Friday, July 21, 2017

A Biblical View of the Poor

A prosperity preacher once told me that poverty is a curse. He said, "Deuteronomy 28:1-68 reveals that poverty is a curse of the Law of Sin and Death.  Galatians 3:13, 14 and 29 reveals (as you know) that Christ has redeemed us from every curse of the Law, having been made a curse for us.  He did this that the blessings of Abraham might come upon believers in Christ in abundance.  Abraham did not suffer in poverty.  Rather, he was a wealthy man whom God made even more wealthy because of his obedience to God. (Genesis chapters 12-17)." This preacher went on to say, "Poverty is to be resisted by the believer and never accepted.  It is the thief who came to steal, kill and destroy. Jesus came that we might have life more abundantly and poverty is not abundance of life.  (John 10:10). Poverty is a hot-house where fear, anger and frustration grows."

That all sounds very logical, it does contain some valuable truths, and there are numerous Scriptures given to support that doctrine, but let's examine the Scriptures ourselves and see if all these statements are really true.

Is Poverty a Curse?
According to the Law of Moses, prosperity is a blessing for those who obey the Lord's commandments. He said, "All these blessings will come upon you and overtake you if you obey the LORD your God..." (Deu 28:2). Then the Lord goes on to declare the wonderful blessings of prosperity for His obedient children. He says you will be blessed in the city and in the country (28:3), blessed in your basket, blessed in your kneading bowl (28:5), blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out (28:6). He says, "The LORD will command the blessing upon you in your barns and in all that you put your hand to, and He will bless you in the land which the LORD your God gives you. The LORD will establish you as a holy people to Himself, as He swore to you, if you keep the commandments of the LORD your God and walk in His ways." (Deu 28:8-9). He goes on to say He will make you abound in prosperity (28:11), and make you the head and not the tail (28:13). Therefore, He is very clear that prosperity is a blessing for His holy and obedient people.

Then the Lord describes the curses that will come upon His children if they do not obey His commandments. The curses are just the opposite of the blessings. He says you will be cursed in the city and cursed in the country (28:16), cursed in your basket and cursed in your kneading bowl (28:17), cursed when you come in and cursed when you go out (28:19). He says you will borrow from the alien, and he will be the head while you will be the tale. He promises sickness and disease. destruction and defeat, as well as rebuke and retreat. He says, "If you are not careful to observe all the words of this law which are written in this book, to fear this honored and awesome name, the LORD your God, then the LORD will bring extraordinary plagues on you and your descendants, even severe and lasting plagues, and miserable and chronic sicknesses. He will bring back on you all the diseases of Egypt of which you were afraid, and they will cling to you. Also every sickness and every plague which, not written in the book of this law, the LORD will bring on you until you are destroyed." (Deu 28:58-61). Therefore, He is very clear that poverty is a curse for disobedient people, who do not obey everything written in the book of the Law. Poverty is the ruin of the poor (Prov 10:15)

Delivered from the Curse
According to the apostle Paul in his letter to the Galatians, Christ has redeemed us from every curse of the Law, having been made a curse for us. He said, "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, 'CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE' — in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith." (Gal 3:13-14).

The reason why the blessing of Abraham has come to the Gentiles in Christ is so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith, not so we could be wealthy Christians.

As it is written in the book of Acts, Paul also taught through Christ and His forgiveness of our sins when we repent and put our faith in Him, we are freed from all the things that you could not be free from under the Law. He said, "Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses." (Act 13:38-39)

Praise the Lord that we are free from all that! Jesus said, "You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." (Joh 8:32). He also said, "So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed." (Joh 8:36). That's good news, people.

Abundant Life
It is not God who comes to steal and destroy, it is the devil. Jesus said, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly." (Joh 10:10). The Lord still promises abundant life for those who truly follow and obey Him. So if anything is being stolen from you or destroyed, that comes from the devil. It is possible that somehow he has gained permission to do so in your life.

In Job's trials, we know it was the devil who was killing and destroying, but God was permitting him to do it (Job 1:11; 2:5). Yet Job said, "The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD." (Job 1:21b). He acknowledged that it was the Lord who had given and the Lord who had taken away, and He praised God for it. For from Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things, to Him be the glory forever (Rom 11:36). The Scripture is also very clear that Job was a blameless and upright man, who feared God and turned away from evil (Job 1:8), and it says that in all this he did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing (Job 1:22). His great losses were not due to some sin in his life as his counselors may have implied.

Therefore, if you are not experiencing wealthiness right now as a believer in Christ, don't let anyone make you feel badly for it. Jesus said that a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions (Luk 12:15). He did not say that abundant life or "life to the full" necessarily includes being rich in the earthly sense like Abraham.

We Are Abraham's Descendants
As followers of Jesus, we are Abraham's descendants. Paul said, "And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's descendants, heirs according to promise." (Gal 3:29). God truly did prosper Abraham greatly, and he became wealthy. For those who obediently follow Jesus, the Word certainly does promise that my God will supply all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus (Phil 4:19).

Treasures in Heaven
If you follow Jesus obediently, however, He does not promise that you will be wealthy on earth. There is no place in Scripture where Jesus said, "Come follow Me and I will give you earthly riches." But you will store up treasures in heaven and receive an eternal reward that far outweighs all your sufferings for Christ.

I think the proper focus needs to be on the eternal rewards and not on becoming wealthy here on earth. We fix our eyes on what is unseen, not on what is seen. For the things that are seen are temporary, but he unseen things are eternal (2 Cor 4:18).

Jesus said, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. "But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Mat 6:19-21)

Should We Resist Poverty?
The prosperity preachers teach that we must always resist poverty. I do not necessarily agree with that teaching, especially since there is not one verse in the Bible that says to do so. Let me explain what I mean.

If you are poor, you should seek to understand the reason for it. You should also ask the Lord to search your heart and ensure that there is nothing in your life that would open a door for these things. It is possible that you are bringing it upon yourself. The analogy I could give you to help you understand what I mean is this: If you are committing fornication and you develop a sexually transmitted disease, don't blame it on the devil. He is the one that brought it, but you opened the door up for him by your own disobedience. Therefore, what you should do is repent of the sin that brought the disease.

But what if you are born again, following Jesus, living in obedience to the Lord to the best of your knowledge and ability, keeping a good conscience, and you are still experiencing lack in your life? Does that mean you are cursed? I don't think so. I think you should keep praying the Lord would deliver you and provide for you and your family, just as you should keep praying the Lord would heal you if you are sick. Then expect Him to do it. He is faithful and keeps all His promises.

"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Php 4:6-7)

Giving Thanks in All Things
Can you rejoice and give thanks in the midst of poverty and afflictions? Yes, you definitely can! Paul said, "Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." (1Th 5:16-18). Rejoicing is not only for the good times, but for the bad times, too. And you should not only give thanks when everything is going well, but even when it's not. If you are experiencing trials, afflictions, and even the test of poverty, you can be thankful for them all. Thankfulness is evidence of a Spirit-filled life, and there is no law against it (Gal 5:23), so nobody can tell you not to thank the Lord for your poverty nor stop you from thanking Him in the midst of it.

Let me be clear that this does not mean you like your hardships or difficulties, but that you are thankful to God for them. You should rejoice and be thankful, because He has always been faithful to care for and provide for His obedient children. You should thank Him for all the ways He has blessed you in the past and all the ways He is still blessing you, even in the midst of your trials. You can thank the Lord, because you know that He will use these things for good. "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." (Rom 8:28). You can thank the Lord, because He can and will cause everything in your life to work together for good, if you love God and are called according to His purpose. 

You can be sure that He will mold you and shape you to make you more like Jesus in the midst of your trials, regardless of what they are. We cannot say that God won't perfect you in the midst of any particular trials. He can do all things, and we can give thanks in all things. As James said, "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." (Jas 1:2-4) The end result is that you will be lacking nothing.

You will be able to say with David, "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want." (Ps 23:1-2). You will not have want of anything or lack anything. You shall have everything you need. As David said, "I have been young and now I am old, Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken Or his descendants begging bread." (Psa 37:25)

David's Poverty
While it is true that David never saw the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread, he did experience poverty in his own life personally. Prior to marrying Saul's daughter Michal, David said that he was a poor man and lightly esteemed (1Sa 18:23). In his psalms, David said, "But as for me, I am poor and needy; may the Lord think of me. You are my help and my deliverer; you are my God, do not delay." (Ps 40:17).

"This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles." (Ps 34:6)

Also "For I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within me." (Ps 109:42)

And "But as for me, I am poor and needy; come quickly to me, O God. You are my help and my deliverer; LORD, do not delay." (Ps 70:5)

There is no reference in Scripture to David's poverty being due to any curse. In fact, the Bible says he was a man after God's own heart (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22). We know that he cried out to the Lord in his poverty for the Lord to help and deliver him, and that's what we should do.

Poverty in the New Testament
I also see poverty throughout the New Testament, and it is not called a curse. The story was told of the poor widow and she was not spoken of as accursed, but as one very dear to the heart of God who gave more than all the others who put in great sums of money.

"For they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on." (Mar 12:44; cf., Luk 21:4). This woman's story has been told throughout the world over the last two thousand years, and shows that you can still bring glory to God even though you are poor. Don't let anyone tell you, as that prosperity preacher said to me, that if you are poor you are not a very good poster child for Jesus. Moreover, the passage about that woman's act of generosity also shows us that it is not the amount you give, but how much it is in comparison to what you have left. God loves a cheerful giver. And those who are poor should practice giving also.

However, when the Lord encountered the poor, He did not tell them that poverty is a curse or tell them they were under a curse. That does not mean they weren't, but if they were, He never mentioned it. And He didn't tell them that if they gave Him their money that they would become rich.

When He met the blind beggar by the roadside on the way to Jericho, He did not lecture him about his need to "resist the curse of poverty." Rather He healed his blindness, so that he could see. "Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God." (Lk 18:43, NIV). The people did not praise God because the blind man became wealthy when he followed Jesus. Rather, they praised God because he was miraculously healed of blindness.

Jesus Himself was poor. Though He was rich He became poor, so that through His poverty, you might become rich (2 Cor 8:9). First, this does not mean, as some prosperity preachers may say, that you are going to become a rich person on earth if you become a Christian. Rather, we are supposed to follow in His steps (1 Pe 2:21). As that hymn says, "How beautiful to walk in the steps of the Savior, stepping in the light." Remember how Jesus taught us that a servant is not greater than his master (Joh 15:20). Secondly, His becoming poor was not a curse, it was part of His humiliation for our sake. The reason He became a curse, as Paul said in Galatians 3:13, was that He was hanged on a tree, which was the cross. 

Joseph and Mary were poor, and look at how the Lord used them. We know they were poor, because when their days of purification were completed and they presented baby Jesus in the temple, they gave the alternate offering for Mary's cleansing that was designated in the Law. Those who were too poor to afford a Lamb could bring either two doves or two young pigeons, and that is what they offered in place of a Lamb (Luke 2:22-24; Lev 12:8).

The Macedonians were extremely poor and Paul did not label them as accursed or say their poverty was a curse, but commended them for their giving. He said, "That in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality." (2Co 8:2). Paul did not try to propose a plan for them to become prosperous, but rejoiced in their generosity despite their poverty.

The Twelve apostles left all they had to follow Jesus (Luke 18:28). Peter said to the lame beggar at the Gate Beautiful, "Silver and gold have I none..." (Ac 3:6a, KJV). Even the apostle Paul himself knew what it was to experience poverty. He said, "To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly clothed, and are roughly treated, and are homeless;" (1Co 4:11). He said, "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want." (Phil 4:12). He had experienced hunger, homelessness, thirst, and want, as well as times of plenty and being well fed. Yet nothing is mentioned of him being under a curse during his times of want. The focus was on how he had learned the secret of contentment. That's what I am talking about: we need to be content in whatever our circumstances and still thank the Lord in the midst of all things.

In the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11, the apostle tells of those who were destitute in their walk of faith. He says, "And others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground. And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect." (Heb 11:36-40). Please note that they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground. Does that sound to you like they were wealthy? No, but they gained God's approval for their faith.

The Lord also spoke to the church of Smyrna with regard to their poverty and never said a word about their being accursed or being under a curse of poverty. Rather He said they were rich in God's sight. "I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich), and the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan." (Rev 2:9).

On the other hand when He spoke to the Laodicean church, which was wealthy, He rebuked them.

"To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this: 'I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. 'Because you say, "I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing," and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. 'Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent." (Rev 3:14-19)

The Lord called upon the wealthy Laodicean church to repent. They did not realize that in God's sight they were wretched and poor. They were wealthy in the natural, but poor in God's sight. He counseled them to buy from Him gold refined in the fire, so they might become rich. This is the same message for the wealthy church today in the Laodicean age that we live in. If you don't believe me, then listen to the testimony of Howard Pittman in my article, Only the Holy -- Three Shocking Testimonies.

I think that the key is learning to be content when we are in need and hungry, just as we would be if we were well fed and living in plenty. Our faith is tested during times of poverty, but prosperity can be an even greater test. In plenty, people often crave for more and are never satisfied. They can also forget God. The Scriptures warn against the very real danger of forgetting God in the midst of your abundance (Deut 8:11-17).

Agur the son of Jakeh wrote, "Two things I asked of You, Do not refuse me before I die: Keep deception and lies far from me, Give me neither poverty nor riches; Feed me with the food that is my portion, That I not be full and deny You and say, 'Who is the LORD?' Or that I not be in want and steal, And profane the name of my God." (Pro 30:7-9)

A dear friend of mine, who made a good income for fifty years and always gave generously to others, is now living in poverty as an elderly man and his wife is struggling to support them by supplementing his Social Security with her job. I don't consider him to be under any curse. I don't understand it, but I don't tell him he is under a curse. He put others ahead of himself and took care of them without regard for his own future on earth. He had faith and trusted the Lord to take care of him. He is a blessed man who has stored up great riches in heaven and is now very close to the time when he will go to his eternal reward.

Blessed Are the Poor 
Let's remember that one of the beatitudes is the blessedness of being poor. The Lord said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (Mat 5:3). This beatitude of poor-spiritedness has more than one application for our lives, including humility, brokenness, and contriteness of spirit. But yet another application is that of being contentedly poor. In order to best explain this, let me quote the words of a seventeenth century preacher and Bible commentator named Matthew Henry. He is perhaps my favorite commentator, and perhaps was the favorite of John Wesley, judging by the way he quoted his works. After I had already published this article, I decided to read Henry's view on being poor in spirit, and found that his comments confirmed what I believe and have already written in this article. Henry wrote the following regarding the first beatitude:

"The poor in spirit are happy, Mat 5:3. There is a poor-spiritedness that is so far from making men blessed that it is a sin and a snare - cowardice and base fear, and a willing subjection to the lusts of men. But this poverty of spirit is a gracious disposition of soul, by which we are emptied of self, in order to [have] our being filled with Jesus Christ. To be poor in spirit is, 1. To be contentedly poor, willing to be emptied of worldly wealth, if God orders that to be our lot; to bring our mind to our condition, when it is a low condition. Many are poor in the world, but high in spirit, poor and proud, murmuring and complaining, and blaming their lot, but we must accommodate ourselves to our poverty, must know how to be abased, Php_4:12. Acknowledging the wisdom of God in appointing us to poverty, we must be easy in it, patiently bear the inconveniences of it, be thankful for what we have, and make the best of that which is. It is to sit loose to all worldly wealth, and not set our hearts upon it, but cheerfully to bear losses and disappointments which may befall us in the most prosperous state. It is not, in pride or pretence, to make ourselves poor, by throwing away what God has given us, especially as those in the church of Rome, who vow poverty, and yet engross the wealth of the nations; but if we be rich in the world we must be poor in spirit, that is, we must condescend to the poor and sympathize with them, as being touched with the feeling of their infirmities; we must expect and prepare for poverty; must not inordinately fear or shun it, but must bid it welcome, especially when it comes upon us for keeping a good conscience, Heb_10:34. Job was poor in spirit, when he blessed God in taking away, as well as giving."

This is Henry's first definition of being poor in spirit, although he did give others, such as humility, brokenness, and contrition, as I have already mentioned.

For those who prefer to interpret this beatitude in a figurative sense, let me remind you that in Luke's gospel, it says, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God." (Lk 6:20, NIV). Here in this instance the Lord clearly said that the poor are blessed, and He meant it for those who are literally poor. He did not say, "Cursed are the poor," but rather said they are blessed, and taught that the kingdom of God belongs to the poor. In this same context, He also said, "Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied." (Lk 6:21a, NIV). We know that He meant those who are literally hungry, which is often a part of being poor. Afterward, He pronounced woes upon those who are rich and well-fed now in this life (Lk 6:24-25). This passage gives us a clear picture of God's view of the poor. True teaching such as this about the poor and the rich is missing from the pulpits today, amidst all the talk about prosperity.

The False Gospel of Prosperity
I also believe that the modern, so-called "prosperity gospel" is a false gospel and has done a great deal of harm around the world. It fuels greed, feeds pride, and works against the formation of godly character. The souls of those who have spread that message are in danger, if they don't repent and amend their ways. If they want to teach about something that must be resisted, they should teach God's people to resist the devil (Jas 4:7) and to resist the temptation to sin (Mat 6:13; Lk 22:40; 1 Cor 6:18), such as covetousness, pride, worldlinesss, and ungodliness (Lk 12:15; Rom 12:2; 2 Cor 5:16; Tit 2:12; Jas 1:27; 4:10; 1 Joh 2:15-16). For more on this topic, please read my articles, What's Wrong with the Prosperity Gospel?, Wisdom for Wealthy Preachers, and The Forgotten Sin of Worldliness.

I see many warnings about the dangers of riches in Scripture, but not as many warnings about the curse of poverty. The warnings about poverty seem to be warning us about the things that can lead to poverty, such as disobedience to God's commandments, stinginess, robbing God by withholding tithes and offerings, drunkenness, gluttony, loving pleasure, chasing fantasies, laziness, idleness, refusing to work, drowsiness, loving sleep, lack of diligence, lack of discipline, and lack of judgment. One form of lacking judgment that leads to poverty is to live above your means. I think most people know that poverty is no fun, and they are not consciously seeking to be poor. It is more likely that if they become poor, it will probably not be because they intentionally sought for it. While we have the passage in Deuteronomy about the curse of poverty, the emphasis in Scripture is not that we must resist poverty. Rather the emphasis is on making sure you are not living your life in such a way that is displeasing to God, since you could unknowingly be bringing poverty on yourself by those things, such as I mentioned above.

Certainly God does want you to be a success in everything you put your hand to, but let's be sure that we understand the meaning of success in God's eyes. It does not mean being rich. For more on that topic, please see my article, Success in God's Eyes.

The Poor Are Dear to God's Heart
Quite contrary to the way that prosperity teachers emphasize the cursed nature of poverty, and the blessedness of riches, we find that the poor are very dear to the heart of God. Let's look at some of those passages.

Jesus said He came to preach the gospel to the poor. He said, "The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord." (Luk 4:18-19)

In fact, preaching the good news to the poor was one of the signs that Jesus was the expected Messiah. "Jesus answered and said to them, 'Go and report to John what you hear and see: the BLIND RECEIVE SIGHT and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the POOR HAVE THE GOSPEL PREACHED TO THEM.'" (Mat 11:4-5)

Notice that the evidence that Jesus was the Messiah did not include preaching to the rich. Although He did preach to them, too. Part of the Lord's message to the rich is not to love money and to give to the poor! Jesus said to the rich man, "If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." (Mat 19:21; cf. Mk 10:21; Lk 18:22). Jesus taught not only the rich but all of us to give to the poor, and said it is an act of righteousness before God (Mat 6:2-4).

When Zacchaeus the tax collector became a follower of Jesus, he gave half his possessions to the poor (Lk 19:8). This and the other fruits of repentance that he demonstrated were proof to the Lord Jesus that salvation had come to his house and that he had become a child of Abraham (Lk 19:9).

The Lord taught us to invite the poor into our homes. "But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous." (Luk 14:13-14). The emphasis was on being repaid at the resurrection, not in this life.

The Lord told the true story of a rich man in hell and a poor beggar in Abraham's bosom. On earth, the rich man had lived in luxury every day while Lazarus the poor man had sat at his gate begging. "Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham's bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. In hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom." (Luk 16:22-23)

Notice that it was the poor man who went to his reward with Abraham and the rich man who went to hell. If the poor man was under a curse, it was certainly not the point the Lord chose to emphasize.

The apostle Paul said that the apostles and elders in Jerusalem asked him to remember the poor, which is what he himself was eager to do. "They only asked us to remember the poor—the very thing I also was eager to do." (Gal 2:10). Job also rescued the poor who cried for help (Job 29:12), and his soul grieved for them (Job 30:25). 

Yet human nature is to show favoritism to the rich, because of evil motives, and to look down upon the poor. James warned about this when he wrote, "For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, 'You sit here in a good place,' and you say to the poor man, 'You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,' have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives? 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 dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court?" (Jas 2:2-6)

James emphasized that God chose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him. So why do the prosperity preachers emphasize the evil nature of poverty and the blessedness of wealth? Because they think that godliness is a means to financial gain (1 Tim 6:5).

The Bible says we will always have the poor with us. "For the poor will never cease to be in the land; therefore I command you, saying, 'You shall freely open your hand to your brother, to your needy and poor in your land.'" (Deu 15:11) And Jesus also said this. "For you always have the poor with you..."(Mat 26:11)

The poor are hated by their neighbors (Prov 14:20), shunned by their relatives, and avoided by their friends (Prov 19:7), but God cares for the poor and raises them out of poverty. "He raises the poor from the dust, He lifts the needy from the ash heap To make them sit with nobles, And inherit a seat of honor; For the pillars of the earth are the LORD'S, And He set the world on them." (1Sa 2:8; cf. Ps 113:7). Though everyone else forsakes the poor, God will not forsake them (Is 41:17).

"He will have compassion on the poor and needy, And the lives of the needy he will save. He will rescue their life from oppression and violence, And their blood will be precious in his sight;" (Psa 72:13-14)

God takes it personally when the poor are mistreated or shown kindness. "Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God." (Prov 14:31; cf., 17:5, NIV). Scripture says, "Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward them for what they have done." (Prov 19:17, NIV).

Jesus also said that whatever you do for the least of these His brethren, you have done it unto Him. 

"But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.' Then the righteous will answer Him, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?' The King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.'" (Mat 25:31-40)

That means that how you treat a person who is poor, hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, or in prison, is how you treat Jesus. You are doing it to Him, because He identifies with them, just as it is written all throughout the Scriptures.

One time during a worship meeting, my youngest daughter, who was nine years old at the time, testified that the Lord had spoken to her during her quiet time that morning.  She said, "While I was in prayer, I asked the Lord to speak to me.  So I waited and I heard, 'Go out and minister.' I asked, 'How, Lord?'  He said, 'Psalm 82.' When we looked up that psalm, we found that it was about ministering to the poor.

For example it says, "Vindicate the weak and fatherless; Do justice to the afflicted and destitute. Rescue the weak and needy; Deliver them out of the hand of the wicked." (Psa 82:3-4). This once again shows God's love and compassion for the poor and needy.

Indeed the righteous care about justice for the poor (Prov 29:7). And "The generous will themselves be blessed, for they share their food with the poor." (Prov 22:9, NIV)

Yet the solemn warning still remains for the rich who ignore the poor:

"Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments have become moth-eaten. Your gold and your silver have rusted; and their rust will be a witness against you and will consume your flesh like fire. It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure! Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, and which has been withheld by you, cries out against you; and the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. You have lived luxuriously on the earth and led a life of wanton pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and put to death the righteous man; he does not resist you." (Jas 5:1-6)

The Bible says, "Those who give to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to them receive many curses." (Prov 28:27, NIV).

Therefore, seeing how dear the poor are to the heart of God, is it better to be rich or poor? It depends. Solomon said, "Better is the poor who walks in his integrity than he who is crooked though he be rich." (Pro 28:6), and "better to be poor than a liar." (Pro 19:22). You see, sometimes it is better to be poor. What good does it do you to be rich, if you are a crooked liar and lose your own soul? As Jesus said, "What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?" (Mk 8:36, NIV)

Jesus Appears to a Homeless Man
Just to help you see God's heart for the poor, let me share with you a very interesting video about how Jesus appeared to a homeless man and told the man He is coming very, very, very, very, very, very very soon.  This testimony was told to me in October 2007, while I was on a missions trip to Bulgaria, by sister Marina Dimitrova, who is a friend of mine and the Director of Operation Reach All (ORA International) in Bulgaria. Please see Jesus is Coming Very Soon Part I and Jesus is Coming Very Soon Part II.

Putting it All Together
As you can see, there is definite biblical support for much of what the prosperity preacher said to me, which I mentioned in the opening of this article. Poverty is one of the curses of the Law for the disobedient. All who are in Christ are delivered from the curse of the Law. We are Abraham's descendants, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. In Him we are forgiven, and we are freed from all the things we could not be freed from under the Law of Moses, including every curse. We now have abundant life in Christ. We have the promise that He will supply all our needs. 

However, in the midst of poverty, we can still give thanks, because we should give thanks in all things. As the old hymn says, "Count your blessings, name them one by one. Count your many blessings see what God has done." Then trust God and obey Him, and He will see you through. If the Lord is your Shepherd, you shall lack nothing. You will have treasures in heaven, but He didn't promise you would be wealthy in the world's eyes. Those who lay up riches for themselves on earth and ignore the poor are in danger of perishing like the rich man in hell. We should be eager to remember the poor and give to them. 

God loves the poor and cares for them. Their blood is precious in His sight. He sees when they are oppressed, hears their cry, and comes to their rescue. He takes it personally when others mistreat them. Whatever we have done for one of the least of these, we have done it unto Jesus. God blesses those who help the needy.

Jesus, whose steps we are supposed to walk in, was poor and needy. And so were David, Joseph and Mary, and the widow who gave her last penny. Lazarus the beggar was poor. So were Paul and the Twelve apostles, and the church in Smyrna, whom the Lord encouraged by telling them they were rich. The focus in Scripture is always on the eternal, heavenly reward that awaits us, not on temporal, earthly wealth.

We must be poor in spirit, emptied of self and filled with Jesus Christ. We must be contentedly poor, willing to be emptied of worldly wealth, if God orders that for our lives. We must accommodate ourselves to our poverty, must know how to be abased, acknowledging the wisdom of God in appointing us to poverty; we must be at ease in it. We must not set our hearts upon worldly wealth, but cheerfully endure losses and disappointments. We must anticipate and prepare for poverty. That does not mean we fear or shun it, but welcome it, especially when it comes upon us for doing God's will.

If you are following Jesus Christ obediently as your Lord and Savior, and you are poor and needy, He says that you are blessed and the kingdom of God belongs to you. Please know that you are in good company. You are among the ranks of many other saints in ages past who have gone down the same road, as well as countless believers throughout the world who are presently undergoing the same kind of sufferings. But know that you are storing up riches in heaven where neither rust nor moth corrupt. The Lord cares for you and says, "You are rich." His eye is on the sparrow, and you can be sure He watches over you. You are worth more than many sparrows (Mat 10:29-30). Continue to cry out to Him and He will deliver you. Remember the parable of the persistent widow. Jesus said, "And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Lk 18:7-8, NIV)

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.  Other Scriptures taken from The Holy Bible -- NIV.  Photos are subject to copyright, used according to the Fair Use Act that allows copyrighted images to be used for educational and commentary purposes.

Author's note: I also recommend reading God's Supernatural Provision Using People, The Lord Will Rescue YouWhat's Wrong with the Prosperity Gospel?, Wisdom for Wealthy Preachers and Prosperity Teachers, The Forgotten Sin of WorldlinessIs Tithing Required for Christians?House of Idleness, Alcohol and Cigarettes -- Nine Divine RevelationsBetter a Little, Success in God's EyesThe Afflictions of the RighteousHidden TreasuresGod Chooses the Weak Things, The Cost of Discipleship, The Fiery Sufferings of the Believer, What is That in Your Hand?, The Kingdom of God is Like This, Multiplication, Multiplication Illustrations, ans The Beauty of Brokenness. More of my articles about the Kingdom of God may be found on the Home page of this blog. You can also find my complete collection of blogs at Writing for the Master.

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission.

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