THE CHURCH & THE POOR

Robert C. Newman

 

Introduction

 

            Many dismiss this problem with the quotation "The poor you have with you always" (Mt 26:11; Mk 14:7; Jn 12:8), not realizing that Jesus added (Mk) "whenever you wish, you can do them good."

            Want to look briefly at whole problem of poverty and what Christians can & ought to do about it.

 

Causes of Poverty & Prosperity:

 

            Since one is opposite of other, will look at causes in form of pairs of opposites:

 

1. Laziness/Diligence

 

            Prov 6:6‑11: go to ant for example; provision in advance; danger of sloth

            Prov 10:4‑5: negligence => poverty; diligence => riches

            Prov 12:24: diligence => rule; slackness => forced labor

            Prov 13:4: sluggard craves but gets nothing

            Prov 14:23: all labor => profit; mere talk => poverty

            Prov 15:19: way of sluggard = thorns (vs. highway)

            Prov 16:26: worker's appetite works for him

            Prov 18:9: slothful brother to destroyer

            Prov 19:5: idle will suffer hunger

            Prov 20:4: don't plow, then beg in harvest

            Prov 20:13: don't love sleep => poverty

            Prov 21:5: diligence => advantage; haste => poverty

            Prov 21:25‑26: desire of sluggard kills him; always craving; righteous give & don't withhold

            Prov 23:21: drowsiness => rags

            Prov 24:30‑34: land of sluggard overgrown

            Prov 27:23‑27: diligence in care for flocks

            Eccl 4:5: fool folds hands, eats own flesh

            Eccl 9:10: do everything vigorously

            Eccl 10:18: idleness => collapse of bldg.

            Eccl 11:4ff: wind‑watcher doesn't plant

            Eph 4:28: let robber steal no more, but labor to give to needy

            2 Th 3:10: if any won't work, don't eat

 

2. Extravagance/Thrift

 

            Prov 12:27: lazy wasteful, diligent thrifty (KJV,LB,NIV)

            Prov 21:17: love of pleasure => poverty

            Prov 21:20: wise stores up, foolish devours all

            Prov 23:20‑21: big eaters & drinkers become poor

 

3. Disobedience/Obedience

 

            See blessings/curses of God's covenant w/ Israel

                        Lev 26:3‑13: blessings

                                    14‑33: curses (note esp vv 19‑20,26)

                        Deut 28:1‑14: blessings (esp vv 4‑5,8,11‑13)

                                    15‑68: curses (esp vv 17‑18.21‑24,38‑44,47‑48)

 

4. Disaster/Blessing

 

            Not necessarily related to one's goodness

                        Job 1‑2: disaster not due to his sin

                        Ps 73:3‑14: wicked sometimes prosper

 

5. Persecuted/Persecuting

 

            Most passages deal with imprisonment or death

                        Job 1 & 2: an unseen persecution by Satan

                        Rom 8:35: hardship, famine, nakedness in personal context

                        1 Cor 4:9‑13: apostles hungry, thirsty, in rags

                        Heb 10:32‑34: confiscation of property

                        Heb 11:35‑38: poor clothing, destitute

                        Rev 7:13‑17: from tribulation: hunger, thirst, exposure

 

6. Oppressed/Oppression

 

            Not for sake of faith, but just because weak

                        Ps 12:5: God will protect weak who are oppressed

                        Ps 62:10: do not trust in extortion, robbery

                        Prov 3:31: don't envy violent man

                        Prov 14:31: oppressor of poor shows contempt for God

                        Prov 22:22‑23: don't exploit poor, crush them in court; God will defend them

                        Prov 28:3: ruler who oppresses poor

                        Prov 30:11‑14: those who devour poor

                        Eccl 4:1: oppression under sun

                        Eccl 5:8‑9: don't be surprised at govt. oppression; itŐs profitable!

                        Isa 58:6: God's kind of fast is ending injustice, helping oppressed

                        Jer 21:12: responsibility of govt. to rescue oppressed

                        Ezk 22:29‑30: people of land extort, rob, oppress, so God will destroy land

                        Amos 5:11‑12: rich oppressing poor

                        Amos 8:4‑6: some hints on technique

                        Micah 2:1‑2: judicial oppression?

                        Hab 2:5‑11: greed => oppression

                        Zech 7:10: don't oppress fatherless, widow, alien or poor

                        James 2:6: insulting poor, playing up to rich who exploit, take to court

 

            Obviously, not all poverty is due to sin of poor, though clearly some is.  How are Christians to react?

 

Responsibilities of Christians:

 

1. Don't do any of the things that make for poverty in yourself or others:

 

            a. Be diligent in your own work.  Encourage diligence in others by word and example.  Don't give to others in such a way as to discourage diligence (2 Th 3:10).

            b. Be thrifty with your wealth.  Fight waste & extravagance in home, church, job, govt.  Be thrifty even in your benevolence (Lk 10:35).

            c. Be obedient to God's Word.  Encourage others to be obedient also.  Work for govt. obedience to God's Word.

            d. Don't oppress others.  Oppose those who do so, whether privately or through business & govt. activities.

 

2. Be a redemptive force to work against poverty:

 

            a. Use your surplus to help others in emergencies (cp Eph 4:28, Acts 4:32‑5:4, 2 Cor 8:1‑15, Lk 10:30‑37).

            b. Try to do without in order to have more surplus to help others (Mt 25:34‑40; 6:19‑21; Lk 3:11).

            c. Encourage your church to devote a Scriptural level of attention to benevolence (note Acts 6, 2 Tim 5).

            d. Encourage those works which are helping poor get on their feet and reform their own lifestyle.

            e. Work against societal practices which lead to poverty:

                        (1) advertising => covetousness

                        (2) credit => indebtedness

                        (3) insurance => false security & waste

 

Bibliography:

 

Chilton, David.  Productive Christians in an age of guilt  manipulators.  2nd ed.  Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1982.  A good reponse to problems in Sider.

 

Davis, John Jefferson.  Your wealth in God's world.  Phillipsburg, NJ:  Presbyterian and Reformed, 1984.  Good discussion of Biblical materials.

 


Kreider, Carl.  The Christian entrepreneur.  Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1980.  Christian principles for businessmen.

 

Sider, Ronald J.  Rich Christians in an age of hunger.  Downers Grove, IL:  InterVarsity, 1977.  Some problems but also some good insights.