What does the Bible say about being poor?In order to understand the Bible's stance on being poor, it is helpful to first look at what the Bible says about being rich. Wealth is often considered to be negative because it can become an idol that acts as a barrier between people and God. There was a righteous young rich man who asked Jesus what he needed to do to get into heaven. The man stated that he obeyed all of God's commandments; Jesus said that he should sell all of his possessions and come follow Him. The young man was sad, however, because he greatly valued his wealth. In response Jesus told His disciples, "How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!" (Mark 10:23). This is not to say that wealth is bad; God greatly blessed the Israelites with material riches throughout history. However, God doesn't want riches to be more important to people than Him and He knows that wealth can easily lead many people to sin.
Consequently, the Bible says, "blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:3). Physical poverty acts as a metaphor of the spiritual poverty of our souls without God. People who are poor in material things can become rich spiritually through a relationship with God. Likewise, people who are rich materially may be poor spiritually. Jesus Himself came to the world poor and never had material wealth (Matthew 8:20). He humbled Himself by becoming a man in order to give us access to the spiritual wealth of eternity with God. Second Corinthians 8:9 says, "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that you by His poverty might become rich."
The biblical reference of being poor does not refer so much to how much we have or don't have, but rather the importance we place in our worldly possessions. God wants us to be willing to give up these possessions that are only temporary and instead focus on what is eternal. In Jesus' words, "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also," (Luke 12:34).
As Christians we are also instructed in the Bible to care for those in need. We are told to provide for their physical needs and advocate for them because they are not in a position to advocate for themselves (Proverbs 3:27–28; 31:8–9).
Nonetheless, the Bible asserts that poverty can be negative when it is the result of bad choices. People can fall into poverty by being lazy (Proverbs 24:33–34), following foolish pursuits (Proverbs 28:19), and making poor decisions while ignoring wise advice (Proverbs 13:18). Throughout Scripture it is clear that people should work hard and seek wisdom (Colossians 3:23; Proverbs 13:4; 4:6–7). It is also clear that neither poverty nor wealth is a sure indication of God's favor or disfavor.
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