The Bible and The Poor


Her face was covered with blisters. Her eyes reflected desperation as she searched through a garbage can looking for something to eat. My husband and I had lost our home in a failed business venture, but we had a camper to live in. We were warm and dry at night. She was not. Jesus has called us to be His hands and feet. He moved me toward her and I handed her some money. She didn’t thank me. She hardly looked at me and swiftly proceeded on her mission of daily survival. She may have been mentally unstable, I don’t know.

I wondered how many failures it took to bring her to this place, or if her situation was the result of others who contributed to her downward spiral; abusive parents, a spouse, maybe. That really wasn’t any of my business, and I was not to be disobedient to my Lord’s command to judge, only to obey Him to respond to His “Least of These” no matter who they are or what they have done.

This book is meant to serve as a reminder to my brethren in Jesus that this is what we are here for; to follow our Lord’s example exemplified in His word, and be the lights He has called us to be – even when it hurts, even when there is no thank you or gratitude. That’s not important. Our obedience is what our Lord sees and rewards. It is my prayer that this little book will touch your hearts to be sensitive to those whom the Lord calls His “Least of These.” - H.D. Shively

Sample - Chapter One - "I Work!"

Years ago my husband and I lost our house in a failed business venture. The Lord had been calling us into ministry about the same time, which served to greatly cushion our devastation. We purchased our first travel trailer and began doing art shows in California as an outreach.
     In California we were catapulted into a whole new environment. We were now considered to be among that state’s homeless population. We began to see and experience things that we were insulated from in our previous comfortable semi-middle class existence. We knew then what it was like to be homeless and poor; and it was this identification that was part of the Lord’s plan to educate two of His servants in what it means to identify with His Least of These.
     We spent a total of nine years in that part of the country and lived over thirty-five years in camper trailers during the course of our art show ministry, which eventually transitioned into a speaking ministry in the churches.

When we were in California, we ministered at a very special church. The pastor and his wife were committed to helping the homeless and opened the doors of their church at night and allowed the street people to sleep there. He did this in opposition to his denomination. He eventually had to withdraw from them in order to continue what the Lord had called him to do. He was the one who first told me about the amount of Scriptures there were about God’s care for the poor. He said there were two thousand and three hundred of them. Others have said the figure is closer to five hundred. One would be enough.

Free eBook PDF Version The Bible and the Poor Book
Share God's Heart with Others
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Illustrated by J.L. Shively
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Table of Contents


Chapter One
“I Work!”

Lazarus and the Rich Man
Video Sample

Luke 4: 18,19

Chapter Two

Chapter Three
Politics or God’s Word

Chapter Four
Oppressors and Victims

Chapter Five
Sheep, Goats and Samaritans


Scripture Directory

Related Content

The Least of These
The Least of These Video

From that point on I began to study what the Scriptures had to say on the subject. I learned that there were more scriptures about God’s concern for the poor than any other moral issue in the Bible. If that is the case, then care for the poor should be a major issue in the hearts of God’s people. From what I have been able to observe, I have learned that for the most part, sadly, it is not.

After we had returned to New England, I called a friend from a Bible study we had attended together years ago. She was really glad to hear from me again. Then in the course of our conversation, I mentioned about the church’s and the government’s responsibility to care for the poor. I was speaking not just from our experiences in California, but mostly now from my knowledge of what God’s word has to say on the subject.
     Her response was a vehement, “I work!”
     She had been implanted with a stereotyped perception that all people who are poor do not work. This is a myth. Because of my own experiences with poverty and homelessness, I had a bit more experience than she had.
     I remembered the woman I met who had to work so many jobs just to try and keep a roof over her head she had a stoke that eventually enabled her to get income based housing. Thank God it was there for her. The point is, poor people can work very hard and still not be able to afford medical care and some basic necessities.
     I remembered reading in a newspaper about a distressed woman who walked into a food bank and told the workers there, “It doesn’t matter how many jobs I work, I still can’t make ends meet.” Then she broke down sobbing.
     I understand that feeling very well, I have experienced it many times myself.

I remembered when I became ill on the road in my camper. I had a severe sore throat for almost two weeks. It must have been strep throat, I don’t know for sure. I did not have the money to go to a doctor and so I just rested, and ate as much garlic as I could. It’s a natural medicine that kills bacteria and viruses. Eventually, with prayer and God’s mercy I was healed. I might have died. Sadly many people do die for the same reason. In the United States the chances of dying before the age of fifty-five is higher than any of the other countries that have Universal Health care, because people cannot afford a doctor and preventative care.
     People are told to prevent colon cancer by getting a colonoscopy. If someone is working two part time jobs (because the employers don’t hire people to work more hours because then they have to pay for their medical insurance); then that person who has no medical insurance can’t afford a colonoscopy. Colonoscopies cost around three thousand dollars. So, this worker can get colon cancer and die because it was never detected in time. He works too, like my friend, but he can’t make enough to afford health insurance, or pay for a colonoscopy.
     Yet my friend thinks that just having a job will solve all the problems associated with homelessness and poverty. She resents having to pay taxes to help someone else’s need, like myself. That hurts.

The worst part of all this is that God’s people are developing a spiritually destructive prejudice against the poor that is in blatant opposition to God’s word.
     A pastor’s wife I met was harboring a considerable amount of bitterness against the poor who receive benefits from the government. She works hard, but her family is just above the poverty line that would qualify them for those benefits. She deeply resented this and she complained to me that she had to drive through a snowstorm to get to work while others didn’t have to work at all to be supported. This is a common attitude that many harbor against people on welfare.
     As a result of this attitude, many Christians actively try to influence their politicians into cutting these social safety net programs, without realizing that many people who need help are seniors, the physically disabled, mentally challenged and many others who would like to work but can’t because of other challenges. I know of one woman for example, who has to care for her paraplegic son, and needs to work because her benefits are always being cut, but can’t because she doesn’t have anyone to look after her child.
     By focusing on those who try and abuse the system, we can fail to see the wheat among the tares (Matthew 13:24-30), and when that happens the poor are neglected in direct opposition to what the scriptures require regarding the poor.

The point of all this is that many Christians desperately need an education in what God requires concerning the poor. For those like this pastor’s wife who resented that she had to work without being able to qualify for those benefits, she needed to realize that when she works she is contributing to her retirement benefits through Social Security. The more she works, the more money she will get. This program was instigated to help the poor have some retirement money because it is extremely difficult for low income people to save enough and still provide for their daily needs because of the increasing costs of living. She is also, through her taxes, helping to support a social safety net that she, or her children or grandchildren may need someday. Circumstances can change in a heartbeat. Illness or a natural disaster can render anyone into a category requiring some government assistance.

I have a Christian friend who was abandoned by her husband leaving her to care for their two children. Because of your tax dollars, she was able to get training and she is now a teacher and can support her family.
     Because of your tax dollars, low income seniors and other poor people, can get housing and lifesaving medications they would otherwise not be able to receive.

One excuse I heard from someone was that this person did not want her tax dollars going to people who didn’t serve God and were His enemies. Aside from the fact that there are many God fearing Christians that the Lord is helping through these programs, (just as He provides through your secular job) we are to view those outside of God’s kingdom as Jesus sees them. He didn’t shun them, He ate with them, much to the chagrin of the religious Pharisees. The scriptures also counsel us; - Therefore if your enemy hungers, feed him; if he thirsts, give him drink: for in doing this you shall heap coals of fire on his head (Romans 12:20).The coals of fire is a reference to a custom of the day. People would sell coal door to door carrying it on their heads. The coals of fire thus indicates placing a blessing on the head of the enemies we are instructed to care for.

After our years on the road, and now as seniors, the Lord enabled my husband and I to obtain low income based housing, for which we are extremely grateful. For the first time in over thirty-five years I now have a bathtub again. I tell people, “Never take your bathtub for granted.”
     Shortly after I moved in, elements in the government were trying to push through a bill that contained massive cuts to the poor, including a six billion dollar cut to HUD, which helps low income people, seniors like us and the disabled, have affordable housing. We received a letter from the office here telling us to please call our congressmen and tell them to not vote for those cuts to the program, as it would leave them only about thirty-five thousand dollars to manage eighty-one units.
     I did call our congressman at the time and also told other friends to call as well to protest this new bill which would not only cut HUD, but also Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps. The majority of people on food stamps are children, seniors and the disabled.
     One of my acquaintances recoiled in horror at my request. Another woman I know who I talked to on the telephone about it, responded by declaring adamantly, “I believe in minimal government!” When I tried to explain what I had learned in the Scriptures about a government’s responsibility to care for the poor, this devout Christian woman snapped, “I don’t want to talk about it!” and hung up, terminating any further discussion on the subject. It bothered me, actually, it grieved my spirit because of her apparent lack of compassion for those who may become homeless because of our government’s callousness in this area.

She didn’t care if I became homeless again, as long as it was going to save her tax money. I find that attitude morally reprehensible. And according to the Word of God, He doesn’t like it either.

Jesus told a parable about a poor invalid, a beggar named Lazarus, who was placed by the gate of a wealthy man (Luke 16:19-31). Apparently the beggar was brought there by someone who thought that the rich man would have compassion on the poor man and Lazarus would be helped.
     Lazarus was hungry, desiring to be fed from only the crumbs from the rich man’s table. He needed medical attention too, but only the dogs came to lick his sores.
     We are not told how many long hours or days Lazarus spent within the rich man’s view waiting for help that never arrived. We are not told how often the rich man passed by, or how many times the wealthy man avoided the beggar’s pleading eyes.
     Then one day the beggar died and was carried by the angels into paradise. Was the rich man relieved that the beggar’s convicting presence was no longer at his gate?
     Shortly afterward the rich man died too, was merely buried and went to hell.
     In his torment he cried out for mercy, but received none, reaping what he had sown (Galatians 6:7). He begged then that Lazarus would be sent to warn his family of the reality of hell and was told by Abraham that they had the word of God; Moses and the prophets.
     But the rich man argued that if Lazarus came from the dead, they would repent.
     Then Abraham said, “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.”

As I mentioned previously, there are multitudes of scriptures laced throughout God’s word that instruct us how we should view and treat the poor in our midst. Do we allow the word of God to be an influence upon us concerning how we view the poor? Or are our attitudes toward the poor influenced by someone’s political agenda?
     Did the rich man refuse to help Lazarus because he somehow thought the beggar did something to deserve his condition? God anticipated that response when He admonishes us not to judge (Matthew 7:1-5). There are some who refuse to help those they see as being in rebellion to God, yet these same ones who judge the poor can harbor inner attitudes and heart conditions that God deems just as rebellious. For man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart. – I Samuel 16

Today, Lazarus is waiting outside our gates holding a cardboard plea for help. And those who have received the treasure of God’s word are instructed not to horde wealth, but share it along with the life changing Gospel of Jesus Christ. We dare not view Lazarus with contempt when God sees him as a valuable treasure Jesus died for and rose from the dead to save.
     Jesus is the Word of God (Revelation 19:13). We have been given the fulfillment of Moses and the Prophets. We now have the testimony of One who really did rise from the dead to show us the reality of heaven and hell. We have been given the truth of God’s word, and like the rich man in Jesus’ parable we are without excuse. We ignore Lazarus at our own peril.

For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. – II Thessalonians 3:10
     Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needs. – Ephesians 4:28
     But whoever has this world's good, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart of compassion from him, how can the love of God dwell in him? – I John 3:17

"What distinguishes a nation from third world status is the level of care it bestows upon its poor." - H.D. Shively