Bible Passages about Poverty and Helping the Poor
There are numerous Bible passages about poverty, in both the Old and the New Testaments. Throughout the Bible, God shown His care for the poor, and He has instructed His followers to do likewise.
In the Mosaic law, God provided for the protection of and provision for the poor.
The law prohibited charging interest on money lent to the poor (see Exodus 22:25). According to Dr. Birch, professor at Wesley Theological Seminary, “Garments or other items necessary for survival, if taken from the poor as security for debts, were to be returned each night so that a man might not have to face the night without a cloak (see Exod. 22:26–27; Deut. 24:10–13).”1 Other similar laws protected the poor from exploitation (see Deut. 15: 1-2, 12–15; Lev. 25:1, 39–55; Ex. 22:22-23; Deut. 24:14–15; Lev. 19:13; Exod. 23:3; Deut. 27:19, 25 for examples).
The law also included provisions for the poor to glean produce to eat.
The Israelites were commanded to leave fields fallow every seventh year so the poor could eat (see Exodus 23:10–11). Likewise, Leviticus 19:9–10 instructs,
“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. 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.”
These instructions to care for those in need extend from the Father’s compassionate heart.
In 2 Kings 4:1–7, the Bible gives an account of a widow in need during Elisha’s time. Though her late husband had been a righteous man, creditors were lurking at her door, threatening to take her two sons as slaves. The widow desperately called on Elisha for help. When the widow followed the man of God’s instructions, the Lord supernaturally provided for the poor woman and her family.
Jesus, while on earth, also spoke of caring for the poor.
He told His disciples that when they give a feast, they should not invite those who can repay the favor, but “invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just” (Luke 14:13–14).
Elsewhere, in Matthew 25:34–40, Jesus speaks of coming judgement and how the righteous will be rewarded for, among other things, feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty and clothing the naked. Why?
“Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me”Matthew 25:40
In contrast, the Old Testament prophets repeatedly pronounced judgement on Israel because of the perversion of justice and the mistreatment of the poor.2 For example, Amos 5:11 says,
“Therefore, because you tread down the poor and take grain taxes from him, though you have built houses of hewn stone, yet you shall not dwell in them; you have planted pleasant vineyards, but you shall not drink wine from them.” The New Testament also admonished those who fail to care for others: “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?”1 John 3:17
Even from these few examples of the Bible’s teaching on poverty, it’s clear that believers should care for the poor, responding to their needs with compassion and love. Out of a natural desire to follow the Biblical instructions and example, many Christians and Christian organizations seek to help the destitute. GFA World, for example, serves the “least of these” in places such as Asia and Africa, sharing Christ’s love in tangible ways by providing for their needs.
1 Birch, Bruce, C. Religion Online. https://www.religion-online.org/article/hunger-poverty-and-biblical-religion/ . Accessed November 2, 2021.
2 Birch, Bruce, C. Religion Online. https://www.religion-online.org/article/hunger-poverty-and-biblical-religion/ . Accessed November 2, 2021.