8th March 2012

The Poor?

“The poor you will always have with you,”
Matthew 26:11 (NIV)

People have differing concepts of poverty, what it means to be poor, or to be ‘the poor’. Is it the oft-televised starving babies from famine-stricken parts of the world? Is it the homeless you see sleeping in the streets after dark in many cities around the UK or elsewhere? Is it lack of water, food, sleep, shelter, i.e. the basics of human survival as detailed in the bottom tier of Maslow’s theory of human needs? Is it about being powerless? The inability to read? Is it living in a rural area without access to public transport? Is it not having a television?

Governments worldwide talk about ‘levels of deprivation’ – each having very defined ways of measuring poverty. There even exists an organization The World Bank whose mission statement is, ‘To fight poverty with passion and professionalism for lasting results and to help people help themselves and their environment….’

Clearly in today’s society, who and what is ‘the poor’ varies from nation to nation and so we could dispute our understanding of who they are for a long time and never reach agreement.

Then again we could look at what the Bible says when it talks about the poor. Well, there are different Hebrew and Greek words used to interpret ‘the poor’ in the Bible, such as needy, weak, poverty, one that lacks, humble, oppressed, impoverished, afflicted labourer, trembling, disposed.

Nevertheless, however it is translated, and however we individually choose to identify the poor, a couple of things are not in dispute.  In Matthew 26:11, Jesus said the poor will always be with us.  We are asked to take care of the poor in Galatians 2:10, “All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor…”  The book of Proverbs is simply full of chivvying in this respect.  “Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Says Proverbs 31:9.  See also Proverbs 19:17; 21:13; and 28:27.

There is always someone less well off than us – but we can still help; and we should help!  Proverbs 3:27 (MSG) says, “Never walk away from someone who deserves your help; your hand is God’s hand for that person.”  A well-known passage in Luke 21:1-4 says, “As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury.  He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins.  ‘Truly I tell you,’ he said, ‘this poor widow has put in more than all the others.  All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.’”

Disturbingly the Bible talks of times when people will be indifferent and ignore the plight of the poor (Amos 2:7; 5:12.)  As Christians, let’s make sure that’s not talking about us.

Lord, each of us has been given so much in this life by you. Please let your Holy Spirit move us to give to others whenever it is within our power to do so.

Study by Irene Tibbenham

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