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11. Why Are the Poor So Poor?

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In Your Bible Read This

Luke 6.

Here Is Your Memory Verse

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Proverbs 31, 8-9.

Afterwards Talk About This

How can you be the hands, feet and heart of Jesus to the poor in your town?

Something To Do Before Next Time

Go as a team to an agency, Christian or not, that is working amongst the poor and offer yourselves to do a job or project for them.

Written Diploma Work

Explain in one page of practical detail what may have happened to people to make them poor.

Meditate Word By Word On This Verse

Jeremiah 22.16.

Spend a Minute to Change the World

Pray For Bangladesh – 132,000,000 of the poorest people87% Muslim, 10 Hindu, 0.08% Evangelical believers. Over-populated, devastating floods.

Be sure to teach this lesson to others. Always pray and prepare well adding your own verses and stories to bring it to life.

Jesus, speaking to a crowd of largely rural people who live under the control of Roman military oppressors and wealthy religious leaders, said, “Blessed are you who are poor,” Luke 6,17-20. Although we often spiritualise Jesus’ references to the poor to mean the spiritually poor, the word that Jesus uses here is ptochos, literally, the trembling poor.

The Bible contains at least 245 references to the poor so God has a lot to say about this subject. It is close to his heart and God never calls poverty either blessed, glorified or romantic, rather the Bible says that it is a curse.

Why Are The Poor, Poor?

Some people are poor and dispossessed through no fault of their own, but because of exploitation and oppression, the sins of the rich, of corrupt leaders, or the domination of invading nations. The Hebrew words are rush and ani.

The Lord’s Humble Poor

Some of God’s people brought low by poverty and oppression are called the Lord’s humble poor and they cry out to him in humble dependency, Exodus 1, 11-12 (Hebrew: ani, Greek, ptochos)

Victims Of Catastrophe

People can also be poor because of a natural calamity, an accident, national economic disaster or were born physically weak, again through no fault of their own. They might be simple people or defenceless widows or orphans. (Heb. Ebyon, dallah and dal)

Personal Sin

So many others are poor because of personal sin, which is entirely their own fault,. See Job 33.3, Proverbs 13.25; 24.30; 21.5; 22.16; 21.17; 28.22; even Deuteronomy 28.48 (Heb. Chaser). Personal sin causes poverty, but in its turn the pain of poverty causes more personal sin such as stealing and drunkenness, leading to immorality, disease, and violence. Prov. 30.9, 30.7.

How Can They Be Blessed?

Jesus calls the poor blessed because he knows that they are blessed by God, the God all of justice, the God who puts everything right. Most poor people have never heard this let alone opened their to hearts and lives to receive that blessing.

What Is God’s Answer?

Proverbs 31.9 tells believers exactly what to do. “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, defend the rights of the poor and needy.” The future of the poor is in our hands although this can be a dangerous business as the perils suffered by such defenders of the poor as Amy Carmichael, William Wilberforce and William Booth show.

God Sees His Poor As Precious

Read Job 36,15, Psalm 34,6; 35,10; 113,7-8, and know that God’s good news for the ebyon, dal and dallah poor is Jesus, Luke 7.22.

We Are The Hands Of Jesus

Some quote 1 John 3,17 or James 2,15;1,27 and say that we must help our brothers first. That’s fine because there are very many struggling in weakness but even the chaser poor, who may not be loveable or particularly grateful have mercy and grace in God. God speaks to them specially in Psalm 23.1, Psalm 34, 9-10. See Job 29, 15-16.

How Are The Poor Blessed?

When Jesus said, “Blessed are you who are poor,” he was looking at his disciples, Luke 6.20. It is the poor who are also disciples that are blessed through their faith in God.

Blessed By God’s Concern

God understands the pain of poverty better than anyone else, because at the cross God himself as Jesus suffered the ultimate betrayal, injustice, oppression and lack of all things.

  • Job defends the poor, Job 31.16
  • David’s psalms give hope to the poor
  • Isaiah prophesies help for people who love the poor, Isaiah 58, 6-12.
  • Hosea tells us how God wins hearts, Hosea 11.4.
  • Jeremiah asks if you really know the Lord, Jer. 22.16.
  • Jesus was anointed by God to minister to the ptochos, God’s humble poor, Luke 4,18-19.
  • Paul puts doctrine into action, Galatians 2.10, 6.10; 2 Cor. 8.13.
  • James challenges the church, James 2.5, 14-16
  • Peter’s church cared, Acts 4.34.
  • John’s final word, 1 John 3.17-18.

Blessed Through Forgiveness

In Jesus there is God’s forgiveness of all the personal sin that provokes poverty. The downhill slide into a living hell can be halted and reversed.

Blessed By God’s Grace

Jesus gives poor people power over temptation. Hands that stole now work for God, family and others. Eph. 4.28.

Blessed By God’s People

God commands believers with possessions and with freedom to provide for poor people and take a stand against the injustices that hold millions worldwide in ‘rush’ poverty. In Matthew 25.35 Jesus shows us how.

In the context of the poor, disciples are told to love enemies, who can be the poor who rob you, and not just love those who love us. We are to do good not just to those who are good to us, not to judge them and not just lend to those who repay us. When you give to the poor then it will be given to you, Luke 6. 27-38. They can’t repay you, but God will, Proverbs 19.17.

The gospel blesses the poor if they come to Christ and the same gospel also blesses the rich if they come to Christ. But if a rich man causes others to suffer poverty then according to James, let him beware, James 5,1-6.

To Close Pray For The World’s Most Unreached Peoples By Name

Taken from the Joshua Project Unreached Peoples List these people have no church and as yet no cell, church or mission has committed themselves to prayer, adoption or church planting among this people.


People Name Language Population
Amami-Oshima Amami-Oshima 16,000
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