By Vivian Bricker, Crosswalk.com
The ethical discussion of wealth and poverty has been a popular subject throughout time. There are normally extreme views when it comes to wealth and poverty, as many individuals feel wealth is always evil or that God “wants” us to be poor.
Jesus never tells us that a person cannot be wealthy, nor does he tell us that we must be poor in order to be His followers. With the various views surrounding wealth and poverty, it is vital for us to know how Jesus views wealth and poverty.
Wealth and Poverty
Jesus was born into poverty as Mary and Joseph were not wealthy individuals. The Lord was humbly born into the world in a manger (Luke 2:7). If the Lord’s earthly parents would have been wealthy, He would have been born somewhere more comfortable.
Since Jesus was born into poverty, some would argue that as Christians, we, too, should abandon any lifestyle of wealth. Further support comes from Jesus’ discussion with the rich young man (Matthew 19:16-22).
It should be noted that Jesus never says it was wrong for the young man to be wealthy as He told the rich young man, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (Matthew 19:21).
Jesus did not say it was wrong for the young man to have wealth, rather, the Lord tells him to sell his possessions and give to the poor. Jesus’ main lesson is to help the poor, and since this young man had great wealth, he should give to those living in poverty.
Having wealth is not inherently bad. It is what we do with the wealth that can turn bad. Money can be the root of evil, as Paul tells us, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs” (1 Timothy 6:10).
Money doesn’t always become the root of evil as our hearts’ motivation comes into play. There are many wealthy Christians who use their money wisely and help the poor. In our modern day and age, there are numerous Christian nonprofits focused on helping those in poverty.
God has given us each great blessings in our lives, yet it is up to us to use the resources we have been given to help others. A main area we can help others is by giving financially to those in poverty.
The Lord does not want us to actively seek out a lifestyle of poverty. Many individuals cannot help but be born into poverty, especially in third-world countries.
If you are living in America or Europe, you are more than likely more wealthy than the individuals living in poverty in Africa, Asia, or Mexico. Even if we do not think we are rich, we have more money than those living in poverty in third-world countries.
As Christians, this should pull at our hearts and stir us to action. God is very passionate about us helping the poor. The Book of Proverbs has many important things to tell us about helping the poor.
Proverbs 14:31 tells us, “Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.” As this verse tells us, when we are kind to the poor, we honor God.
In addition to Proverbs 14:31, Proverbs 19:17 plainly states, “Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward them for what they have done.” We should always be open to give to the poor and to help them (Proverbs 14:21).
The Old Testament speaks much about caring for the poor, yet the New Testament has additional information to remind us to help the poor.
In the Book of Galatians, James, Peter, and John gave Paul and Barnabas permission to go to the Gentiles, yet with the important reminder to not forget the poor (Galatians 2:9-10). Paul writes that this was “the very thing I had been eager to do all along” (Galatians 2:10b).
The half-brother of the Lord tells us, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27).
As James tells us, looking after orphans and widows is crucial to our walk as Christians. We cannot neglect the poor and needy. If we are going to truly follow Jesus, we have to help the poor.
Jesus’ View of Wealth and Poverty
Jesus declares in the synagogue, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19).
In this passage of Scripture, Jesus tells us one of the reasons He came to earth was to proclaim good news to the poor. The Good News is the truth of Jesus and His death, burial, and resurrection. It doesn’t matter if a person is wealthy or poor — all people need Jesus.
Jesus did not view wealth or poverty as bad things. Rather, the Lord wants us to use what we have been giving faithfully and wisely.
If we have wealth, we should give to the poor. This does not mean we should give to those standing on the streets asking for money because, more often than not, these individuals will only use this money to buy alcohol, drugs, or cigarettes.
Instead, we should give our money to good causes that will actually help the poor. A few great organizations that truly help the poor include Compassion International, Operation Christmas Child, and World Vision.
Another great way to help the poor is to raise support for a mission trip focused on helping the poor. There are many mission trips focused on helping impoverished communities, such as helping to build homes, giving food and water, as well as giving proper healthcare.
Jesus wants us to help the poor and help them to know that they are loved. When Jesus started sharing the message, He went to those who would be considered the “low class” of society.
Instead of going to the rich or the prominent individuals, the Lord went to the poor and needy of society. Jesus doesn’t discriminate between individuals. Whether an individual is wealthy or poor, Jesus wants them to come to know Him and honor Him through their actions.
Just because a person is wealthy does not mean they are the evilest person in the world. In the same way, simply because a person is poor does not mean they did something bad to become poor.
Jesus viewed wealth and poverty in a non-discriminatory manner. He warns those who are wealthy that they have an important responsibility to give to the poor and that if they are not careful, their riches can lead them into evil.
What Does This Mean?
Wealth is a good thing if the individual uses their wealth for good and gives to the poor. Jesus doesn’t command us all to live on the streets and quit our jobs. Rather, the Lord wants us to work hard, love others, and love Him.
Part of loving others and loving Him is by helping the poor by giving financially, emotionally, and spiritually to them.
Even if a person is poor in the physical sense, they are rich if they know Christ Jesus as their Savior and Lord (2 Corinthians 8:9).
For further reading:
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/monstArrr_
Vivian Bricker loves Jesus, studying the Word of God, and helping others in their walk with Christ. She has earned a Bachelor of Arts and Master's degree in Christian Ministry with a deep academic emphasis in theology. Her favorite things to do are spending time with her family and friends, reading, and spending time outside. When she is not writing, she is embarking on other adventures.