What is a biblical approach to relieving poverty?
And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:Genesis 2:15-16
There is nothing better for a man, than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labour. This also I saw, that it was from the hand of God.Ecclesiastes 2:24
And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God.Ecclesiastes 3:13
Humans were created to work. This is how God designed for us to sustain ourselves and our families. If someone is in poverty they must work unless they are physically or mentally incapable of work. We will look at aiding the children, elderly, and disabled in another lesson, for now we are only talking about able-bodied people.
How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man.Proverbs 6:9-11
The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing: but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat.Proverbs 13:4
Slothfulness casteth into a deep sleep; and an idle soul shall suffer hunger.Proverbs 19:15
A slothful man hideth his hand in his bosom, and will not so much as bring it to his mouth again.Proverbs 19:24
The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold; therefore shall he beg in harvest, and have nothing.Proverbs 20:4
Love not sleep, lest thou come to poverty; open thine eyes, and thou shalt be satisfied with bread.Proverbs 20:13
The desire of the slothful killeth him; for his hands refuse to labour.Proverbs 21:25
The slothful man saith, There is a lion without, I shall be slain in the streets.Proverbs 22:13
I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding; And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down. Then I saw, and considered it well: I looked upon it, and received instruction. Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth; and thy want as an armed man.Proverbs 24:30-34
The slothful man saith, There is a lion in the way; a lion is in the streets. As the door turneth upon his hinges, so doth the slothful upon his bed. The slothful hideth his hand in his bosom; it grieveth him to bring it again to his mouth. The sluggard is wiser in his own conceit than seven men that can render a reason.Proverbs 26:13-16
For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.2 Thessalonians 3:10-12
Some people are supposed to go hungry. Let that sink in a minute. We are so used to saying that no one should ever go hungry that we do not take time to think the issue completely through. Lazy people should go hungry. Able-bodied people should work hard so that they can eat their own bread. Many people’s poverty is because they make excuses as to why they cannot work. We need to remember what Voddie Baucham says:
Hunger is God’s way of telling you to go get a job.Voddie Bauchum
For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us.2 Thessalonians 3:7-9
My son, if thou be surety for thy friend, if thou hast stricken thy hand with a stranger, Thou art snared with the words of thy mouth, thou art taken with the words of thy mouth. Do this now, my son, and deliver thyself, when thou art come into the hand of thy friend; go, humble thyself, and make sure thy friend. Give not sleep to thine eyes, nor slumber to thine eyelids. Deliver thyself as a roe from the hand of the hunter, and as a bird from the hand of the fowler. Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.Proverbs 6:1-8
Much food is in the tillage of the poor: but there is that is destroyed for want of judgment.Proverbs 13:23
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.Matthew 28:19-20
Poverty really only has a few causes. Some poverty is caused by natural disasters, calamity, drought, etc. These things are entirely beyond our control. Poverty can also be caused by human oppression such as theft, oppressive governments, etc. Most poverty that we will encounter in America is poverty caused by a lack of relationship. Boys who grow up without a father or much more likely to live in poverty. Unwed mothers are much greater risk for poverty than married women. Most people in poverty in our country are impoverished because no serious person has developed a relationship with them.
This poverty is alleviated through Christians developing relationships with people and discipling them in all areas of life like Christ has commanded us. Proverbs 6 is a great example of this. Solomon counsels his son on how to live debt free by working hard. Paul’s ministry is another great example of this as well. One of the greatest ways to alleviate poverty is not giving a man a fish; it is developing a relationship with him so that you can lead him to Christ and teach him how to fish.