In our modern era of unbridled capitalism, many believers have adopted a worldly attitude toward the poor. Many simply view poverty as a symptom of laziness and a lack of motivation. However, the Old Testament takes a very different approach in its view of the poor.
Here are seven obscure facts about Israel’s responsibility toward the poor taken directly from the Old Testament that will challenge you to rethink God’s view of poverty.
1. The Old Testament forbids the charging of interest when lending to the poor
Exodus 22:25 – “If you lend money to any of my people with you who is poor, you shall not be like a moneylender to him, and you shall not exact interest from him.”
2. God’s people are responsible for helping the poor
Leviticus 25:35,36 – “If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you. Take no interest from him or profit, but fear your God, that your brother may live beside you. You shall not lend him your money at interest, nor give him your food for profit.”
3. It is a sin to resent the poor
Deuteronomy 15:7-11 – “If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be. Take care lest there be an unworthy thought in your heart and you say, ‘The seventh year, the year of release is near,’ and your eye look grudgingly on your poor brother, and you give him nothing, and he cry to the LORD against you, and you be guilty of sin. You shall give to him freely, and your heart shall not be grudging when you give to him, because for this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’
4. Employers who oppress their poor employees (including foreign workers) are guilty of sin
Deuteronomy 24:14,15 – “You shall not oppress a hired worker who is poor and needy, whether he is one of your brothers or one of the sojourners who are in your land within your towns. You shall give him his wages on the same day, before the sun sets (for he is poor and counts on it), lest he cry against you to the LORD, and you be guilty of sin.
5. Unjust treatment of the poor is an act of open disrespect to God
Proverbs 14:31 – Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him.
6. Those who lend to the poor become God’s creditor
Proverbs 19:17 – Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will repay him for his deed.
Proverbs 22:9 – A generous person will be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor. (HCSB)
7. Ignore the poor and God will ignore you
Proverbs 21:13 – Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered.
Isaiah 58:7,8 – “Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.”
* All verses taken from the English Standard Version (ESV), unless otherwise stated.