There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land. -Deuteronomy 15:11
The poor you will always have with you… -Jesus, Matthew 26:11
There are two extremes I have heard expressed when it comes to the poor that I’d like to address in this article. Those two extremes are as follows:
- We can end world poverty.
- Giving to the poor makes no difference.
Let’s start with the first view, which is overly optimistic. I have heard multiple mission organizations and movements state that we can “end world poverty” in our lifetime. While noble, this is contrary to Scripture and Jesus’ own words that the poor will always be among us. The positive of this mobilizing message is that it has led to significant progress against world poverty. The standard of living worldwide has improved, especially before COVID set progress back. But world poverty has by no means ended. The poor are still very much among us.
On the other extreme is a sense of weary pessimism and giving up. Since the poor will always be among us, it is a reason for some to think they can justify a lack of responsibility towards the poor. But this is a misapplication of a statement Jesus makes in the New Testament. When he stated that the poor would always be among us, he quoted from a command in the Old Testament. In that verse (Deuteronomy 15:11), the fact that the poor will always be present reminds us of our ever-present responsibility to be generous and kind to the poor.
The reminder and command regarding the poor serves to check these two extremes. On the one hand, we should not be so naïve as to think we can end world poverty. On the other hand, we should not be so discouraged that we grow weary and callous. Instead, we need a posture of constant pro-active generosity towards the poor who are always among us. We need to be “open-handed,” which requires an “open heart” of compassion.
The poor always among us provides us an ongoing opportunity to show God’s generosity and make us more like Jesus. It puts our selfishness in check. It puts our greed in check. It fosters a heart that is kind, giving, and sensitive to the needs of others.
This year-end don’t turn a blind eye to the poor. And in 2022, all year long, don’t dismiss the call of God and responsibility to be kind to the poor. It brings dignity to the poor, honor to God, and provides an opportunity for us to be more like Jesus in this fallen world.
Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God. -Proverbs 14:31
Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward them for what they have done. -Proverbs 19:31
***If you are looking for a trusted way to share generously with the poor, consider the mission organization I lead here: ServeNow. Our mission statement is: sharing Christ’s passion for the world by serving the most vulnerable through national churches and leaders.