© 1989, by R. B. Thieme, Jr.  All rights reserved.

A.  Until the Millennial reign of Jesus Christ, there will always be poverty on the earth. Jesus said that we’ll always have the poor, Mt 26:11; Jn 12:8; Mk 14:17, “The poor you will have with you always.”

            1. Poverty cannot be solved by government, or masses of people giving help to others.

            2. We will have war and poverty throughout the Church Age and the Tribulation.

B.  The poor are a target for hypocrisy, James 2:2-4.

            1. James 2:2-4, “For if a person comes into your assembly with a gold ring and he is dressed in fine clothes; and there comes a poor man dressed in shabby clothing, and you give your attention to the one who is wearing fine clothes, and you say to him, `Sit down here in a good pew,’ and you say to the poor man, `You stand over there, or you sit on the floor by my feet,’ have you not discriminated among yourselves, and you have become judges with evil motivation.”

            2. This is also taught in Jn 12:5.

            3. To be interested in the poor, there must be genuine compassion.

C.  Poor believers have the same equal privileges and opportunity for the execution of the protocol plan of God as rich believers, James 2:5-6. “Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have insulted the poor. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court?”

D.  It is possible for the poor to be generous and magnificent in the use of whatever money they have, Mk 12:41-44; Lk 21:1-4.

            1. “And He sat down opposite the [Temple] treasury, and [Jesus] began to watch the crowd putting their money into the treasury; and many rich people were their contributing large sums. Now a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, worth a fraction of a penny. And [Jesus], calling His disciples, said to them, `I tell you the truth, this poor widow put in more money than all the rich contributing to this treasury; for they all gave from their profits, but she, out of her poverty, put in everything she owned, all she had to live on.’”

            2. The widow was helpless and without a family. Yet she had great faith-rest. She knew she was going to be alive on this earth as long as the Lord had a purpose for it.

            3. She was not concerned about putting in her last bit of money. She was not security conscious; her security was the Lord. She did not feel sorry for herself. She was not trying to attract any self-pity.

            4. She was grace-oriented and doctrinally oriented. She had personal love for God the Father that motivated her. She shared God’s happiness, had a personal sense of destiny, and was occupied with the person of Christ.

            5. It isn’t the amount that is given, but the mental attitude. She was giving as an act of worship. And worship doesn’t depend on the amount you give. In fact, you can give nothing and have the right mental attitude.

            6. The others who gave were not being criticized by the Lord. There is nothing wrong with giving from your profits.

E.  Charity to the poor is a bona fide function of the establishment, Prov 14:30-31, 19:17.

            1. Prov 14:30-31, “A tranquil right lobe is life to the body, but jealousy is rottenness to the
                bones. He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for his Maker, but he who is kind to the
                needy honors God.”

            2. Charity to the poor is a bona fide function in this life.

            3. The believer must distinguish between socialism or the welfare state and charity.

            4. Charity is for the helpless poor.

            5. Welfare makes the poor helpless, Gal 2:10.

F.  There is a special curse on those who ignore helping the helpless poor.

            1. Prov 21:13, “He who shuts his ears to the cry of the poor will also cry himself and not be

            2. Prov 22:22-23, “Do not rob the poor because he is poor, or crush the afflicted at the gate;
                For the Lord will plead their case, and take the life of those who rob them.”

            3. Prov 22:16, 28:3. There is also a curse for those who take advantage of the poor.

G.  God can raise the poor out of the poverty of their circumstances, 1 Sam 2:8.

            1. Ps 113:7. “He raises the poor from the dust; and God lifts the needy from the ash heap.”

            2. God’s ability & will to provide for those who give to the poor is taught in Ps 112:9; 2 Cor 9:9.

H.  The poor are not only delivered by God from their poverty, but in the reality of their poverty they often see the need for salvation and respond to the Gospel. Many people will not face reality about eternal things when they have material wealth. God uses poverty to match positive volition at God consciousness and Gospel hearing, Ps 72:12-14; Mt 11:5, “The poor have the gospel preached to them.” One of the proofs of Messiahship is that the poor have the Gospel preached to them, Lk 7:22.

I.  The poor have very few real friends, Prov 19:4. “Wealth adds many friends, but the poor man is separated from even one friend.”

            1. There is a special happiness for those who help the poor, Ps 41:1-2; Prov 19:17, 22:9, 29:14.

            2. Scriptures frequently mention the poor and teach that a considerable part of the duty required of the believer under both Testaments is to have respect in his treatment of the poor. 3. No merit is given to the assumption of poverty; the Mosaic Law takes every precaution to prevent poverty.

J.  Words which express the condition of being in need are numerous in the Hebrew and Greek. 1. Hebrew.

                        a. DAL (noun).

                                    (1) Scanty; Gen 41:19 used of scrawny cows; Jud 6:15 uses it for the least important people.

                                    (2) Helpless because of poverty, Ex 30:15; 1 Sam 2:8.

                                    (3) Powerless, Ex 23:3; insignificant, small, Jer 5:4.

                                    (4) Poor, Lev 14:21, Jer 39:10

                                    (5) Oppressed, dejected, 2 Sam 13:4.

                        b. DALAL (verb), to become small, unimportant people, Jud 6:6; Ps 79:8 refers to poor population.

                        c. DALAH (noun), unimportant people, poor population, 2 Kg 25:12; Jer 52:15.

                        d. EBEYON (adjective), needy and poor, Deut 15:4, 7, 11; Amos 4:1, oppressed; Ps 40:13, poor in a religious sense.

                        e. CHELKAH (noun), to be wretched because you are poor; unfortunate, Ps 10:8,10,14.

                        f. YARESH (verb), to become poor, to lose your possessions, Gen 45:11; Prov 20:13.

                        g. MUK (verb), to become poor, Lev 25:25, 35, 47, 27:8.

                        h. MACHESOR (noun), want, absolute need, lack of, Deut 15:8. If we fail to do what Deut 15:8 teaches, the poverty of Prov 11:24 results.

                        i. MISKEN, wretched and poor, Eccel 4:13; 9:15-16.

                        j. ANI (noun), overwhelmed by want; poor; wretched, you do not have enough; Deut 24:15; Ps 10:2, 9, totally dependent on others.

                        k. RUSH (verb), to be poor; to be impoverished. In the hithpolel in 1 Sam 18:23, it means to pretend to be poor, Prov 13:7.

                        l. MISKENUTH, Deut 8:9, poverty leading to misery.

            2. Greek.

                        a. PTOCHOS, trembling.

                                    (1) Originally meant begging, depending on others.

                                                (a) Those who are poor in the world’s estimation, Jn 13:29; Lk 19:8; Mk 10:21; Mt 19:21; James 5:2.

                                                (b) At times it refers not only to the unfavorable circumstances of these people, but the word also includes the idea that since they are oppressed and disillusioned, they are in a special need of God’s help. Mt 11:5; Lk 4:18, 7:22 teach that they may expect to receive it.

                                                © Figuratively used for the poor, Mt 5:3; Rev 3:17.

                                    (2) Poor, miserable, beggarly, impotent, Gal 4:9 cf 1 Cor 15:10.

                        b. PENES (noun), poor, needy. It is used as a substantive for a poor man in 2 Cor 9:9.

                        c. PENTICHROS (noun), to be poor, to be in need, Lk 21:12.

                        d. PTOCHEUO (verb), to be extremely poor, to become poor; 2 Cor 8:9, used figuratively of Jesus Christ.

K.  Representations related to the poor.

            1. Generally used.

                        a. God is represented as having a special care for the poor, illustrated in the deliverance of Israel from the slavery of Egypt, Deut 24:22.

                        b. God is represented as punishing the oppressors of the poor and rewarding those who are kind to them. Therefore, God was the protector and Savior of the poor, Ex 22:23; Deut 15:9, 24:15; 1 Sam 2:8; Job 31:16; Ps 9:18, 12:5; Prov 19:17; Isa 25:4; Eccl 5:8

            2. Liberality to the poor is especially enjoined, and the Jews were to beware of self-deception and grudging attitudes in this, Deut 15:7, 9-10.

            3. Special provisions were made on behalf of the poor.

                        a. Every third year a special tithe was given to the Levites, the sojourners, fatherless, and widows, that JHWH might bless them, Deut 14:28, 29, 26:12.

                        b. The poor were to have the free use of all that grew spontaneously in the field or vineyard during the Sabbatical year, Ex 23:10; Lev 25:5-6.

                        c. Each year the gleanings and the corners of the field and vineyard should belong to the poor and be left for them. If a sheaf was forgotten, it was to be left for the poor. Lev 19:9-10, 23:22; Deut 24:19; Ruth 2.

                        d. Fruit and ripe grain in a field may be eaten by hungry persons, but none could carried away, Deut 23:24-25.

                        e. The poor were to participate in the Feast of Weeks, Deut 16:9-12.

                        f. Every seventh year there was to be a release of debts, Deut 15:1. Bond-slaves were freed, Ex 21:2. This also occurred in the year of Jubilee, if that came first. The property that had been sold was returned to its original family, Lev 25:8-17.

                        g. The Jews were to lend readily to the poor; no interest or increase was to be taken from their brethren, Ex 22:25; Lev 25:35-37; Deut 15:7. In Lev 25:39, no poor Hebrew was to be made a bond-slave. If he was a hired servant, he should not be ruled harshly, Lev 25:43. His hire was to be paid to him daily, Lev 19:13; Deut 24:15. No widows’ clothes were to be taken in a pledge, Deut 24:17. Nor were the handmill or upper mill stone, both essential for daily life to grind the wheat, to be taken in a pledge, Deut 24:6. A man’s clothes should be returned to him before sundown and no house should be entered to seize a pledge, Deut 24:10-13. Any breach of these laws would be sin, Deut 23:13, 15.

                        h. Justice was to be done to the poor, Ex 23:6; Deut 27:19.

                        i. Offerings were graduated according to a persons income, Lev 5:7, 12:8. 4. Definite penalties were not always attached to these laws. Therefore, the psalmists and Old Testament prophets had many complaints of unjust treatment of the poor contrary to the will of God; they had frequent exhortation to justice for the poor, Ps 10:2, 9, 14:6, Isa 3:14-15, Jer 2:34; Ezek 16:49.

            5. Duty and caring for the poor is frequently and strongly set forth and divine promises attached to its fulfillment, Ps 41:1, 72:12; Prov 17:5, 22:9, 28:3, 27; Isa 58:7; Jer 22:16; Ezek 18:17; Dan 4:27; Zech 7:10.

            6. The day of divine manifestation should bring deliverance and rejoicing to the poor, Ps 72:12-15; Isa 11:4, 14:30, 29:19, 61.

            7. The equality of rich and poor before God, and the superiority of the righteous poor to the ungodly rich is taught in Prov 19:1, 22, 22:1-2; Eccel 4:13.

            8. Nine ways in which men can willfully make themselves poor are mentioned: Prov 6:11; 10:4; 12:24; 13:4, 18; 14:23; 20:13; 21:5, 17; 23:21; 28:19.

L.  New Testament teaching regarding the poor.

            1. We have the injunction to give to the poor, Mt 19:21; Mk 10:21; Lk 18:22.

            2. Zacchaeus cited in his favor the fact that he gave half of what he possessed to the poor,
                Lk 19:8.

            3. The infant church showed its regard for the poor in the distribution of goods according to
                Acts 2:45, 4:32, 6:1.

            4. Paul said we should remember the poor in Gal 2:9, and contributions were accordingly made to the poor among the saints, Rom 15:26. It was conveying these contributions to the poor of Jerusalem that got Paul into the circumstances which led to his arrest, Acts 21, 24.

            5. James rebukes certain believers for their partiality for the rich and their dishonor of the poor, Jas 2:1-6.

            6. John asks how the love of God can dwell in a man who has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, and yet has no compassion for him, 1 Jn 3:17-18.


The doctrine of the poor

            1. God can raise the poor out of the poverty of their circumstances — 1 Samuel 2:8; Psalm 113:7.

            2. There is a special happiness for those who help the poor [charity, not government] — Psalm 41:1,2; Proverbs 19:17; 22:9; 29:14.

            3. The poor are not only delivered by God from poverty but in the reality of their poverty they see the need for salvation — Psalm 72:12-14; Matthew 11:5.

            4. Charity to the poor is a bona fide function of the establishment — Proverbs 14:30,31; 19:17. But again, we must learn to distinguish between charity and welfare. Charity is for the helpless poor; welfare is for the poor helpless — Galatians 2:10. Welfare is rejected; charity is a Christian virtue.

            5. The poor cannot enter into pseudo friendship because of his poverty. Poor people, if they have friends, generally have real friends. Proverbs 19:4.

            6. There is a special curse for those who ignore helping the poor — Proverbs 21:13; 22:16,22; 28:3.

            7. Until the Millennium there will always be poverty — Matthew 26:11; Mark 14:7; John 12:8.

            8. It is possible to be poor and still have great happiness — Mark 12:43.

            9. The Bible teaches that the poor are often the target for hypocrisy — John 12:5; James 2:2-4.

            10. The poor have the same spiritual privileges as the wealthy believer possesses — James 2:5. Financial status does not in any way cause spiritual discrimination.


Questions and comments are always welcome

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