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Bridgeway Bible Dictionary

Poor

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One reality of life is that society will always contain people who are poor and disadvantaged (Deuteronomy 15:11; Matthew 26:11). This is not what God intended for the world, but when sin came into the world, human society suffered.

This does not necessarily mean that those who are poor are suffering the direct consequences of their own sin. Although there are cases where this may be so (Proverbs 6:9-11; Proverbs 10:4; Haggai 1:9; Luke 19:24), there are other cases where poverty has no direct connection with personal wrongdoing (Job 1:8-22; Revelation 2:9). As with all human suffering, there may be physical, moral, social, religious, political, historical and geographical factors that help produce the problem (see SUFFERING). Christians may be poor through no fault of their own (Acts 11:27-30; 2 Corinthians 8:1-5), but they should not behave as if there is no God in whom they can trust (Matthew 6:25-33).

The inevitability of poverty is no reason for anyone to be indifferent to the poor. Israelite law required people to restrict their own income-earning activities in order to provide opportunities for the poor to support themselves (Exodus 23:11; Leviticus 19:9-10; Leviticus 19:13). In addition, people were to give money, food and goods to help the poor (Exodus 22:25; Leviticus 25:35-38; Deuteronomy 15:7-8; Deuteronomy 16:9-12; Deuteronomy 26:12; Esther 9:22; Job 29:16). (Concerning regulations designed to prevent money-lenders from exploiting the poor see LENDING.)

New Testament teaching also requires those with money and possessions to help those who lack them. Generous giving to those in need is a specific duty of Christians (Matthew 25:34-40; Luke 14:13; Romans 15:26; Galatians 2:10; James 2:15-17; 1 John 3:17; see GIVING). God has a special concern for the poor. He guarantees his blessing upon those who help them and his judgment upon those who take unfair advantage of them (Psalms 41:1; Proverbs 17:5; Proverbs 19:17; Proverbs 21:13; Proverbs 29:14; Isaiah 10:1-2; Amos 2:7-8).

God gave special laws to Israel to ensure that in legal disputes judges did not favour the rich against the poor, and were not prejudiced against the rich in favour of the poor (Exodus 23:3; Exodus 23:6). The poor, as well as the rich, could be guilty of wrongdoing (Proverbs 30:8-9). However, as corruption and oppression increased, the poor were easily exploited. Often they had no way of gaining justice and cried out helplessly to God to defend them (Psalms 69:33; Psalms 82:3-4; cf. Psalms 109:31; Psalms 140:12; Isaiah 11:4; Isaiah 32:7).

Those who trusted in God amid widespread unfaithfulness and opposition sometimes likened themselves to the helpless poor. They were poor in the sense that they had nothing in themselves to rely upon, but trusted entirely upon God for their salvation. Such people, in any era, are the true citizens of God’s kingdom (Psalms 86:1-2; Matthew 5:3). Even when they are materially poor, they are often happier than those who are rich, because, being more dependent upon God, they know him better (Luke 4:18; Luke 6:20; Luke 21:1-4; 2 Corinthians 6:10; cf. Revelation 2:9; Revelation 3:17). This is a further reason why Christians should not favour the wealthy or despise the poor (James 2:1-6; see WEALTH).


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Bibliography Information
Fleming, Don. Entry for 'Poor'. Bridgeway Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/bbd/p/poor.html. 2004.

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