BIBLICAL ECONOMICS: God Cares about the Poor

There is much conversation today about poverty. From politics to the pulpit, from backyard talks around the barbeque to internet debates on Twitter, everyone has something to say about the poor. But what does God say about the poor?

The bible makes it clear that God cares for the poor. We are told throughout scripture that God:

  • defends the needy (1 Samuel 2:8, Psalm 12:5)
  • is a refuge for the poor (Psalm 14:6, Isaiah 25:4)
  • saves and rescues the poor from destruction (Psalm 35:10, Psalm 72:4, 12-13, Psalm 109:31, Jeremiah 20:13)
  • listens to the prayers of the impoverished (Psalm 34:6, Psalm 69:33)
  • promises to help the needy (Psalm 69:32, Isaiah 14:30, Isaiah 41:17)
  • and lifts the poor up close to Himself (Psalm 113:7, Psalm 140:12, Psalm 146:7)

Not only does God care about the poor, but He commands us to care for the poor as well. We are commanded:

  • not to exploit or take advantage of the poor (Deuteronomy 24:14, Proverbs 22:22)
  • not to deny or pervert justice towards the poor (Exodus 23:6, Leviticus 19:15)
  • to be kind to the needy (Proverbs 14:21, Proverbs 14:31, Proverbs 19:17)
  • not to oppress the poor (Proverbs 22:16, Proverbs 28:3, Zechariah 7:10)
  • to share with the poor (Leviticus 19:10, Proverbs 22:9)
  • not to mock the poor (Proverbs 17:5)
  • to speak up for the poor (Proverbs 31:9)
  • to consider the poor (Proverbs 29:7)
  • And to listen to the poor (Proverbs 21:13)

Furthermore, Jesus cared for the poor, and commanded His followers to do the same:

  • Jesus first announced His ministry with the claim that He was anointed to “preach the gospel to the poor” (Luke 4:18)
  • He regularly told His followers to give to the poor (Mark 10:21, Luke 6:38, Luke 12:33)
  • He was so charitable to the poor that when one of His followers left a room, it was assumed they were going to give to the poor (John 13:29)
  • He told His followers to make sure to spend time with the poor and invite them to fellowship together (Luke 14:13)
  • Part of His ministry was preaching the gospel specifically to the poor (Matthew 11:5)
  • Jesus famously told His disciples to feed the hungry and thirsty, clothe the naked, and take in the stranger, claiming that caring for the “least of these” was caring for Jesus Himself (Matthew 25:34-40)

Jesus’ followers took these commands to heart:

  • Paul wrote that Christians should be hospitable and charitable to those in need (Romans 12:13, 2 Corinthians 9:7)
  • John wrote that caring for others in need was evidence that a believer was filled with the love of God (1 John 3:17)
  • In their respective ministries, both Peter and Paul were eager to remember the poor, and encouraged each other to do so (Galatians 2:10)

From the Old Testament to the New, it is evident that God cares for and helps the poor, and that He expects His followers to do the same. But a few questions arise:

How are we to help the poor?

What are the causes of poverty?

We will examine these questions related to the biblical view of poverty in a series of future articles, BIBLICAL ECONOMICS.

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Is It Wrong to Help People in Order to Spread the Gospel?

use meI’ve heard non-Christians levy this accusation at helpful believers several times:

You’re only helping that person so you can tell them about Jesus!”

Is this a genuine concern? If even part of our motivation in serving others is to preach the gospel, does that make it wrong?

As always, let’s look at the scriptures:

But when Jesus saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36)

In this passage, Jesus is moved with compassion for two reasons. First, He noticed their physical condition. They were weary and scattered. The NLT uses the words “confused and helpless” to describe their condition. Jesus certainly was aware of their problems, and wanted to free them of their distress.

Secondly, Jesus was concerned because of their spiritual condition. They were like sheep having no shepherd. They weren’t a part of God’s flock (John 10). They were separated from God (Eph. 2). And not only that, but Jesus identified that the reason they were weary and scattered was because of their spiritual condition. In other words, their utter separation from God resulted in their physical plight.

In Genesis 3, after Adam and Eve sinned against God, they died spiritually, which led to death in every area of life. Separation from God resulted in all sorts of bad stuff, including sin, sickness, poverty, and strife. And we can work hard to battle sin, sickness, and poverty, but at the end of the day, all that is doing is attacking the symptoms rather than the source. Spiritual death is the problem; everything else is just a side effect.

That’s why Jesus said to John’s disciples,

The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised and the poor have the gospel preached to them.” (Matthew 11:5)

Jesus offers help to people in need, but ultimately, He offers the gospel to them, because the gospel is what will actually fix their problems.

Is it wrong to help people in order to spread the gospel? Certainly not! If you’re not preaching the gospel, you’re not really helping. You’re just covering up a wound that’ll get worse and worse.

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