Yeah, I said it. God hates poverty. I’m not talking about the poverty that results from laziness. No, I mean the poverty that results from our systems, our way of doing things, our version of how life works. Poverty that results from inequality. Poverty that results from someone needing “everything” at the expense of everyone having something. Poverty that results from selfishness. Poverty that results from sin. God hates that poverty. And He detests that we usually close our eyes and our ears to it.
He who shuts his ear to the cry of the poor will also cry himself and not be answered. (Proverbs 21:13)
Throughout the Old Testament, we see examples of God’s anger against those who are forsaking the poor.
The LORD enters into judgment with the elders and princes of His people,”It is you who have devoured the vineyard; The plunder of the poor is in your houses. What do you mean by crushing My people and grinding the face of the poor?”Declares the Lord GOD of hosts. (Isaiah 3:14-15)
“Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy.” (Ezekiel 16:49)
“The people of the land have practiced oppression and committed robbery, and they have wronged the poor and needy and have oppressed the sojourner without justice.” (Ezekiel 22:29)
I think we often find our values inverted. It’s part of what makes Jesus’ teachings so “radical.” He doesn’t call us to value the rich, the famous, the comfortable. He wants us to be with the poor, the hungry, the needy, the afflicted, the oppressed, the hurt, the orphans, and the widows. He wants that so much that He did it first. As Tom Davis observes, Jesus could have been born anywhere, but He was born in a feeding trough, to a poor couple, in a Podunk town, and then He grew up in a hick town with a tradesman father. Then Jesus spent the three star years of His ministry as a homeless guy who got His money (when He needed it) from a fish’s mouth. He knew that the rich wouldn’t need Him. The poor, they would get Him. Their lives reflect needing Him everyday. Why is this so hard for us?
We live in a broken world. Despite all the evidence that inequality is inherent in the system, we like to believe that poverty is the result of individual action. This idea – that poverty is the result of individual action (or inaction) – is the biggest myth I face in teaching my sociology class. Students will get visibly upset in trying to argue against sociological evidence that 99% of poverty (especially poverty in developing countries) is the result of our socioeconomic systems which breed inequality. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. And it’s not (often) the result of individual laziness. We hate that idea. My observation is that we hate that thought because it means that we’re all vulnerable to poverty. It means that “those people” are not somehow deficient, or lazy, or broken, or fill-in-the-blank. It means that “those people” are just like us.
Is this why we often distance ourselves from poverty? Do we feel vulnerable in seeing our possible selves in such a place of suffering?
Regardless of our own insecurities, God wants us to be His hands and His feet to the poor. His Son set the example, now we just have to do it the best of our ability.
14What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him?15If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food,
16and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?
17Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.