“Eliminating poverty?
Who’s going to pay for that?
Not the poor.
They don’t have any cash.”
– Steven Colbert

When you read the word “poverty” what images come to mind?

Is poverty…

  • a dirty shack in the hills of Western Kentucky,
  • a rundown apartment complex in the United Kingdom,
  • a small fishing community in the Mexican interior,
  • or a far off village in the barren plains of Africa?

Maybe when you think of poverty you don’t see a place, but you see a person. Do you picture the wanting face of a child–arms too weak to reach out for help? Are you overwhelmed by the feeling of grief when you consider how many people live, and die, in poverty?

The sheer magnitude of global poverty can overwhelm the most stalwart of souls, so I think this bit of Jewish wisdom is appropriate.

Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief.
Do justly, now.
Love mercy, now.
Walk humbly, now.
You are not obligated to complete the work,
but neither are you free to abandon it.
– Attributed to The Talmud

A million blogs will not solve world poverty, but that should not stop us from beginning the journey, but my contribution to conversation is an to answer the question, “what is the Christian’s responsibility in ending poverty?

The solution to global poverty is found in the life of Jesus of Nazareth. Listen to this conversation from 2000 years ago between Jesus and an outcast Samaritan woman.

As Jesus sits at the well, there comes a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus says to her, “Give Me a drink.” For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. Therefore the Samaritan woman says to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” She says to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep; where then do You get that living water? “You are not greater than our father Jacob, are You, who gave us the well, and drank of it himself and his sons and his cattle?” Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life. (John 4:7-14)”

Until she met Jesus, this woman was dying of a thirst she could not quench. Only after she met Jesus could this woman move beyond her material need to drink, and experience a greater spiritual-refreshment. In one of the chapters of my recent book, , I conclude,

“In my observation of his ministry, Jesus never fed the poverty of flesh without feeding the poverty of soul. In taking on a social agenda of ending poverty, what I want to know is will you, ‘show me the Jesus!!’?”

Based on the life of Jesus, our highest goal today is to offer the thirsty a water that will not evaporate. Our mission is greater than ending all physical poverty, it is to end all spiritual hunger by offering the Bread of Life found only in Jesus Christ.

Does our high calling to share the eternal Gospel invalidate the importance of serving the temporal needs of the impoverished? Absolutely not!

    • With Divine-empathy, Christ-followers must provide feeding programs to the homeless, but we must not neglect to nourish people with the Gospel of Jesus.

      Proverbs 15:15-17
      All the days of the afflicted are bad, But a cheerful heart has a continual feast.
      Better is a little with the fear of the Lord Than great treasure and turmoil with it.
      Better is a dish of vegetables where love is Than a fattened ox served with hatred.

    • From our material abundance, the disciple of YHWH should provide micro-loans to destitute communities, but we must not withhold the wealth of Jesus.

Proverbs 16:8
Better is a little with righteousness Than great income with injustice.

    • From a heart of sacrifice, the saint of God must offer debt forgiveness, but we must also offer eternal forgiveness of sin’s debt.

Proverbs 22:16
He who oppresses the poor to make more for himself Or who gives to the rich, will only come to poverty.

    • With great compassion, the people of the Way must give refuge to the orphan, but we must also offer adoption into our our Heavenly Family.

Proverbs 30:7-9
Two things I asked of You, Do not refuse me before I die:
Keep deception and lies far from me,
Give me neither poverty nor riches; Feed me with the food that is my portion, That I not be full and deny You and say, “Who is the Lord?” Or that I not be in want and steal, And profane the name of my God.

Who will pay to eliminate poverty?

Jesus has already paid the price with His death on the cross. Now the question becomes, “will you help spread the wealth?”

Dr. J.R. Miller is a Professor of Applied Theology and Leadership & Dean of Online Learning at Southern California Seminary. Outside work, he is a church planter. Dr. Miller has a diverse educational background and authored multiple books on church history, biblical theology, and Leadership. Joe and his wife Suzanne enjoy the sun and surf with their 3 sons in San Diego, CA.

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