Concern for the poor

The Bible and concern for the poor

The Old Testament

The Old Testament says God wants people to care for the poor and treat them with justice. Loving God involves keeping God’s commandments. Christians should respond by caring for each other, especially those in need.

There will always be some people who a poor and in need, and so I command you to be generous to them.

Deuteronomy 15:11

The Prophet Amos was quite clear: God was not impressed with religious rituals, because outside the Temple they were cheating the poor. What God wants is justice!

They sell into slavery honest men who cannot pay their debts……..the trampled the poor, weak and helpless, and push the sick out of the way.”

Amos 2:6-7

God wants people not to be greedy, and cancel debts when someone cannot pay. These quotes can apply to the international debt situation today…

“At the end of every seven years…… every creditor shall release what he has lent to his neighbour…” (i.e. cancel any debts).

Deuteronomy 15:7-8

“You shall not kill” “You shall not steal”

Exodus 20 (The 10 Commandments).

New Testament

Jesus was very concerned for the poor and oppressed. At the start of his mission he said:

“The spirit of the Lord is upon me, he has sent me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed….”

Luke 4:18-19

Jesus taught that the two greatest commandments are:

“Love the lord your God with all your heart and with your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength…… your neighbour as yourself.”

Mark 12:30-31

Jesus told the parable of The Final Judgement (the parable of the Sheet and the Goats) to show:

At the final judgement, God will say to the people he wants in Heaven:

“come into my kingdom...

I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and gave me drink,

I was a stranger and you made me welcome in your home, I was naked and you clothed me,

I was sick and you took care of me, I was imprisoned and you visited me.

I tell you, when if you did this for the least of these brothers of mine, you did it for me.”

Matthew 25:35-40

Jesus reached out to the poor, blind, diseased, oppressed, unwanted and unloved. He did not just ignore them and pray about the situation – he did something. If Jesus did this, Christians should do the same.

When there was a famine in Judea, the disciples' response was immediate:

So the believers in Antioch decided to send relief to the brothers and sisters in Judea, everyone giving as much as they could.

Acts 11;29

Main Christian beliefs – a summary

  1. Christians have a duty to care for those in need. Giving is an important part of Christian Life.
  2. Christians must act on their beliefs and help the needy; by doing this helping God.
  3. All humans are created “in the image of God” Genesis 1:27; we are equal in God’s eyes – we therefore have a responsibility to help all people.
  4. We all belong to the family of God.
  5. Christian Love is based on compassion and action.
  6. God wants a world of justice and fairness, according to the Bible. It is human sin and disobedience which destroys this and stops justice.

Christians question if it is right to spend so much on weapons when so many people in the world are starving, lack the basics, lack hospitals, schools and sanitation. It would cost an estimated $17 billion a year to provide food, water, education, health and housing for everyone. World spending on military equipment is $1000 billion.

For Christians, the first priority with the world's resources is to ensure everyone's basic needs are met. No individual, group or country has the right to monopolise or squander resources when there are other people suffering for lack of those resources. Christians should work to promote a more equal distribution of resources.

"When I give food to the poor they call me a saint, When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist."

Archbishop Oscar Romero - murdered in South America for his protest.