Thoughts on life and Scripture...

Monday, August 7, 2017

Ruminations On Wealth And Poverty

Every so often I come across this idea that people are wealthy because of some privileged background or by taking advantage of the poor. Those in poverty are said to be there because they are taken advantage of or because they belong to some minority group. In our culture, many look down on the wealthy and want to punish them for their 'crime' of acquiring wealth. The sad thing is that these ideas are often held by Christians. But this simplistic view of wealth and poverty doesn't stand up to the Bible. I would especially turn your attention to the Proverbs, which have much to say on this subject. I don't want to write a long piece on this subject, just a few thoughts.

  People become wealthy through various means. Some are born rich and maintain their wealth through good business skills. Others are born poor, but rise up to wealth through hard work, skill and prudence. There are those who gain their wealth by scams, dishonesty, bribes and other sinful ways. These people often will live off the labor and pain of others. A few people can became rich through lotteries, inheritances, and successful treasure hunts. There is a great variety in how someone becomes wealthy.

   The Bible does not condemn people for being wealthy. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Job, and Joseph of Arimathea were all rich people. In fact riches are a blessing from God. But the Bible condemns the love of money and its waste. Wealth is to be used for the glory of God. David used his wealth to finance the building of the temple and so we should use ours for Christ's kingdom. Paul tells Timothy to "Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed." 1 Timothy 6:17-19.  Well would it be for the church if it had more godly rich people to fund the work of gospel ministry.

  All material poverty eventually traces its roots to sin. That is why Jesus could say that you will always have the poor with you. Mark 14:7. Old Mother Sin will always be here in this present age and so her children, like Mr. Poverty, will be with her til then as well. Poverty may be the sin of the one who is poor or the sin of others who caused one to be poor or it may be the result of the curse that came with sin. Either way sin is the cause of poverty. Some are poor because of addictions, foolish management of wealth, and greed. Some people come to poverty because of their crimes. Harming or abusing someone may cause someone's poverty as they are sued and now have to pay out a large sum of money. Laziness causes others to become or stay poor. In countries like North Korea or Venezuela, people are poor because of the corrupt and foolish governments that run the country. Theft or fraud can cause others to become poor. There are many ways one stays or becomes poor, but it all goes back to sin.

 Sin brought a curse on this world. Part of that curse is trouble like disease, floods, droughts, earthquakes and so on. These natural disasters can also cause poverty. A plague of locusts can turn a prosperous farm or area into a desolate wasteland. If someone gets really sick, they can't work and have extra bills to pay because of their illness. This can also lead to people becoming poor. In these cases there isn't a way for a person to prevent the onslaught of poverty. We must trust that God has a good purpose in all this, even if it seems all dark to us.

  It certainly isn't wrong to be in poverty so long as it is not because of your sins. Poverty is not a curse, even if it is because of the curse. The poor may have some advantage to the rich in this life as they may see the hopelessness of the things of the world better. James 1:9-10. It can be better spiritually to be poor, but not always.  Both rich and poor must learn to be content in whatever situation God has placed them in. Like Paul we should be able to say, " I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am." See Phil 4:11-13.

  Since there are so many reasons someone becomes poor, there are also many ways needed to get someone out of poverty. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Governments like to think that giving money will solve all our poverty problems. But this is a naive solution. If the problem is addiction or out of control spending, more money will only make things worse.  Each individual case must be examined to see where exactly the cause of the poverty comes from. When the problem is identified, then the cure can be administered. There may be times when the correct solution to a person's poverty is to do nothing but leave them in it. "If anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either." 2 Thess 3:10.  As you can imagine this approach is time consuming and challenging. It requires a lot of wisdom and discernment. But trying to relieve those in poverty this way, will help achieve our goal of helping the poor more often than not.


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