2019 November 10, 17, & 24
Pastor Michael P. Walther
This Bible Study Is "Under Construction" As I Finish Uploading the Notes.
Poverty is a great and complicated problem in this world. But God teaches us to love our neighbor and to "help and support him in every physical need." How can we be sure that our help is really helping? How does God empower us and guide us to help the poor.
1. The Causes of Poverty and God's Concern for the Poor
2. Biblical Solutions to the Problem of Poverty
3. How We Can Help the Poor
1. The Causes of Poverty and God's Concern for the Poor
Moses taught Israel: For the poor will never cease from the land; therefore I command you, saying, ‘You shall open your hand wide to your brother, to your poor and your needy, in your land’ (Deuteronomy 15.11). Poverty is a complicated problem that causes much suffering in the world. Yet at the same time there is great wealth in this world. Why does this happen, and how should Christians respond to it? If all the wealth of the world were distributed evenly to all people, would that solve the problem of poverty? Are there other (better) ways to address the problem of poverty? I hope this Bible study will help answer some of these questions and encourage us to do all that we can to love our neighbors.
1. Discuss the following causes of poverty and the typical responses. How would you change this chart or add to it?
Causes of Poverty
Ignorance, Lack of Knowledge
Oppression by Powerful People
Work for Social Justice
Laziness, Drug & Alcohol Addiction
Religious Beliefs (Karma, Evil Spirits, etc.)
Work for Social Justice
Lack of Material Resources
Give Resources / Help People Move
Lack of Jobs
Education / Economic Development
2. Has there been progress?
Various studies show that extreme poverty* has been reduced substantially across the globe (as much as 50%). Most of that reduction has been in China.
* Living on less than $1.25/day
3. What does the Bible say?
Exodus-Deuteronomy – There are many references to the poor and ways to help the poor. But there is no discussion of the cause of poverty. You often hear, “when a person becomes poor.”
Ruth – Here poverty was caused by a famine in Israel. However, this is also the time of the Judges when there was a lot of lawlessness and violence.
Job and Psalms – The predominate cause of poverty mentioned is oppression such as Psalm 72.4: “He will bring justice to the poor of the people; He will save the children of the needy, And will break in pieces the oppressor.”
Proverbs – There are a number of references pointing to personal responsibility as a cause of poverty. In Proverbs 10:4 we read, “He who has a slack hand becomes poor, But the hand of the diligent makes rich.”
The Prophets – There is a strong emphasis on the cause of oppression as in Isaiah 3:15 “What do you mean by crushing My people and grinding the faces of the poor?” Says the Lord God of hosts.”
New Testament – The poor are often grouped together with the sick, the lame, the blind, the widowed, etc.
4. Poverty is undoubtably a sin problem.
Sometimes the sin is personal. Sometimes it is oppressive. Sometimes it is both. Poverty can also be caused by a lack of resources and innovation.
5. Can the problem of poverty be solved?
There are many organizations, both Christian and secular, that are trying to find ways to help the poor. Even secularists acknowledge that the problem of poverty is complicated, and despite billions of dollars in aid and much effort, the problem of poverty remains. There is an obvious difference between Christian aid organizations and secular aid organizations. Secularists often believe that poverty can be eliminated through resources, education and innovation. Christians believe that poverty will never be eliminated until the problem of sin is eliminated, as Jesus said, “For you have the poor with you always, but Me you do not have always” (Matthew 26.11). Christian aid organizations seek to solve the problem of both spiritual and physical poverty.
6. Does that mean we should give up trying to help the poor? Not at all!
Galatians 6:9-10 “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.”
2 Thessalonians 3:10-13 For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies. Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread. But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good.
The second great commandment tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves. The causes of poverty are complicated, and that will be important as we consider the best ways to help the poor. As difficult as it may be, we certain have God’s command to do good to all.
2. Biblical Approaches to Poverty
As we noted at the end of the first lesson, Jesus said we would never end poverty in this world. But that does not give us the option to give up trying to help the poor. In this lesson we’ll explore God’s concern for the poor and some of the ways people helped the poor in the Bible. Hopefully these examples will help us for next week’s lesson: How We Can Help the Poor Now.
1. Why we should care for the poor...
Isaiah 3.15 Isaiah 3:15 What do you mean by crushing My people And grinding the faces of the poor?” Says the Lord God of hosts.
Isaiah 61.1 The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, Because the Lord has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound. See also Luke 4.17-19, where Jesus quotes this verse.
Matthew 11.4-5 Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: 5 The blind see 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.
Matthew 25.36-40 I was 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, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’
John 13.29, 34 For some thought, because Judas had the money box, that Jesus had said to him, “Buy those things we need for the feast,” or that he should give something to the poor... A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
1 John 3.16-18 By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.
2. How did the first disciples do this?
Acts 4.33-35 And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. 34 Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, 35 and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need.
Act 6.1 & 3 Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution... Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business;
1 Corinthians 16.1-4 Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: 2 On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come. 3 And when I come, whomever you approve by your letters I will send to bear your gift to Jerusalem. 4 But if it is fitting that I go also, they will go with me.
2 Corinthians 9.1-5 - Paul's collection for the impoverished church at Jerusalem due to famine.
3. Did the church do for the poor what they can do for themselves?
Ephesians 4.28 Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.
2 Thessalonians 3.6, 10 But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us... 10 For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.
4. How did God instruct Israel to care for the poor?
Leviticus 19.9-10 & Exodus 23.11 When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field, nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10 And you shall not glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather every grape of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger: I am the Lord your God... but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, that the poor of your people may eat; and what they leave, the beasts of the field may eat. In like manner you shall do with your vineyard and your olive grove.
Leviticus 25.25-27 If one of your brethren becomes poor, and has sold some of his possession, and if his redeeming relative comes to redeem it, then he may redeem what his brother sold. 26 Or if the man has no one to redeem it, but he himself becomes able to redeem it, 27 then let him count the years since its sale, and restore the remainder to the man to whom he sold it, that he may return to his possession.
Exodus 22.25 If you lend money to any of My people who are poor among you, you shall not be like a moneylender to him; you shall not charge him interest.
Deuteronomy 15.12-15 If your brother, a Hebrew man, or a Hebrew woman, is sold to you and serves you six years, then in the seventh year you shall let him go free from you. 13 And when you send him away free from you, you shall not let him go away empty-handed; 14 you shall supply him liberally from your flock, from your threshing floor, and from your winepress. From what the Lord has blessed you with, you shall give to him. 15 You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God redeemed you; therefore I command you this thing today.
5. What conclusions can we draw from these teachings and examples?
A. Both Israel and the New Testament Church were heavily focused on feeding both the soul and the body. If salvation is about the soul, then we have to be concerned with the body.
B. If sin is the ultimate cause of poverty, then all relief efforts must focus on repentance and forgiveness. We must focus on bread for the soul as well as bread for the body.
C. The commandment to love your neighbor as yourself provides a foundation for wisdom when it comes to helping the poor. What would you want someone to do for you if you were poor? (Caution: We have to be careful about assuming we can understand their situation.)
D. Because of sin, work has become difficult. But work itself is not sinful. Everyone works, if able.
E. Helping the poor, like trying to do anything good in this life, will produced mixed results. Some projects will succeed better than others, but we can’t give up trying.
Our incentive to help the poor is not the idea that we are going to bring an end to poverty. Our incentive flows from the love of God that He has shown to us. We help the poor because God has helped us, and we know that He wants us to help the poor through us. God’s ultimate goal for all is life, physically and spiritually. Some will choose death, and we cannot help that. We must choose life and urge everyone else to do the same.
3. Helping the Poor Today
In the last lesson we looked at several Biblical remedies for poverty. In the Old Testament farmers were required to leave grain in their fields for the poor. Slaves were given freedom and debts were cancelled every seventh year. In the New Testament Jesus collected offerings as well as the Apostle Paul to give to the poor. The Christians of the church in Jerusalem voluntarily pooled their resources to help one another. Paul said we should “do good to all, especially to the household of faith” (Galatians 6.10). So how are we trying to help the poor now?
1. Support for the Poor Through Our Regular Offerings
These services of the church are offered to all free of charge: Worship, Bible Study (for all ages), Counseling, Pastoral Care, Evangelism, Food Pantry, Emergency Assistance, Scholarships, Micro-Loans
2. These Organizations Receive Specific Funding or Commendation from Good Shepherd
LCMS Disaster Relief
Orphan Grain Train
MOSAIC Pregnancy Centers
CAMA Food Pantry
Seminary Food Pantry
Lutheran Hour Ministries
3. These Are Some of the Most Well-Known “Christian” Missions to the Poor
Lutheran World Relief
Catholic Relief Services
Bread for the World
Food for the Poor
4. These Are Some of the Current Strategies Used to Help the Poor
Asset Based Development & Asset Mapping: Approach development by looking first not to the needs but to the assets of the community. Look to what is good and build on that.
Participatory Learning: Involving the community in the plan for development
Family Advocates: Single mothers were matched with family advocates who worked with them to improve the situation.
Jobs for Life: This program involves classroom training, mentors and businesses that work with poor people to get them into good jobs.
Micro Loans: Small loans to help the poor start businesses
Individual Development Accounts: This program provides matching funds to the poor to help them build savings.
Savings and Credit Associations: This is like micro loans except that the loans come from the people within the community rather than from outside donors.
Business as Missions: This program helps start for profit businesses within a poor community that will help provide jobs.
Circle of Allies: This is a mentoring program in which allies (mentors) and participants meet monthly and at other times to plan and work together for development.
5. How Shall We Evaluate Poverty Programs?
A. Is the mission to feed both body and soul?
B. What proportion of donations are spent on administration and advertising vs. actual help.
C. How is the mission connected to the local church?
D. How does the mission focus on sustainable transformation?