The Bible and Poverty



The Unger's Bible Dictionary has "more than 6,700 thoroughly researched entries." This is believable, since it has an entry on a number of somewhat rare Biblical words. For instance, there is an entry for the word "sulfur" an obscure biblical reference. It is curious to me then, that this "best-selling Bible dictionary" has no entry on the word, suffer. It's as if the authors are telling us that Bible has nothing to say about suffering. But maybe I'll share my concern about our lack of engagement with suffering on another occasion.


What troubles me for the sake of this blog, is their article under the word, "poverty." Actually, there is no entry under poverty except, "see poor." But when you turn to "poor" there seems to be a clear bias against the poor. The article states that when extreme poverty is mentioned in the Bible it "was ever represented as the just recompense of profligacy and thriflessness." In short, the extremely destitute are poor because they are lazy. Secondly, the entry is careful on two occasions to emphasize that becoming poor was never to be embraced as something beneficial, as if the authors were speaking out against the Franciscan ideal.


The evangelical church of the west is so quick to magnify the role of the poor in their poverty. To be sure, there is often a part they play in compounding their desperate situation, but the world is so bent toward those already in power it is extremely difficult for those trapped in desperate poverty to make much impact one way or another either by their hard work or slothfulness. There are many hard working poor who never make it out of poverty and many lazy rich who never make it into poverty.


Also, let's face the fact that the church in the west is dangerously rich. If some Christians, believing that their wealth is an impediment to following Jesus, decide to sell what they have, give it to the poor, and live in simplicity and child-like trust for their daily bread, I think we ought to encourage and esteem them.

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