Needs Resulting From Poverty
What does the Bible say about the poor? What did Jesus do?
On one hand, Jesus is very clear... we are to love one another. That does not mean having an affection for one another, it means helping to meet the needs of other people.
But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? - 1 John 3:17
This is a command to help other Christians, our brothers and sisters in Christ. If a Christian has a true need, we are to help them.
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. - James 1:27
This is a command to help those who are unable to help themselves. In Jesus' day, most widows and orphans had no way to support themselves, and no family to help them. If someone did not help them, they were in dire circumstances.
Feeding the hungry: We have other pages that discuss feeding the hungry and compassion. The principles are the same and may be applied to those in poverty.
Feeding the Hungry (Biblical Principles)
Compassion (Biblical Principles)
You'll Always Have The Poor With You
Let's look at an important aspect of our ministry to the poor.
For you always have the poor with you; but you do not always have Me. - Matthew 26:11
This sounds rather callus. However, what Jesus is talking about is priorities. Eternity is more important.
But he answered, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God'" - Matthew 4:4
You are an eternal being. You will exist forever. The question is, where? Jesus is the answer to that question... the most important question anyone can ask. Having the right answer is more important than food, clothing, shelter or life in this world. The above statement (Matthew 26:1) in made as part of the Olivet Discourse. Just prior to this Jesus says something very interesting:
Toward the end of Matthew 25 Jesus describes the judgment of the sheep (Christians) and the goats (unbelievers). This judgment takes place at the end of the seven year Tribulation, just as people are about to enter the thousand year millennial kingdom. Some people take this teaching by Jesus to be telling us to meet the needs of everyone. However, that's not what Jesus is saying. It's an important description of what will happen when Jesus comes to judge:
But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. And all the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, just as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, but the goats on the left.
Then the King will say to those on His right, "Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me." Then the righteous will answer Him, "Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You as a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? And when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?" And the King will answer and say to them, "Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of Mine, you did it for Me."
Then He will also say to those on His left, "Depart from Me, you accursed people, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me." Then they themselves also will answer, "Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or as a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?" Then He will answer them, "Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it for one of the least of these, you did not do it for Me, either." These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. - Matthew 25:31-46
Context: Who IS Present?
Who is Jesus talking to? These are the people who survived the seven year Tribulation. There are believers (Christians), whom Jesus places on His right (sheep). And non-believers (those not trusting Jesus Christ), whom Jesus places on His left (goats).
Who are the people in need? These are Christians. Jesus says, "I was hungry..." Christians are united with Christ, so when He says "I" He is referring to those who are a part of Him. In addition, He refers to them as "brothers or sisters of mine." Jesus' brothers and sisters include everyone who is a Christian, but no one else.
Jesus replied to the one who was telling Him and said, “Who is My mother, and who are My brothers?” And extending His hand toward His disciples, He said, “Behold: My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother, and sister, and mother.” - Matthew 12:48-50
For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father; for this reason He is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.” - Hebrews 2:11
Context: What Is The Situation?
This is the end of the seven year tribulation. During the tribulation Christians were banned from buying and selling, and well as being under severe persecution including being put in prison. There was no way for Christians to buy food, water, clothing, or get medical treatment. They were in a very difficult situation. However, there would be some Christians who would be somewhat self-sufficient, for example living on farms or ranches. And some that had a supply of food stored away. There would be Christians with clothing they could share, homes they could share, and Christian doctors who could help the sick. They will not have an abundance, but they will sacrificially give to help other Christians survive.
What Is Jesus Doing?
Jesus is separating believers from non-believers. They are not separated as a result of their works. For example, Jesus says, "Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." They were chosen at the beginning of time, and a place prepared for them. Their good works are not what get them into the Kingdom, but are a visible sign they are already in the Kingdom.
Jesus is saying to those on His right, the good things you have done for other Christians, giving them what they need during a time of great need, demonstrate you are truly a child of mine ...a believer... a Christian. Enter the kingdom.
Jesus is saying to those on His left, you did not help Christians during their time of great need. This demonstrates you are not one of my children... you are not a believer... you are not a Christian. Go away to eternal punishment.
Scripture Commands Christians To Help Other Christians
This section of scripture, Matthew 25:31-46, is not a call to feed, cloth, house and treat sickness in people who are not Christians. Jesus is not saying Christians are to met the needs of everyone. Christians are to meet the needs of other Christians, and that they do that is a sign they are truly believers in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
But whoever has worldly goods and sees his brother or sister [in Christ] in need, and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God remain in him? - 1 John 3:17
If a brother or sister [in Christ] is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? In the same way, faith also, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. - James 2:15-17
Matthew 25 is not a general call to help those in poverty. It is a reminder that Christians will help their brother and sisters in Christ, whenever there is a need.