The Poor

During times of economic down turns, people may begin to consider what it is like to have money problems, or even to be poor, or not. Poverty is a complicated subject. What is poverty in one nation is plenty in another. To further complicate the subject, the causes of poverty are many and diverse. Just because a person may be considered poor does not mean they are needy. We need, but not necessarily are needy, some definitions and example culled from the Bible.


Poverty is often defined by the government or governing authorities. In ancient Israel, poor were judge according to the truth, or the Truth. In this definition, the word for poor is dal, whose definition I embedded within the verse containing the word.

Prov. 29:14 If a king judges the poor (1800. l;Addal, dal; from 1809; properly, dangling, i.e. (by implication) weak or thin: 1809. lAl ;∂ddalal, daw-lal´; a primitive root (compare 1802); to slacken or be feeble; figuratively, to be oppressed:) with truth.

These are the needy because they are weak, feeble or oppressed either externally or from internal problems like health. These have not contributed by their actions or attitudes to their impecuniousness.

Some poor remain without great means but neither are destitute and in need of help. Some may want to help these poor, but that is a problem. Would the help interfere with their innate ability to resolve their problems and make them dependent and lazy. Or, would their help make them better fishermen. We need to understand who is needy or not. The word for poor in the following definition is miskane.

Eccl. 9:16 Then said I, Wisdom is better than strength: nevertheless the poor man’s (4542. N;EkVsIm micçken, mis-kane´; from 5531; indigent:) wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard.

These poor seem to have insight and wisdom, but because of their economic position people refrain from heeding them. Yet these poor are lacking only in material goods, which may or may not be necessary for the good life.

The following definition of rush, for poor, talks about being in want but not necessarily in need of essentials — food, clothing and shelter. This poor person does not con people into giving him money or goods because he walks in his integrity, actually God’s Way. While the Bible often talks of the crooked rich, integrity can an innate feature of all people, if they will.

Prov. 28:6 Better is the poor (7326. v…wr rush [930d]; a prim. root; to be in want or poor: who walks in his integrity
Than he who is crooked though he be rich.

Another Hebrew word for poor is ani, which is also translated as poor. Ani’s translation is usually afflicted and needy. In some cases, it is translated afflicted in reference to animals. When the afflicted need the necessities, they should receive special consideration as the following verse notes.

Ex. 22:25 ¶ “If you lend money to My people, to the poor (6041. yˆnDo ani [776d]; from 6031a; poor, afflicted, humble) among you, you are not to act as a creditor to him; you shall not charge him interest.

The last Hebrew word for poor is ebyon. These poor lack one or more of the basics of food, clothing and shelter. They are poor because they, too, are afflicted in circumstance outwardly or inwardly. Anything from nature to government brought these poor to their situation, and because they cannot alleviate their circumstance by themselves, they need help.

Psa. 12:5 “Because of the devastation of the afflicted (34. NwøyVbRa ebyon [2d]; from 14; in want, needy, poor:), because of the groaning of the needy,
Now I will arise,” says the LORD; “I will set him in the safety for which he longs.”

Causes of Poverty:

Widows and orphans

The people who are unable to obtain their basic necessities, need help. In ancient times, the Levite could not grow his food or build his shelter because, obviously, he inherited no land, as did the rest of Israel. His inheritance was to be a Levite and serve God and His People. Therefore, God decreed that the people would provide for their sustenance and other needs. We know that part of the tithe then went to the Levites. Under certain definitions, the Levites would be considered poor, but not poor in service to God and Israel.

God, because Israel was an alien in Egypt, decreed aliens, as receiving particular advantage. The Bible defines aliens as sojourners, who live according to Israeli laws and behave as residents. (Lev. 17:8, 13) Aliens, however, who continue in the ways of paganism, must be put to death according to laws of Israel given by God. (Lev. 20:2) It is also inferred that aliens also keep the Sabbath, as well. (Lev. 25:6) Finally, the Bible says aliens, living legally in Israel, should not be oppressed like a poor servant.

Obviously, those who are poor due to their station in life must be helped. The Bible considers the orphans, children without parents for whatever reason, must receive food, clothing and shelter by the goodness of those who can provide for them. Today, some countries have the state provide programs and shelter for them. These are variously called child services organizations.

When a woman loses her husband, and she has no one to provide for her because she might be one of the few who has no experience in providing for herself, at least at first, which might be marketable, would need help until she would able to care for herself, she became poor through no fault of her own.

Poverty can overtake people by circumstance beyond their control. These poor should be taken care of. There are other poor that may have brought their situation upon themselves. Their poverty is unfortunate but not beyond their own control, as we will see later.

Deut. 14:29 “The Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance among you, and the alien, the orphan and the widow who are in your town, shall come and eat and be satisfied, in order that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do.

Poverty comes upon people through no fault or blame of their own. They may become injured and unable to work, or worse yet they may have been born with a debilitating illness preventing them from taking care of themselves. These poor need help not fault finding.

As people age, if they were foolish enough not to plan for their old age, they may be unable to provide for themselves. While the fault for their poverty rests with them, still they should not be homeless and hungry. The same is true when drought or other unknown circumstances come upon people, who then find themselves poor. These, too, are responsible for their indigence, but should not be allowed to starve. On the other hand, the example of assisting people who have brought their problems upon themselves maybe the wrong example to send to some. Others looking at those who have only lived for the moment and not prepared for the future set an example to them never to imitate that kind of foolish behavior.

Other afflictions come upon even the most careful, which deserve help. Furthermore, God attends to the misery afflicted upon them and blesses those who are equally moved by their reaction to their plight.

2Sam. 22:28 “And You save an afflicted people;
But Your eyes are on the haughty whom You abase.

Is. 41:17 ¶ “The afflicted and needy are seeking water, but there is none,
And their tongue is parched with thirst;
I, the LORD, will answer them Myself,
As the God of Israel I will not forsake them.

Deut. 26:7 ‘Then we cried to the LORD, the God of our fathers, and the LORD heard our voice and saw our affliction and our toil and our oppression;

Psa. 82:3 Vindicate the weak and fatherless;
Do justice to the afflicted and destitute.
Psa. 82:4 Rescue the weak and needy;
Deliver them out of the hand of the wicked.

Of course, those who become poor cannot hope to live at the same standard they were once used to. The aged may have to live with their children, other relatives, the concerned younger ones or some sort of agency to take care of them. At the same time those assisting the poor, must not take advantage of them as the following verses attest.

Lev. 25:35 ¶ ‘Now in case a countryman of yours becomes poor and his means with regard to you falter, then you are to sustain him, like a stranger or a sojourner, that he may live with you.
Lev. 25:36 ‘Do not take usurious interest from him, but revere your God, that your countryman may live with you.
Lev. 25:37 ‘You shall not give him your silver at interest, nor your food for gain.


Natural calamities become secondary to calamities derived from a source one should not expect, from their rulers and government. Without going into copious example, modern governments, like autocratic rulers of old, tend to cause teems of people to become poor and destitute. And, while we often cannot fight the injustices governments bring, we can step up to save the poor from hunger and destitution brought upon them.

Eccl. 5:8 ¶ If you see oppression of the poor and denial of justice and righteousness in the province, do not be shocked at the sight; for one official watches over another official, and there are higher officials over them.

Prov. 28:15 ¶ A wicked ruler is as dangerous to the poor as a roaring lion or an attacking bear.

Prov. 13:23 Abundant food is in the fallow ground of the poor,
But it is swept away by injustice.

Prov. 28:16 A leader who is a great oppressor lacks understanding,
But he who hates unjust gain will prolong his days.

Some of the wealthiest people in history are rulers that take property, goods and money from their own people, who have the same national identity and racial characteristics. They kill and steal from their own, like their own children. Without going into the details of the Idi Amins’ or Saddam Husseins’ of the world, these amass fortunes by making their own impoverished. Even in democratic governments, many legislators, executives and judges have chequered pasts filled with graft and abuse. Adding to these miscarriages of justice, those outside of government find many ways to influence those in government by illegal means.

Enormous guilt rests upon these wicked rulers and governments and, where possible, citizens must first attend to the ominous results and then find ways to change rulers and government policies by whatever means possible — hopefully peaceably.

It must be considered here that many, if not almost all, charities use most of the contributors’ monies to maintain the organization and attend to the poor. A tiny few, however, take the money contributed and use it for personal gain, in effect robbing both the contributor and the poor. Here injustice is compounded by abuse and robbery. Among these a few use contributed monies for real help for the poor.

These poor found poverty desperately seeking them out through no fault of their own.

Evil Wealthy

Not all wealthy gain their affluence by thievery and oppression, but by hard work and concern for others. Many, however, obtain fortunes by evil means, which hurt any who may get in their way or interfere with their prosperity and its increase.

Wealth and the desire to gain it can become an addiction to some, which makes them revel in its increase at any cost. In fact, these continue along the line of their primary mentor, Satan. The root of the love of money is the demon:

Ezek. 28:5 “By your great wisdom, by your trade
You have increased your riches
And your heart is lifted up because of your riches—
Ezek. 28:6 Therefore thus says the Lord GOD,
‘Because you have made your heart
Like the heart of God,
Ezek. 28:7 Therefore, behold, I will bring strangers upon you,
The most ruthless of the nations.
And they will draw their swords
Against the beauty of your wisdom
And defile your splendor.

Furthermore, the love of money, God equates with idolatry, i.e., the worship of Satan in all its forms from the sun to the false son. The greedy have the propensity to oppress and steal from all, especially the poor who have less power than those with greater possessions.

Col. 3:5 ¶ Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.

Psa. 62:10 Do not trust in oppression
And do not vainly hope in robbery;
If riches increase, do not set your heart upon them.

Jesus tells the story of Lazarus, a poor man, whom the rich man within the gates gave no assistance to him. He kept Lazarus in a state of poverty by his inaction, for whatever reason. God rewarded his negligence properly in the end time.

Luke 16:19 ¶ “Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day.
Luke 16:20 “And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores,
Luke 16:21 and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores.
Luke 16:22 “Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried.
Luke 16:23 “In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and *saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom.

Oppress the Poor

Oppression of the poor is not the prerogative only of government, wealthy and powerful, any one can add to a poor person’s position. Furthermore, poverty does not relegate itself to material goods, for a person can be poor in other aspects, such as, looks, personality, social skills, adroitness and so forth. These aspects of poverty are not of the poor person’s passion but of circumstances beyond his control, not to say that some of these may be overcome, as we will see later.

Some people just like to oppress others for reasons we can only guess. Maybe it makes them feel important or perhaps they are sadistic. Nonetheless the poor seem unable to escape their circumstances. For some the oppression can lead to a stimulus to change their attitude and behavior; for others they cannot change their weaknesses and infirmities no matter how hard they may try.

Prov. 14:31 He who oppresses the poor taunts his Maker,
But he who is gracious to the needy honors Him.

Deut. 24:14 ¶ “You shall not oppress a hired servant who is poor and needy, whether he is one of your countrymen or one of your aliens who is in your land in your towns.

Zech. 7:10 and do not oppress the widow or the orphan, the stranger or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.’

Job 24:9 “Others snatch the orphan from the breast,
And against the poor they take a pledge.

Ex. 22:22 “You shall not afflict any widow or orphan.


Situations such as injury, illness, age, drought, famine, affliction can cause people to be needy through no fault of their own.

We need to differentiate from those who are poor because of circumstances beyond their control like widows and orphans, disasters and drought, oppressed and afflicted from those who make themselves poor by their attitudes and life styles. The next article will deal with those bring poverty upon themselves and beg so they will not have to gain independence by doing right. Even so, not all the poor deem themselves needy or in need of assistance. These will live within their means, even if it means living frugally.