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DOES GOD LIKE POVERTY? PDF Print E-mail
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Wednesday, 15 November 2006

For the needy will not always be forgotten, nor the hope of the afflicted perish forever.
Psalm 9:18 (NASB)

Therefore because you impose heavy rent on the poor and exact a tribute of grain from them, though you have built houses of well-hewn stone, yet you will not live in them; you have planted pleasant vineyards, yet you will not drink their wine.  For I know your transgressions are many and your sins are great, you who distress the righteous and accept bribes, and turn aside the poor in the gate.
Amos 5:11-12 (NASB)

Now the Lord saw, and it was displeasing in His sight that there was no justice, and He saw that there was no man, and was astonished that there was no one to intercede; then His own arm brought salvation to Him, and His righteousness upheld Him.
Isaiah 59:15b-16 (NASB)    

First of all let me say that there are hundreds of verses on this subject in the Bible.  That makes it virtually impossible for us to list and discuss each.  But we can derive biblical principles concerning what God views as the seriousness, causes, and solutions to the problem of human poverty.

 

Some say that God must love poverty, since He made so many poor people.  Others consider poverty to be somehow “ennobling” because it forces people to depend upon God rather than upon themselves or their society.  But apologists for poverty see only a small part of the picture.  They fail to perceive and heed the hundreds of biblical condemnations of persons and institutions creating and continuing the cycles of oppression and injustice that God so vehemently opposes.

 

I think it clear that God hates poverty and the conditions causing it, but allows it as part of the “broken” human condition arising when we violate His laws relating to social, political and economic justice.  It seems also clear that God projects a special love toward poor people because in their destitution they find a simple trust that escapes many persons flush with this world’s goods.

 

It also seems to me that the major message of Scripture is not, as many believe, personal salvation.  What the Bible mainly concerns itself with is righteousness, justice, mercy, truth and love brought to a fallen world first through Divine law codified by Moses but rejected by Israel, and finally through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

 

Scripture envisions a world characterized by righteousness and justice under the will of God administered by Jesus Christ and His saints in the millennial kingdom of God on earth.  Some disparage this vision as the “social gospel,” and discount its necessity by claiming that if all men were “born again,” then all earthly problems would disappear.  So the righteousness and justice demanded by God become mere adjuncts to the overarching goal of worldwide evangelism.

 

But if personal salvation should become the experience of a majority of Americans—already some 40% claim it—would oppression, poverty and injustice suddenly disappear?  If you think so, consider the many grievous economic injustices occurring under leadership of captains of business and finance calling themselves Christians.  And ponder that political and social abuse, racism, sexism and other oppressions are not limited to non-Christians.  And think about the vast power and financial resources of the Christian Right directed mainly toward winning elections, preserving profits whatever the cost, and enhancing the already extremely favorable position of the rich and powerful in national life.  When do you hear the Christian Right take up the cry against injustice, oppression, poverty and other social, political and economic ills of the nation?

God loves the poor, but hates the injustice and oppression creating the conditions they endure.  So is all poverty brought about by these unfortunate factors?  Not at all!  Obviously, as the sayings of Proverbs so vividly reveal, much poverty results from flawed human behaviors like sloth, deceit, poor decision-making, addiction, and crime.  But these are individual human failings, not enduring systemic ills of society.

 

People who blame poverty solely upon personal failings miss a major point of Scripture.  God holds people accountable for bad behavior, and often exacts a penalty of poverty for laziness, indifference toward learning, addiction, and lack of personal care and grooming.  But to claim these failings as the sole cause of poverty is to reveal a closed mind toward what Scripture clearly indicates.

 

God maintains that injustice perpetrated by the unconcerned rich against helpless persons such as widows, orphans, children, racial minorities, the disabled, servants and workers are the chief causes of poverty.  These injustices, labeled as oppression, take the form of low and withheld wages, unjust weights and measures (including money), usury, foreclosures, unfair taxation, and other forms of economic exploitation of the vulnerable.  These grievous economic sins and the promised kingdom deliverance from their power through the person and rule of Jesus Christ is the major message of Scripture.  How can we continue to ignore the clear word of God?

 

So what can you do?  Scripture tells Christians to “come out of her,” or to forsake the persons and systems creating poverty and oppression.  You can’t totally leave this world’s systems, but you can selectively stop supporting them.  The next time you buy coffee, look for the “Fair Traded” label, meaning that persons growing and harvesting the coffee received a fair price for their labor.  That’s a first step.

For the needy will not always be forgotten, nor the hope of the afflicted perish forever.
Psalm 9:18 (NASB)

Therefore because you impose heavy rent on the poor and exact a tribute of grain from them, though you have built houses of well-hewn stone, yet you will not live in them; you have planted pleasant vineyards, yet you will not drink their wine.  For I know your transgressions are many and your sins are great, you who distress the righteous and accept bribes, and turn aside the poor in the gate.
Amos 5:11-12 (NASB)

Now the Lord saw, and it was displeasing in His sight that there was no justice, and He saw that there was no man, and was astonished that there was no one to intercede; then His own arm brought salvation to Him, and His righteousness upheld Him.
Isaiah 59:15b-16 (NASB)    

First of all let me say that there are hundreds of verses on this subject in the Bible.  That makes it virtually impossible for us to list and discuss each.  But we can derive biblical principles concerning what God views as the seriousness, causes, and solutions to the problem of human poverty.

 

Some say that God must love poverty, since He made so many poor people.  Others consider poverty to be somehow “ennobling” because it forces people to depend upon God rather than upon themselves or their society.  But apologists for poverty see only a small part of the picture.  They fail to perceive and heed the hundreds of biblical condemnations of persons and institutions creating and continuing the cycles of oppression and injustice that God so vehemently opposes.

 

I think it clear that God hates poverty and the conditions causing it, but allows it as part of the “broken” human condition arising when we violate His laws relating to social, political and economic justice.  It seems also clear that God projects a special love toward poor people because in their destitution they find a simple trust that escapes many persons flush with this world’s goods.

 

It also seems to me that the major message of Scripture is not, as many believe, personal salvation.  What the Bible mainly concerns itself with is righteousness, justice, mercy, truth and love brought to a fallen world first through Divine law codified by Moses but rejected by Israel, and finally through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

 

Scripture envisions a world characterized by righteousness and justice under the will of God administered by Jesus Christ and His saints in the millennial kingdom of God on earth.  Some disparage this vision as the “social gospel,” and discount its necessity by claiming that if all men were “born again,” then all earthly problems would disappear.  So the righteousness and justice demanded by God become mere adjuncts to the overarching goal of worldwide evangelism.

 

But if personal salvation should become the experience of a majority of Americans—already some 40% claim it—would oppression, poverty and injustice suddenly disappear?  If you think so, consider the many grievous economic injustices occurring under leadership of captains of business and finance calling themselves Christians.  And ponder that political and social abuse, racism, sexism and other oppressions are not limited to non-Christians.  And think about the vast power and financial resources of the Christian Right directed mainly toward winning elections, preserving profits whatever the cost, and enhancing the already extremely favorable position of the rich and powerful in national life.  When do you hear the Christian Right take up the cry against injustice, oppression, poverty and other social, political and economic ills of the nation?

God loves the poor, but hates the injustice and oppression creating the conditions they endure.  So is all poverty brought about by these unfortunate factors?  Not at all!  Obviously, as the sayings of Proverbs so vividly reveal, much poverty results from flawed human behaviors like sloth, deceit, poor decision-making, addiction, and crime.  But these are individual human failings, not enduring systemic ills of society.

 

People who blame poverty solely upon personal failings miss a major point of Scripture.  God holds people accountable for bad behavior, and often exacts a penalty of poverty for laziness, indifference toward learning, addiction, and lack of personal care and grooming.  But to claim these failings as the sole cause of poverty is to reveal a closed mind toward what Scripture clearly indicates.

 

God maintains that injustice perpetrated by the unconcerned rich against helpless persons such as widows, orphans, children, racial minorities, the disabled, servants and workers are the chief causes of poverty.  These injustices, labeled as oppression, take the form of low and withheld wages, unjust weights and measures (including money), usury, foreclosures, unfair taxation, and other forms of economic exploitation of the vulnerable.  These grievous economic sins and the promised kingdom deliverance from their power through the person and rule of Jesus Christ is the major message of Scripture.  How can we continue to ignore the clear word of God?

 

So what can you do?  Scripture tells Christians to “come out of her,” or to forsake the persons and systems creating poverty and oppression.  You can’t totally leave this world’s systems, but you can selectively stop supporting them.  The next time you buy coffee, look for the “Fair Traded” label, meaning that persons growing and harvesting the coffee received a fair price for their labor.  That’s a first step.

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 21 November 2006 )