Is God Biased Toward the Poor?

Posted on January 23, 2017

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The Scriptures are full of stories about God’s heart for the poor. Does this mean, however, that God shows favoritism to those that are in poverty? Ronald Sider posits that while God has equal love for all people, he is not neutral in his passionate advocacy for those that are poor. He states, “God, however, is not neutral. His freedom from bias does not mean that he maintains neutrality in the struggle for justice. The Bible clearly and repeatedly teaches that God is at work in history exalting the poor and casting down the rich who got that way by oppressing or neglecting the poor. In that sense, God is on the side of the poor. He has a special concern for them because of their vulnerability.[1]

It is imperative for Christians to have a robust framework in their understanding of poverty because the message of the Gospel reaches every part human life.

The book of Proverbs supports the cause of the poor by revealing God’s heart for those who have been marginalized and cast aside from the prevailing culture of excess and success. Proverbs 14:31 says, “Those who oppress the poor insult their Maker, but helping the poor honors him.” Furthermore, Proverbs 19:17 states, “If you help the Lord, you are lending to the Lord – and he will repay you!” The form of repayment is not always found in financial gain. Conversely, it is rare that helping someone in need would increase an individual’s net wealth. However, the implication of these verses is that the blessings of God (in various different ways) will be upon those who turn their attention to the poor, and work toward their benefit.

The Christian theologian N.T. Wright says, “In a world of systematic injustice, bullying, violence, arrogance, and oppression, the thought that there might come a day when the wicked are firmly put in their place and the poor and weak are given their due is the best news there can be.”[2] The overwhelming nature of the issues that are present with poverty can be paralyzing. However, the Christian response must be one of hope for the future.

Christians believe that God revealed himself in the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. In order to understand God’s work in the world, Christians must understand how the Incarnate One defined his mission.[3] The choice is given to the American church to either embody the work of Jesus, or to propagate a false doctrine that includes financial and physical prosperity at the heart of its message. When Jesus was asked what was most important to him in the expression of faith, he responded that he valued true love for God and others higher than anything else (Luke 10:27).

In light of this, it is important to remember that loving others was given equal weight to loving God in the opinion of Jesus. This should cause us to truly consider the holistic message of the Gospel in relation to the day-to-day realities of those living in poverty. Additionally, Jesus seemed to actually embody the plight of the poor as he told his disciples that any time they gave to the poor, they were actually giving to Jesus himself (Matthew 25:31-46).

This does not sound like the words of a distant deity that is aloof or disconnected to the cries of the poor. This sounds like God himself is present with the poor, and if Christians want to be present with their Creator, they can find him among those that have been marginalized.

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[1] Sider, Ronald J. Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger: Moving from Affluence to     Generosity. Nashville: W Pub. Group, 1997. 67.

 [2] N. T. Wright. Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church. New York: HarperOne, 2008. 137.

[3] Ronald J. Sider. Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger: Moving from Affluence to Generosity. 51.

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