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Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.

Escaping Poverty

It can be done. God promises.

Caring for the Poor (7)

“Therefore hear, O Israel, and be careful to observe it, that it may be well with you, and that you may multiply greatly as the LORDGod of your fathers has promised you—a land flowing with milk and honey.” Deuteronomy 6.3

No complacency
While the Law of God counsels us always to expect there to be poor people in our communities, and that we must be ready to assist the truly poor in their time of need, it does not counsel complacency about poverty. There will always be poverty, just as there will always be sin; however, a just society will struggle mightily to overcome each of these ills.

Let us insist, however, that being poor is not inherently sinful. Jesus Himself became poor for our sakes, so that we through His poverty might be made rich. People do not need an abundance of material possessions to know true joy in the Lord or to love God and their neighbors. Poverty is not necessarily a sinful condition, but it is a condition that requires the loving attention and care of every community.

God’s plan for justice includes sufficient material prosperity to care for all the members of a community. This is not the same as saying that God wants us all to be wealthy. In a just society, work is only one contributor to material prosperity. Obedience to God’s Law is the greatest form of insurance that a community or society will never want for material sustenance. The more societies shape their policies and practices after the requirements of God’s Law, the more they can expect to realize the favor of God in providing for their welfare and peace.

No salvation, no guarantees
This is not the same as saying that obeying the Law of God, and framing policies that reflect the Law, are either the way to salvation or a guarantee of prosperity for a community or a people.

But God is faithful to His promises. The way to realize blessing from the Lord is to walk the path of His covenant. When His people work for the welfare and pray for the peace of their community (Jer. 29.7), and when, following their example and lead (Ps. 81.13-15), their communities adopt policies which reflect the just laws and statutes of God, those communities have every good reason to expect, not that there will be no poverty in their midst, but that the needs of the truly poor will be met and the pathway out of poverty will be clear for as many as are able to walk it.

Obedience to God’s Word, beginning with His Law, is the surest guarantee that all members of the community will know mercy and grace from the Lord sufficient for their every need. And that obedience must begin and be conspicuous in (Matt. 5.16) the household of God.

The Church as key
The Church is thus the key to any community realizing the blessing of God. Through its worship, example, leadership in carrying out the Law of God, faithfulness in working for justice, zeal to bring the blessings of God to its community, and diligence in prayer, a local church may help its community to regard poverty, not as a problem or blight, but as an inducement to neighbor-love and a means for realizing the blessings of God.

On the other hand, churches that disregard the Law or downplay its significance will have little to offer their communities, whether for the relief of the poor or for any of the other matters we have discussed in this series. Jesus explained that greatness in the Kingdom of God depends on hearing, obeying, and teaching the Law of God (Matt. 5.17-19). If we will not hear Him in this, we will never fulfill the role of salt, light, and leaven He has appointed for us in the world.

Obedience to God’s Law must begin within the household of faith. However, it must not be restricted to the church, as we have seen. The Law of God commends practices and policies which contribute to making good societies in which love and justice flourish. Thus, those who know, love, and obey the Law of God must work to bring its benefits, as far as that is possible, to all their neighbors as well.

The way out of poverty is not difficult. It begins with opportunity—for work with dignity, education and training, and the patient assistance of a loving community—and it progresses through improved self-image, responsibility, and stewardship, just as these are taught in the Law of God and all His Word. All of this must be modeled and taught within local churches and by their members as they are disbursed throughout the larger community.

But Christians must also work to support public policies that guide the poor onto such paths, and to resist those which have the effect of creating a permanent “underclass” in which the ultimate beneficiaries are not the poor who will be with us always, but the politicians and bureaucrats who obscure the image and calling of God under a veneer of taxes and entitlements.

For reflection
1. Why is being poor not necessarily a sin?

2. God promises that, when His people obey His Word, even those who hate Him will follow in their example (cf. Ps. 66.1-3; Ps. 81.13-15). Do you believe this? What does this require of you?

3. How should you pray for the poor people in your community?

Next steps—Preparation: Make sure you are walking in the path of obedience to God’s Law. How might you improve in this?

T. M. Moore

What is the place of the Law of God in the Christian’s life? Our book, The Ground for Christian Ethics, answers this question and shows us again why Jesus taught us that keeping the Law is an indispensable part of our calling in God’s Kingdom. Order your copy of The Ground for Christian Ethics by clicking here. To gain a better understanding of how the Law of God applies in daily life, order a copy of our book, A Kingdom Catechism, by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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