helping them, or hurting them?” ...


By our churches there is a work to be done of which many have little idea, a work as yet almost untouched. “I was an hungred,” Christ says, “and ye gave Me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave Me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took Me in: naked, and ye clothed Me: I was sick, and ye visited Me: I was in prison, and ye came unto Me.” Matthew 25:35, 36. Some think that if they give money to this work, it is all they are required to do, but this is an error. Donations of money cannot take the place of personal ministry. It is right to give our means, and many more should do this; but according to their strength and opportunities, personal service is required of all. ~WM 189.1~

The work of gathering in the needy, the oppressed, the suffering, the destitute, is the very work which every church that believes the truth for this time should long since have been doing. We are to show the tender sympathy of the Samaritan in supplying physical necessities, feeding the hungry, bringing the poor that are cast out to our homes, gathering from God every day grace and strength that will enable us to reach to the very depths of human misery and help those who cannot possibly help themselves. In doing this work we have a favorable opportunity to set forth Christ the crucified One.—Testimonies for the Church 6:274-276. WM ~189.2~


Give the Right Kind of Help—Methods of helping the needy should be carefully and prayerfully considered. We are to seek God for wisdom, for He knows better than shortsighted mortals how to care for the creatures He has made. There are some who give indiscriminately to everyone who solicits their aid. In this they err. In trying to help the needy we should be careful to give them the right kind of help. There are those who when helped will continue to make themselves special objects of need. They will be dependent as long as they see anything on which to depend. By giving undue time and attention to these we may encourage idleness, helplessness, extravagance, and intemperance. ~WM 191.2~

The Best Way to Reach Hearts Today—By showing an interest in the wants of suffering humanity we can best reach hearts. The culture of the mind and heart is much more easily accomplished when we feel such tender sympathy in others that we scatter our benefits and privileges to relieve their necessities.—Letter 116, 1897. ~WM 192.5~


What Does the Bible Say About Generosity and Duty to the Poor?

Frequently Asked Questions:

✔What are the Bible references for giving?

✔Does God care how we spend our money?

✔What does the Bible say about helping people who are taking advantage of me?

✔Does the Bible say we should give money to charity?


The apostle Paul wrote:

We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully. (NIV, Romans 12:6-8)

Each of us has something to offer. We can give our money and our time to charity, be a friend to someone who is sick or lonely, do volunteer work, or be a peacemaker, teacher or minister. We may give unselfishly of our time to our spouse, children or parents. We may choose a service-oriented occupation, or we may just do our everyday jobs with integrity and respect for others.

It would seem that the more we give to others, the poorer we become, but just the opposite is true! Service to others brings meaning and fulfillment to our lives in a way that wealth, power, possessions and self-centered pursuits can never match. As Jesus said,

For if you give, you will get! Your gift will return to you in full and overflowing measure, pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, and running over. Whatever measure you use to give -- large or small -- will be used to measure what is given back to you." (TLB, Luke 6:38)

Obligation to Those in Need:

Helping those in need is one of the major themes of the Bible and of Jesus' ministry. As far back as the thirteenth century B.C., the Hebrews' law institutionalized assistance to the poor:

When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest. You shall not strip your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the alien: I am the LORD your God. (NRSV, Leviticus 19:9-10)

Through service, we give others the things they lack, and we find meaning and fulfillment to our own lives. Both the Old and New Testament writings give many examples of the importance of service and charity:

He who despises his neighbor sins, but happy is he who is gracious to the poor. (NAS, Proverbs 14:21)

"Feed the hungry! Help those in trouble! Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you shall be as bright as day. And the Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy you with all good things, and keep you healthy too; and you will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring. (TLB, Isaiah 58:10-11)

And the crowds asked [John the Baptist], "What then should we do?" In reply he said to them, "Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise." (NRSV, Luke 3:10-11)

But whoever has the world's goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? (NAS, 1 John 3:17)

The Bible tells us to share generously with those in need, and good things will come to us in turn. We are not meant to live hard-hearted or self-centered lives. This is never made clearer than in Matthew 25:31-46. A greedy, miserly life leaves us devoid of anything but an empty craving for more possessions, more power or more status.

He who gives to the poor will never want, but he who shuts his eyes will have many curses. (NAS, Proverbs 28:27)

It is not necessary to be a wealthy philanthropist or a full-time volunteer to make a meaningful contribution. Rather, we should give generously of whatever wealth and abilities we have, no matter how small the amount.

And [Jesus] looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury. And He saw a certain poor widow putting in two small copper coins. And He said, "Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them; for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on." (NAS, Luke 21:1-4)

Sincere Motives:

Our good deeds should be motivated by a sincere desire to help others. Public recognition should not be the goal.

"Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. "So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. (NIV, Matthew 6:1-2)


A frequent question concerns an adult child, sibling or other relative who is always asking for money. People wonder if Bible teachings require them to keep supporting that person. We have a solemn obligation to help people who are in genuine need, especially family members (1 Timothy 5:8). However, there is no obligation to support a person who is just being lazy or exploiting kind-hearted relatives (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12). Such a person may benefit more from training and counseling aimed at helping him or her get and keep a job. Most communities have agencies that can help.


Each of us has something to give. Some have wealth, some have talents, some have time. Whatever gifts we have been given -- large or small -- we should share generously. When we do, we make the world better for someone else and find true meaning and satisfaction in our own lives.

Related verses:

Leviticus 25:35, Deuteronomy 14:28-29, Deuteronomy 15:7-11, Isaiah 58:6-7, Psalms 41:1-3, Proverbs 11:25, 19:17, 22:9, Matthew 5:42, 6:1-4, 19:21, 25:31-46, Luke 6:38, 11:41, 12:33-34, Acts 20:35, 1 Corinthians 12:4-11, 12:27-31, 13:1-13, 2 Corinthians 9:6-7, Galatians 2:10, Ephesians 4:7-12, 1 Timothy 5:16, 6:17-19, Hebrews 13:3, 13:16, James 1:27, 2:2-9, 2:15-16, 1 John 3:17-18


Have you turned away your heart from helping the Needy and Afflicted? If so, it's

time to genuinely repent, as obedience in this matter is indeed a matter of salvation.

Matthew 25:40 ESV

And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

Matthew 25:45-46 ESV

[45]Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ [46] And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

1 John 3:17-18 ESV

[17]But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? [18] Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

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