“For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.” (Deuteronomy 15:11).
The poor are people with few or no possessions or money. Recent statistics show that about 12% of the global population are poor and live on less than $1.90 a day. About 10% of that total are in Africa and this constitutes around 460 million people out of the total African population estimate of over 1.4 billion. Many Christians are among those affected and many questions are being asked about God’s thoughts and involvement concerning these people that are suffering and dying under the weight of this ever-growing problem.
The materialistic Christianity being popularized today in Africa has made many of these poor people lose their confidence, seeing themselves as worthless and feeling hated by both God and society. These Christian circles teach that being rich is God’s sign of approval and reward to a person for righteous living while poverty is his sign of rejection for sin and unrighteousness.
These are the popular theologies on the streets of Africa which also claim that a Christian is to have dominion over the earth and occupy it till Jesus comes and being rich is the key evidence of that. Many people are doing all they can to get God’s love and favor through all kinds of ways including lengthy fasting and seed sowing. But is it true that God hates the poor? This article will briefly survey the Old and New testament and see how God really related with the poor and his concerns for them.
God and the poor in the Old Testament
In the Old Testament, God had a lot to say about the poor. The pronouncements God made concerning the poor are contained in more than 150 verses. A five-point summary will be sufficient.
- God made it clear that there will always be poor people in the land (Deuteronomy 15:11)
- God commanded that the poor should not be oppressed (Deuteronomy 24:14, Exodus 22:25)
- God hears and defends the poor (Psalm 9:18; 34:6; 72:12)
- God cares for the poor (Isaiah 25:4; 41:17)
- He rewards anyone who shows kindness to the poor (Proverbs 19:17)
God and the poor in the New Testament
In the New Testament, Jesus Christ who is God himself came to the earth. He was here for about 33 years and he interacted with the people from all social classes of his time, especially with the poor. A five-point summary of his dealings with the poor will be
- He mentioned that there will always be poor people in the land. (Matthew 26:11, John 12:8)
- He accepted and welcomed the poor to himself and also healed them (Matthew 11:4-6)
- He recognized and praised poor people who worship God (Mark 12: 43-44)
- He encouraged giving to and taking care of the poor (Luke 14:13)
- He died for the poor too (John 3:16)
Implications for us today
God through the Bible didn’t turn a blind eye to the poor. He created a perfect world with no poverty in it but sin entered the world and broke it, resulting in the chaos we are experiencing today. Poor people are also God’s children and He loves and cares for them. God indeed wants his children to have the best and therefore hates poverty but contrary to the materialistic theologies circulating today, being poor doesn’t mean God hates you or that your sins necessarily brought it upon you. The temptation to believe the words of men whom the society seems to approve of is enormous but the Christian should hold firm to God’s words. The Bible counsels all God’s children to trust him and give thanks to him in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
Finally, remember these words “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:11-13)