This is as the title suggests the second part of my God vs Poverty series.
Rich folks are experts on producing arguments why we shouldn’t give to the poor. Have you also heard Christians using this Bible verse as Bible proof for inaction:
“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” – 2 Cor 9:7
Was Paul’s point really that if you are a grumpy, greedy Scrooge McDuck, God is perfectly fine with that? No, of course Paul wants us to be cheerful givers, and he states in the next verse that we will be poorly rewarded in Heaven if we aren’t generous on earth, but his point is that we cannot force people to be generous. Giving to the poor still is our duty though: to refuse to give to the needy even if you’re able to, is sinful (Deut 15:9).
Another argument against giving to the poor is an unbiblical one: aid doesn’t work. This is both applied to foreign aid and giving to beggars on the streets. In the former case, people blame corruption and other structural problems, or they simply state that aid undermines incentives to work. In the latter case, people blaim drugs and other social problems, or state that rewarding begging undermines incentives to work.
There’s a lot to say about that, but for a Christian, those arguments are not very strong; simply because our Master has ordered us to always give to everyone. Yes, always. Yes, everyone. Luke 6:30 says “Give to everyone who asks and don’t ask people to return what they have taken from you.” You see? Always give to those who asks you, regardless how corrupt or drug-hungry they are.
Does it makes you uncomfortable? Well, think of all the time you gladly give your money to banks, multinationals and the state that use it for all sorts of crazy stuff. But I know what you’re thinking, two wrongs doesn’t make a right. But think like this: who are we to decide what the poor should spend their money on? They’re not controlling our consumption of luxuries, entertainment and beauty products.
If you’re still uncomfortable I have a solution for you – give everything you have to Iris Ministries. Then, next time you meet a beggar you will be like Peter, who had nothing but the wonderful power of the Spirit, which was sufficient to lift the beggar out of poverty (Acts 3). As we covered in part 1, building relationships and loving the poor really is the most vital step, regardless of how much you can give. Or, just give a sandwich if you’re worried about the drug things. But give. Do not let inaction be an option. Stop for the one in front of you and pour out your generosity. Because as good ol’ John said:
If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be that person? – 1 John 3:17
Here are the other parts of God vs Poverty:
Very good article. A friend and I were quite perterbed that someone we look up to spiritually told us that we should be more “discerning” on to whom we should give (both of our families do what we can to help feed those who ask for help). My response was, “Where does Jesus say that?”. I am a huge anti-government libertarian here in the USA and many people take offense that I constantly complain about governmental social help programs. But I think they mistake my frustrations with bureacracy to mean I don’t think we should help the poor/needy/those who ask. That is completely not the point. If we, the church, gave like Jesus commanded us to, their would be little need for these governmental programs. I see it that too many a Christian fails to give with a cheerful heart because they are thinking, “well, they can get help from the government”. The Church, not the State, is called to be light and to give unconditionally. Just my thoughts.
Hi Aaron! Thank you for your comment.
I totally agree that we should give to all indifferently. But I think that we should bless if the state wants to do the same. Christians shouldn’t ignore the poor and likewise we should not be angry if the state doesn’t ignore them as well. In my country, Sweden, poverty was basically abolished through extensive taxation and good social care. I don’t think we should protest against that.
[…] In the last part of God vs Poverty, I talked about the importance of giving aid to the poor. I am critical to the “trade instead of aid” idea expressed by people like Dambisa Moyo (who thinks that all aid to Africa should be stopped in five years) simply since it is irresponsible, harmful and not very smart. Trade is not the magical solution to poverty reduction, since many companies only have their own profit in mind. In contrast, aid agencies have a genuine goal to help the poor. […]
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