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Institute in Basic Life Principles

Command 37 : Bring In the Poor | Day 254

Discern Three Types of Poverty!

Years ago, my pastor asked if this ministry could assist a needy family in the church. The family was living in such deplorable conditions that something had to be done. Their rented house was overrun with filth and clutter. The Health Department had ordered them to move out. The children often had lice, and the mother was totally overwhelmed!

We provided a house for the family, and the pastor assigned some women in the church to help the parents train their children and to keep the house neat and clean. Progress was slow at best. Then we discovered a shocking fact--the father's salary was greater than my salary and the pastor's salary combined! The father was not poor; he was just a poor manager of his resources! After this experience I wondered, "Who are the poor?"

Giving to those in need requires love and discernment.

Several types of poverty are identified in the Bible:

1. Poverty by Birth

Many people in the world are born into families who are not able to meet their own basic needs, while others are born into wealthy families. God states, “The rich and poor meet together: the LORD is the maker of them all” (Proverbs 22:2). Because the poor depend upon outside assistance for basic necessities, they often more readily acknowledge their need for God. “This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles” (Psalm 34:6).

2. Poverty by Chastening

God often uses financial difficulties to chasten those who have violated His moral laws. “For by means of a whorish woman a man is brought to a piece of bread ...” (Proverbs 6:26). Wealth can also be lost through greed. “He that hasteth to be rich hath an evil eye, and considereth not that poverty shall come upon him” (Proverbs 28:22). In addition to this type of chastening, there are also consequences that result when God's basic principles of finance, such as learning to live within your means, are violated. “There is treasure to be desired and oil in the dwelling of the wise; but a foolish man spendeth it up” (Proverbs 21:20).

3. Poverty by Choice

Genuine love is expressed by giving. Jesus demonstrates this, for “though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich” (II Corinthians 8:9). Because some people choose to live frugally in order to have more to give, they may appear to be poor. However, those who choose to give sacrificially to meet the needs of others will be greatly rewarded by God. He has promised, “Give, and it shall be given unto you” (Luke 6:38).

“He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the LORD; and that which he hath given will he [the Lord] pay him again" (Proverbs 19:17).

When we see people in our community who have obvious financial needs, it is important to discern which type of poverty they are experiencing. Those who are born into poverty should be assisted and honored, those who have violated Scriptural principles should be counseled, and those who give to the needs of others should be supported.

“But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: and thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just” (Luke 14:13–14).

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Contributing writer: Bill Gothard