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Proverbs 14:21

“Whoever despises his neighbor is a sinner, but blessed is he who is generous to the poor.”

The Word of God consistently speaks of the Lord’s special concern for the poor. Psalm 14:6, for instance, tells us that God is the refuge for those who suffer in poverty. Numerous laws in the Old Testament instruct the people of Israel to make sure the poor are cared for in the promised land (e.g., Lev. 23:22). Today’s passage pronounces a blessing on those who are generous to the poor. One of the chief works of Jesus was to preach good news to the poor (Luke 4:18).

Scripture commends us to help the poor in imitation of the Lord, who makes the poor His object of care. However, God’s Word wants us to do this wisely, for not everyone is poor for the same reason. Some people are poor because of sloth, because they refuse to engage in lawful work even though they are perfectly able to do so. Such individuals are poor because they are not following the Lord’s design for human beings, and we do not do them any good if we provide for their needs when they will not work. Paul, in fact, tells the church not to help such individuals (2 Thess. 3:10).

Laziness is but one cause of poverty, and we should not fall into the trap of thinking that every poor person is in poverty because of the vice of sloth. There are, in fact, other reasons for poverty, and people who are poor for reasons other than sloth, especially people in the church, should receive our assistance. Yesterday, we considered those who are poor because of tragedy and the church’s responsibility to them (see James 1:27). But there are two other causes of poverty that make the impoverished worthy of the church’s support.

The first of these is criminal exploitation. Sadly, unjust people sometimes use their position in society to oppress the poor, and Scripture speaks strongly against this (Amos 4:1–3). Here, Christians can help the poor by speaking against policies that actually hurt those in poverty even when the policies might look good on paper. We can also help the impoverished navigate the legal system to receive relief when it is due.

The second reason for poverty that makes a person worthy of support is the voluntary renunciation of wealth to serve the kingdom. Here we can include people such as full-time missionaries who give up their careers to preach the gospel and plant churches. Our Savior Himself was poor for this reason, having left the riches of heaven to save His people (Matt. 8:20; Phil. 2:1–11).

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

We must steer between the two extremes of believing that everyone in poverty is there because of laziness and that no one in poverty is there because of sloth. If we assume either is true, then we will not be able to wisely meet God’s call to help the poor. Can you think of others who are poor today for reasons that make them worthy of support? What can you do to help them?

For Further Study
  • Ezekiel 18:10–13
  • Galatians 2:10

Poverty Caused by Tragedy

The Thanksgiving of the Redeemed

Keep Reading The Kingdom of God

From the November 2021 Issue
Nov 2021 Issue