GET THE FACTS
What does the Bible say about poverty, injustice, and serving others?
Everyone is familiar with the Matthew 22:39 passage that commands: “you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But what exactly does this mean for you? We are living in a world filled with great need. People are starving, in fact, closer to where you live than you might think. Others have been abandoned in prisons, or are being treated unjustly due to their religious or personal beliefs. What about the widow at church, or the single mom next door who is so busy she doesn’t have any time for herself?
God Commands Us To Reach Out
Scripture has a lot to say about these issues and we are commanded to do something about them. In fact, God has provided over 2000 verses in the Bible that deal with His views on poverty and injustice. We can’t ignore the importance God places on our need to reach out to those in need. It is not a choice. It’s your job to decide what role you want to play in reaching out to those in need.
“He answered and said to them, ‘He who has two tunics, let him give to him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise.’”
- Luke 3:11 (NKJV)
“Open your mouth for the speechless, In the cause of all who are appointed to die.”
- Proverbs 31:8 (NKJV)
“Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil, Learn to do good; Seek justice, Rebuke the oppressor, Defend the fatherless, Plead for the widow.”
- Isaiah 1:16-17 (NKJV)
“Is this not the fast that I have chosen: To loose the bonds of wickedness, To undo the heavy burdens, To let the oppressed go free, And that you break every yoke?”
- Isaiah 58:6 (NKJV)
Thus says the LORD: “Execute judgment and righteousness, and deliver the plundered out of the hand of the oppressor. Do no wrong and do no violence to the stranger, the fatherless, or the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place.”
- Jeremiah 22:3 (NKJV)
Check out Psalm 82:3 (The Voice) – “Stand up for the poor and the orphan; advocate for the rights of the afflicted and those in need.” Or how about James 1:27 (NCV) – “Religion that God the Father accepts as pure and without fault is this: caring for orphans or widows who need help, and keeping yourself free from the world's evil influence.”
Many people see these verses as an invitation to adoption—with thousands of families going halfway around the world to find an abandoned young one to bring one. Or do you consider standing up for the poor to mean handing a dollar bill out your window to the homeless person on the street corner?
A young girl said to her father, “Daddy, this Saturday let’s make 100 sandwiches and then drive around and hand them out to people begging for money.” I’m sure he thought it might be easier to hand them a couple of dollars through the car window instead! But this young girl caught the vision. She knew these people didn’t just need another dollar. They needed food. So she decided to give them exactly what they needed! Is your knee-jerk reaction to respond with the “easy” option? Perhaps there’s a better answer that can help meet a practical need more directly.
“Because ‘when you love others, you complete what the law has been after all along.”
- Romans 13:8 (MSG)
“When justice is done, good people are happy, but evil people are ruined.”
- Proverbs 21:15 (NCV)
“Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.”
- Matthew 18:14 (NKJV)
“And if you give yourself to the hungry, and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then your light will rise in darkness, and your gloom will become like midday.”
- Isaiah 58:10 (NASB)
While dating in their 20’s, a young couple decided they wanted to find some way to reach out to others, beyond the delight of their new relationship. They heard about an elderly woman who had just lost her husband. While talking with her, they discovered her love for bowling, even well into her 80’s! The three of them began weekly bowling dates, both enjoyable and significant to each of them in different ways.
These young people were living out 1 John 3:18 (NKJV) – “My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.” They put feet to their faith, they lived out their beliefs, not just with words, but with effort exerted. They put God’s word into action.
“This is the embodiment of true love: not that we have loved God first, but that He loved us and sent His unique Son on a special mission to become an atoning sacrifice for our sins. So, my loved ones, if God loved us so sacrificially, surely we should love one another.”
- 1 John 4:10-11 (The Voice)
God sent His Son on a special mission, and now He’s sending you on a special mission, as well. He’s asking you to lay down your life for others, to reach out to those you see in need, and to live selflessly taking care of those who can’t take care of themselves. Perhaps God has already placed something in heart, something that has been stirring while you’ve been reading this. What is it that God is asking of you?
Go for it! Because “…if someone responds to and obeys His word, then God’s love has truly taken root and filled him. This is how we know we are in an intimate relationship with Him: anyone who says, “I live in intimacy with Him” should walk the path Jesus walked.”
- 1 John 2:5-6 (The Voice)
"And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written: 'The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.' Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, 'Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.'"
- Luke 4:17-21 (NKJV)