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What Does the Bible Say about Poverty and the Poor?

Published by on May 23rd, 2019.


The poor are near and dear to God’s heart. How we treat the impoverished is a major concern throughout the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. You simply cannot have the gospel of Jesus and neglect the call to care for impoverished, marginalized, and outcast — those on the underside of .

But what does the “whole counsel of God” have to say about the poor, poverty, and how we address it (Acts 20:27)? It’s impossible in an article format to cover comprehensively what the Bible says about poverty, but here are seven major themes that have emerged from my research on poverty for my recent book, Jesus’ Economy: A Biblical View of Poverty, the of Love, and a Pattern for Lasting Change.

1. Jesus’ economy is based on -sacrifice

Understanding the issues of poverty starts with understanding Jesus’ ministry — and what he called people to do. Near the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, he goes to his local synagogue and quotes Isaiah 60:1–2:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because of which he has anointed me to proclaim to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to send out in freedom those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:18–19 LEB).

Right away, we see that Jesus’ ministry is “good news to the poor … release to the captives … recovering of sight to the blind … freedom [for] those who are oppressed.” Jesus has a whole new economy in mind, one where the poor have their needs met. This is what it means for the “favorable year of the Lord” to arrive in the personhood of Jesus.

To make this economy real and tangible, Jesus calls his followers to self-sacrifice. Jesus told a rich young to sell everything he had and give to the poor (Luke 18:18–30). When being asked about “eternal life,” Jesus tells the story of a man giving his own wealth for the sake of a beaten and robbed person he finds on the side of the road—the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25–37). And these are merely two of dozens of examples. We address poverty by each choosing to be sacrificial. Jesus’ economy is based on self-sacrifice.

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