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The Answer to Poverty

The following is an edited compilation of excerpts from the booklet, A Godly Stewardship: The Answer to Poverty, by Dave Louden.

For several decades I have struggled to understand and apply the call of Scripture in regards to caring for the poor. In that time I have heard a wide variety of reasons for and against helping the poor. All opinions aside, it is clear from the Bible that believers are called to share and to meet the physical and spiritual needs of their neighbours. If we are to be honest, we struggle to truly own who is our ‘neighbour.’

Various passages of Scripture have brought clarity to me on this subject. As I studied, I discovered there was one condition, if met, that would eliminate poverty. This condition is that one must carefully obey the voice of the Lord.

In Deuteronomy 15 we find the Lord instructing Moses how to care for the poor, implying that there will likely always be poor ones around us. People fall into poverty for a variety of reasons. From time to time people fall into need due to difficult economic times, sickness, famine, war, death of a spouse or caregiver, or personal disobedience to God’s ways.

Deuteronomy 15:7-8 “If there is among you a poor man of your brethren, within any of the gates in your land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart nor shut your hand from your poor brother, but you shall open your hand wide to him and willingly lend him sufficient for his need, whatever he needs.”

Scripture also admonishes people to work. Through good, honest work, people will then have their own needs met and also have the capacity to assist those who lack. On this subject, very strong words come from Scripture:

2 Thessalonians 3:10 “For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.”

Ephesians 4:28 “Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labour, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.”

Christ’s compassion moves us to care for people. The challenge is to provide a hand up rather than a perpetual hand out. This requires an accurate assessment to understand possible physical and psychological limitations of people. Gainful employment, where at all possible, provides a sense of self-worth and personal fulfillment.

God’s Design

God’s design is for man to work. This was the biblical norm before and after the fall of man into sin. To ignore this fact is to rebel against God’s ways.

Genesis 2:15 “Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.”

Genesis 3:17-19 “Then to Adam He said, ‘Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’: Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return.’”

Five Characteristics of Good Works

If we are going to properly carry out the good works that God has prepared for us we need to follow the only approach – the biblical approach. The Scripture reveals various causes for people being impoverished. For us to truly help these people we need to perform a diagnosis of the causes underlying their situation. We need to provide the correct help.

To be effective in our stewardship, I will provide five criteria to assist us in properly diagnosing the needs of others. This will take some time on our part. As well, we will need to have true love for the person (or people) God has placed in our ‘path.’ Don’t just look for a quick fix so that you can get on with your life. Such opportunities will provide you with additional occasions to die to yourself. We must minister from a true heart of compassion.

Let’s now consider the following five guiding characteristics in meeting urgent needs:

(I) Our service is to be in proportion to our ability to give

In 2 Corinthians 8 the apostle Paul outlines some instructions to the Corinthian church in regards to giving to the needs of poor believers back in Jerusalem. There were no set amounts or percentages given by Paul here. From Paul’s teaching we can infer that if one has much, he may be led to give much; if one has little, he can only give little. Additionally, giving should be done willingly, not by compulsion.

2 Corinthians 8:12-14 “For if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have. For I do not mean that others should be eased, and you burdened; but by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may supply their lack…”

(II) Our service is to be personal and should exhibit genuine compassion

1 John 3:17 “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?”

James 2:15-16 “If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,’ but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?”

Luke 10:33 “But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he [i.e., the injured man] was. And when he {i.e., the Samaritan] saw him, he had compassion.”

Compassion is God’s heart in the situation. If God is compassionate for the situation He will provide us with discernment as to how to help. We simply need to be willing. Our part may be to meet an immediate need or to provide longer term assistance. The latter situation will sometimes necessitate getting other believers involved so as to share the load (more to be said on this later).

The bottom line is that we must sense the Lord’s heart in order to have His compassion direct us. If we harden our heart we will miss the assignment. We will then not hear “Well done” from the Lord concerning this opportunity to minister.

(III) Our service is to be periodic

The church in Philippi sent gifts “once and again” to meet the apostle Paul’s needs. These gifts were not perpetual.

Philippians 4:16-18 “For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities. Not that I see the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account. Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God.”

We must be discerning whether or not a need is perpetual (also, see points (IV) and (V) below). It is unwise to prolong giving to a need if it merely serves to create an attitude of entitlement or expectation in the recipient(s).

(IV) Our service is to be provisional

Certain situations will require conditions that must be in place in order to properly administer the provision of goods or finances. Help should not be provided to lazy, or spiritually dreamy people who are actually “disorderly” according to Scripture. To not work, when one is able, is to be disorderly.

2 Thessalonians 3:6-12 “But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow us, for we were not disorderly among you; nor did we eat anyone’s bread free of charge, but worked with labor and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us. For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies. Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread.”

(V) Our service is to be perpetual

1 Timothy 5:4 “But if any widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show piety at home and to repay their parents; for this is good and acceptable before God. ”

1 Timothy 5:8 “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

Whenever possible, the perpetually poor (think elderly widows or orphans) should be taken care of by extended family members, especially by those that are believers (see 1 Timothy 5:3-16). In large measure we have abandoned this biblical pattern and have simply opted for institutional care. Only under specific conditions should the local church become perpetually supportive of such individuals. For example, when considering the support of widows, Paul instructed Timothy that the local church should not support healthy widows under the age of 60. Also, preference should be given to aged widows that have exhibited a life of faithful service to the Lord. This was done in order to reduce entitlement or the fostering of dependency.

The real poor are those who have no reliable source or ability to care for themselves. Perpetual care should be for those who, due to illness or infirmity, find it impossible to work and have no reasonable cure apart from God’s miraculous healing. (Please read 2 Samuel 9 which records King David perpetually caring for a lame relative of King Saul.) For such people, we must not opt out of the sacrificial approach. We should not wish for our lives to be unencumbered from such situations.

We need to properly (i.e., biblically) diagnose the true needs of others and understand why their needs have arisen. Looking at need and poverty from a biblical point of view enables us to discern God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility. Scripture reveals that there are reasons for the circumstances we find ourselves in. Our culture erroneously thinks that throwing more and more money at the problem will be the solution. We must come to realize two things: first, society has embarked on a course which is unsustainable; second, even though we may ignore God, He is still holding us accountable to His ways.

We must cry out to the Lord, repent, and embrace His basic principles for life. Then He will answer, forgive our sin, and heal our land (2 Chronicles 7:14).We must be much more proactive in pointing people to their responsibility to work, to provide for their own, and to be ready to be used by the Lord to meet the legitimate needs of others. In doing so, believers will bring glory to God. Our humble response will demonstrate God’s kingdom life to the world. People will see that we are accomplishing the good works He has prepared for us.


This article is an edited compilation of excerpts from the booklet, A Godly Stewardship: The Answer to Poverty, by Dave Louden. For a free copy of this booklet please contact the Editor of Menbuilders Magazine at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and mention this article. Dave Louden served for over thirty years as a pastor in British Columbia and Manitoba. His ministry has also included evangelism and church planting with a specific focus upon discipling and encouraging men to whole heartedly pursue the reality of the Lord in their daily life.