It’s election season, and nothing causes people to choose political sides faster than the issue of “entitlement programs” and how we should care for the poor. But as we heard in Todd’s recent sermon on Economics, there is plenty of Scripture that addresses how a nation’s finances should be stewarded. This includes how its people help the poor who dwell in their land.
In a recent post, we discussed the fact that here in Dallas, we have seen a significant increase in our poverty rate over the last decade. How can we respond to this situation biblically? Here’s a look at a few Scripture passages that help us think this through.
God’s Design: Spiritual & Economic Freedom
God’s original design was always for people to be spiritually and economically free.
God laid out his plan for economics through the example of his people, Israel. For instance, land could be bought and sold – but not held forever. In fact, God’s designed us to be stewards of His gifts: “The land must never be sold on a permanent basis, for the land belongs to me. You are only foreigners and tenant farmers working for me” (Leviticus 25:23 NLT). A whole system of “Jubilee Laws” also prevented generational poverty, by returning land to its original owners and absolving debt. (See, for example, Leviticus 25:10).
The Gleaning Principle
God also instructed business owners of that day on the best ways to care for the poor among them – through a practice called “gleaning” (see Leviticus 19:9 and 23:22, Deuteronomy 24:19-21, and Ruth 2).
It’s very important to note that God didn’t tell landowners to harvest 100% of their land, sell a portion, and then give the proceeds to the poor. Nor did God instruct the land owners to give a percentage to Israel’s government to care for the poor. Instead, they were told to leave the corners and edges of their fields unharvested, allowing the poor to glean food for themselves. Those in need worked to gather what they needed, but those with plenty helped provide them with that opportunity.
Today, Christian churches are packed with entrepreneurs, marketplace leaders, teachers, bankers, architects, technology mavens, restaurateurs, and many others – all people who can consider how God might use their businesses or talents to help those who truly want to be helped. Some might even create discipleship-based social businesses that employ at-risk men and women. (2ndSaturday is a great example of this!) Others in existing businesses can help employ those who are ready to be employed. (At Watermark, that might involve connecting with Careers-in-Motion or with our new initiative, Faith At Work.)
Many Christians can serve as mentors, helping people with job skills, budgeting, planning, getting an education, or otherwise developing their own lives. Some believers may develop creative means for helping lift whole neighborhoods or communities out of poverty, while other believers may identify injustices that harm the poor – and rally others to the cause.
It might take some creativity – and yes, some effort – but there are numerous ways Christians can help provide space and opportunity for others as they seek to find freedom from poverty.