Poverty is not a new age problem. Poverty has been around for many years. The Scriptures mention poverty more than 2,100 times. 2014 was the 50-year anniversary of the "War on Poverty." Poverty is complex though. Some think that the issue is simply a money/debt problem. The common thought is, "Teach them to handle their money, then they will get out of poverty." That might work for some, but most of the time poverty is much deeper. Sometimes even the ways we as Christians help, can cause more problems.
We (Rich, Middle Class, or Poor Christians) have to deal with the system behind poverty. You have heard the common saying, "Give a man a fish, he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, he will eat for the rest of his life." But we also have to ask, who owns the pond? Who built the fence around the pond, and who polluted it? And why does a fishing license cost so much?
A question to ask is, "Who are the poor?" The Poverty and Justice Bible says, "The genuinely poor are those robbed of the ability to make choices for themselves – the choice for safe and clean water, the choice of an education, the choice of protection from abuse, the choice of medical care, and more."
- Some 46 million Americans live in poverty. U.S. Census Bureau, 2011
- 1 in 4 young children live in poverty...in the richest nation on earth. U.S. Census Bureau
- The U.S. has the third-highest poverty rate among developed nations, ahead only of Turkey and Mexico. Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development
- The U.S. Census Bureau defines the Poverty Line as a family of four living under $23,050.
- Suburbs in the largest metro areas saw their poor population increase 25% from 2000 to 2008.
- 71% of all Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits go to households with children.
- The average food stamp benefit is $21/week. U.S. Department of Agriculture
- The working poor are twice as likely as higher-wage earners to be willing to give up sleep in order to work. Emory Survey
- For Quick Facts on NC Poverty please visit the Center on Poverty, Work, and Opportunity at http://www.law.unc.edu/centers/poverty/numbers/northcarolina/
Poverty is more than stats. Poverty affects us all in some way, shape, or form. We need to get to know the poor. Shane Claiborne once said, "I had come to see that the great tragedy of the church is not that rich Christians do not care about the poor but that rich Christians do not know the poor." Jesus speaks directly to issues of poverty in Matthew 25:40, "As you have done it unto the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me." We are called to love the poor, sometimes that may mean feeding their bellies but other times that might mean looking deeper into their stories and learning to love them through their emotional and psychological scars, which poverty leaves.
"Seeking the face of God in everything, everyone, all the time, and his hand in every happening; This is what it means to be contemplative in the heart of the world. Seeing and adoring the presence of Jesus, especially in the lowly appearance of bread, and in the distressing disguise of the poor." Mother Teresa
The following scriptural references have been chosen as the Biblical basis for the position statement on poverty for The Wesleyan Church worldwide. They have been selected as a starting point for the Church’s response to global poverty on the basis that they clearly demonstrate the heart of God towards the poor, and provide theological underpinning for the timeless mandate to the Church to meet the needs of the poor proactively. All references in this document are quoted from the New King James Version.
1. God's call for justice, love, and humility.
He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8
2. God cares for the poor.
He raises the poor out of the dust, and lifts the needy out of the ash heap. Psalm 113:7
Do not rob the poor because he is poor, nor oppress the afflicted at the gate; for the LORD will plead their cause, and plunder the soul of those who plunder them. Proverbs 22:22-23
3. God hates discrimination against the poor.
You shall do no injustice in judgment. You shall not be partial to the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty. In righteousness you shall judge your neighbor. Leviticus 19:15
But if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law of transgressors. James 2:9
4. God wants the poor to be cared for.
For the poor will never cease from the land; therefore I command you, saying, "You shall open your hand wide to your brother, to your poor and your needy, in your land." Deuteronomy 15:11
He who despises his neighbor sins; but he who has mercy on the poor, happy is he. Proverbs 14:21
5. Caring for the poor fulfills God's law.
You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD. Leviticus 19:18
Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. Romans 13:8
(Find more information at http://www.wesleyan.org/238/a-wesleyan-view-of-global-poverty)
1. Help at a soup kitchen/homeless shelter but make it personal. Eat with them and get to know their names and stories.
2. Host a screening of the movie The Line (http://www.thelinemovie.com) at your church, in your community, with friends/family and start a discussion on poverty and how you can help alleviate poverty.
3. Help give micro-loans to the people in need via sources like kiva.org