Fighting Poverty

Poverty comes in all shapes and sizes. While some individuals are homeless, others probably live right down the street from you. Helping the poor is important to God and is something every Christian has an opportunity to do.

A NATIONAL EPIDEMIC

POVERTY IN AMERICA

Poverty is a significant problem in America today. It affects thousands of families and children all across the country. Many followers of Jesus are interested in alleviating the suffering of those in need and helping the poor. But, sometimes it’s difficult to know who is struggling financially.

The truth is there is an estimated 39.7 million people living in poverty across America right now. Today, the child poverty rate is 17.5%, meaning about 1 in 5 children are living in poverty. Many of these children come from single-parent households. These are individuals and families who can not afford standard amenities that most Americans enjoy. They may struggle to afford food or even a consistent place to live. In fact, there is an estimated 1.3 million homeless children in America right now.

God Cares for the Poor

God has always cared about those in poverty. He challenged the Israelites to not take advantage of the widow and orphan (Ex. 22:22). Later, God made a law that the Israelites were not to harvest grain to the very edges of their field, or to pick up every piece of dropped grain. Instead, they were to leave some for the poor (Lev. 23:22). God explains that his concern for the poor should be shared by his followers in the book of Proverbs. He says, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy” (Pr. 31:8-9).

This value of caring for the poor is carried into the New Testament. Jesus told a rich young man if he wanted to be perfect he needed to sell his possessions and give to the poor (Matt. 19:21). Jesus also told a parable connecting the care of those in greatest need with serving Jesus himself. He said, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matt. 25:40).

In fact, caring for those in need is an established expectation for the follower of Christ. James 1:27 says, “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.” The author of the book of of 1 John sums up this Christian value. He writes, “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech, but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:17-18). Clearly, helping the poor matters to God and should be prioritized for followers of Jesus.

Helping the Poor

There are three ways a Christian can help the poor. A follower of Jesus can give, befriend, and hire individuals in poverty.

GIVE

Followers of Jesus can offer their time, money, and physical items to serve impoverished people in America. Families can help serve meals, or offer to spend time with individuals at a local homeless shelter. An individual can also offer money to support programs or organizations that support individuals in poverty. Lastly, Christians can donate items to charities that support helping the poor.

BEFRIEND

Poverty is everywhere. The truth is, you might live near a neighbor struggling to pay their bills each month. One way you can care for your neighbor is through friendship. Get to know them and spend time with their family. Encourage your children to get to know people who are different from themselves. Genuine friendship will give your family multiple opportunities to help a neighbor in need.

HIRE

If you own a business, then consider hiring individuals from different socio-economic statuses. This might mean offering more time for training and development. Look at the requirements for your positions, does your job requirements unnecessarily keep an individual in poverty from applying? If you own a business, consider ways to help individuals in poverty to grow and succeed.

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