10 December 2013

What is our responsibility toward the poor?

If you do a word study of poor as it appears in Scripture, you will find that four categories emerge.
The first group consists of people who are poor as a direct result of indolence; that is, these people are poor because they are irresponsible. They are lazy. They refuse to work. The response of God to that particular category of the poor is one of somewhat harsh judgment and admonition. "Consider the ant, thou sluggard." Go watch the ant and learn how to live. Paul takes a strong view in the New Testament: "If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat" (2 Thess. 3:10). So the basic posture toward that group of people is one of admonition and a call to repentance.

Sometimes, however, people will oversimplify it and say that the only reason people are poor is because they are lazy. That's just not true. There are a lot of people who are poor for reasons that have nothing to do with being sinful or lazy. So we come to the second group of the poor identified in Scripture, those who are poor as a direct result of calamity, disease, accident, and that sort of thing. Scripture tells us that it is the responsibility of the church and of Christian people to pour out their hearts in compassion and to give assistance to those who are suffering through no fault of their own, as a result of natural calamity.

The third group is comprised of those who are poor as a result of unfair exploitation or tyrannization by the powerful, those who are victims of corrupt governments or are the almost incidental casualties of war. In that situation, you see God thundering from heaven, calling for justice to be given to these people, and God pours out his indignation against those who would sell the poor for a pair of shoes and who would tyrannize them through illegitimate means. In that sense, we should be advocates of the poor and defenders of the poor.

The fourth and final group of the poor that we find in the Bible are those who are poor voluntarily; that is, they are poor for what the Bible calls "righteousness' sake," willingly sacrificing any worldly gain as a personal commitment on their part to devote their time to other matters. Those people are to receive our support and our approval.

~ R.C. Sproul, Now - That's a Good Question!


Anonymous said...

Wow. We must have been channelling the same spirits, today!
(or some variation)


eiaftinfo said...

For this particular topic I'm fond of Paul's second letter to the Corinthians - his approach was that if a person was unwilling to work - they should not be fed by the community. Keeping within the 4 "types" of poverty listed above these folks fell squarely in the indolence group. Today we seem to have many that enjoy gaming the system while living off the labors of others. And, our current government seems intent on increasing their ranks. Can't go on forever . . .

Old NFO said...

Agree with EIA... sigh

PioneerPreppy said...

Gee, good question. I think a lot of it depends on your own circumstances as well and what you can do. The entire question of just who is poor is so convoluted today due to government involvement I just kinda have faith that if they need my help they will be placed in a position to get it.

Rev. Paul said...

So it would seem, Guffaw. I saw your morning post, after you commented. :)

eiaftinfo - agreed. Much of it is sheer laziness & lack of personal ethics (on both sides of that equation).

Concur, NFO.

Preppy, that's a good way to look at it. I agree.

threecollie said...

Impressive and interesting

Rev. Paul said...

Thanks, threecollie.

ProudHillbilly said...

The whole working thing is why those who stay in our cold weather shelter are required to clean it in return. Makes me feel a bit odd to stand around and not do anything, but it makes them take some responsibility even if they fall into the lazy category.

Rev. Paul said...

I think that's a great idea, PH; it strikes right at the heart of the "something for nothing" mentality.

Bob said...

"Jesus fed the poor!" is an argument I often hear from leftists arguing about the advantages of the welfare state.

Yes, Jesus fed the poor - - miraculously. He also raised the dead, healed the lame, and gave eyesight to the blind - - miraculously. Us lesser humans don't have those advantages.

Rev. Paul said...

Indeed, Bob. He also instructed His church (us, the body of believers) to carry on the work.

He also never told anyone to pass laws making it mandatory, at the point of a gun. But that's a whole 'nother post, no?

Anonymous said...

Rev. Paul,

I wonder if there isn't a 5th category; those who are poor because they continually make bad decisions.

I'm not referring to those who made a single mistake, those who suffered a medical problem, --those with a one time event that put them down and out.

But those who choose to spend money for 'fast food' instead of cooking cheaply at home; those who choose to have a new cell phone, video game, car, clothes, etc and spend without saving. Or they buy things on debt; ending up with more money going out to just keep the stuff they have instead of moving forward.

What should we do with this group?

Do they fall into the 3rd group of exploited -- even though they are capable of making rational decisions -and often do when they want some short term goal.

Rev. Paul said...

3boxes, I believe that they fall into the third category, that of the exploited. The system, as it were, has let them down. In fact, the "system" (meaning public education, the media, elected officials, etc) has been deliberately misleading the general public for over a century.

Now the people to whom you refer make bad decisions because they've been fed bad information, or none at all.

The "garbage in, garbage out" rule applies here, in spades!

We owe it to them to lay out the truth clearly, and explain to them why that which they've always "known" is often wrong.

Having said that ... if they then choose to reject the truth, go on believing the lies, and continue making bad choices, then they fall clearly into the first category: the irresponsible.