Home arrow Articles arrow Poverty arrow WHY SHOULD YOU CARE ABOUT POVERTY?
Bible Studies
Written by Administrator   
Wednesday, 19 January 2005

Whether or not it directly affects us, we should all be concerned about poverty. Why? Because the Bible says we should, because it's to our own best interest to do so, and because loving our neighbors as ourselves is the only posssible way to deal with this pressing global concern.

by Jim Jordal

We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 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? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.

I John 3:16-18 (NASB)

Most Americans today express concern about poverty, but seem overwhelmed by the immensity and complexity of the problem. Some view the issue as too big and too expensive to ever be solved, while others assign the problem to someone else---in this case the poor themselves. Many carry a simplistic, single causation view attributing poverty to a single factor, such as poor education, single parenthood, or poor personal decision-making.

One problem facing charities and others who advocate for the poor is that there is some truth in all arguments concerning what causes poverty. The difficulty seems to lie in our human tendency to assess responsibility to some class of persons or to some hated or feared group, and then to close our minds and hearts to any other possibility. It’s like we say, "We know the answer, so don’t trouble us with further information." This affliction also affects our entire political spectrum. As someone said, "Because of their bias toward individual freedoms, Democrats cannot accept family dysfunction as a cause of poverty; while Republicans can see nothing else."

Poverty is caused by multiple interlocking factors that reinforce each other in the downward slide toward financial destitution. But relatively few people perceive the "big picture" surrounding poverty because of our all-to-human tendency to view such matters through glasses colored by our political, social, and economic affiliations. Our background, training, and experience tell us how to perceive the issues, so we cannot accept an unbiased position regarding the causes, seriousness, and cures for poverty.

Perhaps your cultural or political background causes you to blame poverty exclusively upon faulty choices by the poor. Or maybe you prefer to see the problem solely as a result of societal and governmental failures. But in either case there are several very good reasons why you should be concerned about poverty, even though it may not affect you visibly or directly.

The first is that Scripture says you should be concerned about poverty and the poor. It’s impossible to reasonably read or interpret Scripture in any other way. Jesus, the prophets, Mosaic law—all strongly express solidarity with the poor and concern for their welfare. Literally hundreds if not thousands of Bible verses illustrate God’s love for the poor, command our attention to their suffering, and condemn those who oppress and exploit them.

Second, it’s good business to care for the poor. The current global outpouring of goods and services can be sold only if someone can purchase them. When a sizable fraction of the world’s people live in poverty, they consume very little of what industrialized nations produce. It seems to make good economic sense, therefore, to raise living standards so the world’s poor can consume at least a minimal amount of what is available. Think of it this way: it may be your own skin in the form of your own job and financial welfare you may be saving as you care for the poor.

A recent book, The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits, by C. K. Prahalad, professor of Corporate Strategy and International Business at the University of Michigan Business School, presents a series of case studies on this subject. The premise is that billions of poor persons in the world’s developing nations constitute a promising market for those developed nations and businesses wise enough to aid in the creation of small local businesses through which native peoples can gain purchasing power. The beauty of the concept is that everyone gains: The poor gain income; businesses gain markets; native cultures are spared; and environmental preservation is enhanced.

Third, there exists today a moral and ethical imperative to care for the welfare of others. This ethic is found in most religions, and pervades what we might term "folk wisdom." Centuries ago when most goods were in scarce supply it might have been somewhat acceptable to hoard for oneself and one’s family. But today when the Law of Scarcity appears to be repealed, at least for part of the earth, and with the advent of worldwide advertising touting the wide availability of manufactured goods, it seems almost barbaric to deny those in poverty access to this treasure.

It all boils down to what Christ taught about loving our neighbors as ourselves. What we have now, except in rare cases of sacrifice or altruism, is concern for ourselves with little or no thought for others. I think it more evident every day that the world cannot continue much longer on its present course of massive greed at the expense of everyone but those at the very top of the income pyramid.

If we are to live in a world of anything other than oppression and exploitation Christ’s commands must soon become the operative norms for individuals and society.

Last Updated ( Thursday, 16 November 2006 )