Material poverty is tragic. One of the saddest realities of our world is when an individual or family lacks the ability to feed themselves and to meet their basic needs. The Church will often take the lead in helping the poor, since it’s a repeated explicit command throughout Scripture to do so. God has a heart for those in need, and we ought to aggressively help the poor. At the same time, we cannot fall into the trap of attaching undue spiritual virtue to those who eschew material things (poverty gospel) or to those whose material wealth has increased (prosperity gospel).
God advocates for the poor. I know that the LORD will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and will execute justice for the needy. – Psalm 140:12 ESV
Be generous. Whoever despises his neighbor is a sinner, but blessed is he who is generous to the poor. –Proverbs 14:21 ESV
Injustice can cause poverty. The fallow ground of the poor would yield much food, but it is swept away through injustice. – Proverbs 13:23 ESV
Get to work. Love not sleep, lest you come to poverty; open your eyes, and you will have plenty of bread. – Proverbs 20:13 ESV
Don’t abuse the poor. Do not rob the poor, because he is poor, or crush the afflicted at the gate. – Proverbs 22:22 ESV
Don’t ignore the poor. Whoever gives to the poor will not want, but he who hides his eyes will get many a curse. – Proverbs 28:27 ESV
Don’t avoid the poor. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. – James 1:27 ESV
Don’t judge the poor. The rich and the poor meet together; the LORD is the maker of them all. – Proverbs 22:2 ESV
The only thing worse than material poverty is spiritual poverty. To not know Jesus, and to be apart from Him for eternity, would be worse than any physical earthly hardship. As such, there is one kind of poverty that we should seek. In Matthew 5:3 Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” A person who is poor in spirit is humble. They hold God in higher regard than themselves. They’re willing to submit their lives to Jesus, who emptied Himself of everything in order to give His life for us. A person like that can look forward to a glorious eternal future with Jesus in the kingdom of heaven.
2 Corinthians 8:9
When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor . . . and Yourself, by Steve Corbett & Brian Fikkert