The Gospel and Poverty

Extractions of David Platt’s book “COUNTERCULTURE”, chapter 2: “Where Rich and Poor Collide: The Gospel and Poverty”.

I hope this post will open our eyes to the needs of people in our nation and around the world, bring us to our knees in tears and prayers on their behalf, and cause us to rise with conviction, compassion, and courage to humbly spread the truth of God while selflessly showing the love of God.

My lack of concern for the poor was a clear sign of a fundamental problem with my faith. Jesus said that faith in our hearts will be evident in the fruit of our lives. He taught, You will recognize [people] by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16). He later describes the separation of Christians from non-Christians at the final judgment in terms of those who have helped impoverished followers of Christ and those who haven’t (see Matthew 25:31-46). Concerning those who haven’t given food, water and clothes to brothers and sisters in need, Jesus says, “These will go away into eternal punishment” (Matthew 25:46). It becomes clear that those who claim to be Christians but refuse to help poverty-stricken people are simply not children of God.

God wants to make his glory known to all peoples everywhere in the world. He wants to show the world that he is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love” (Exodus 34:6); that He “raises up the poor from the dust” and  “lifts the needy from the ash heap” (1 Samuel 2:8); that he “executes justice for the oppressed” and “gives food to the hungry” (Psalm 146:7); that He is a “defence for the helpless” and “the needy in his distress” (Isaiah 25:4). These are the characteristics of God which are revealed in Christ, who came “to proclaim good news to the poor”. Once we see this portrait of God in Christ, we realize that caring for the poor is not only necessary evidence of faith in him; it’s the natural overflow of faith in him.

In a culture that places great emphasis on leisure, luxury, financial gain, self-improvement, and material possessions, it will be increasingly countercultural for Christians to work diligently, give sacrificially, help constructively, and invest eternally. Yet this is what we must do.

Work diligently

When God created man, he “put him in the garden of Eden to work it” (Genesis 2:15). This was before sin’s entrance into the world, so we must realize that work is a good gift of God’s grace.

Give sacrificially

Paul uses the example of churches in Macedonia who “in a severe test of affliction [and] extreme poverty … overflowed in a wealth of generosity” by giving to starving saints in Jerusalem in the first century. They gave “beyond their means, of their own accord, begging … earnestly for the favour of taking part in the relief of the saints” (2 Corinthians 8:2-4). I love that picture of men and women living in extreme poverty yet begging to give an offering to a needy church elsewhere.

What would it look like for us to give like that with eagerness and enthusiasm, insisting on the opportunity to truly sacrifice for our impoverished brothers and sisters around the world?

This is the clear pattern of giving in the New Testament church, yet it is unfortunately a far cry from common practice.

Help constructively

This means helping the poor wisely, being careful to supplement the responsible instead of subsidizing the irresponsible. The worst thing we can do for the needy is neglect them. The second worst thing we can do is subsidizing them, helping people get through a day while ignoring how we can help people get through their lives. Scripture does not call us to rescue lazy people from poverty. Instead, Scripture calls us to serve and supplement the responsible. We need to consider how to help those in need in ways that empower them to fulfil the purpose for which God created them instead of enabling them to miss that purpose. Helping like this requires personal attention, consistent accountability, and long-term commitment. Giving to those in need is not about sharing handouts: it’s about sharing life. Helping those in need doesn’t consist of throwing our money at something: it involves investing our lives in someone, which is much, much harder to do. We must give personal attention to the people we are helping, providing accountability in the context of a personal relationship backed up by long-term commitment, and never looking at people as temporary projects to be played with.

One Reply to “The Gospel and Poverty”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *