During my university days at the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University), Ile-Ife, in the sixties, I had a mate who used to say, “Poverty has no advantage, even in heaven.” Of course, poverty is not a blessing. It is a curse and no normal person desires to be poor. But some people must be poor. Deuteronomy 15:11 (NLT) says, “There will always be some in the land who are poor.” Also, in Matthew 26:11 (NIV), Jesus says, “The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me.”
Just as there will always be poor people, there will also be wealthy people. The poor will always serve the rich. The society must have masters and servants. The land must have blessed people and cursed people. Just as some people will die and go to heaven to enjoy eternal life, others will also die but go to hell for their own eternal suffering.
What determines poverty or hell partly depends on the individual’s decisions and choices. Every person has been given the will to make decisions or choices and, of course, be responsible for their consequences. Deuteronomy 30:15-16 (NIV) says, “See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.”
The reasons for poverty are not my concern here. But the Word of God is clear on what should be our attitude towards the poor. People of God can enjoy tremendous blessings from relating with the poor and treating them according to the Scriptures.
I admire churches that have a good policy of taking care of the poor and needy around them. Some individuals, companies and organisations establish foundations for the purpose of helping the poor and needy. Today, there are many philanthropists all over the world in developed and developing countries taking care of the poor and needy.
Proverbs 14:21 (NLT) says, “It is a sin to belittle one’s neighbour, blessed are those who help the poor.” The poor among us should not be maltreated, neglected or derided because of their condition. Those who help the poor and needy are sure to be blessed by God.” I love Proverbs 19:17 (NKJV) which says, “He who has pity on the poor lends to the LORD, and He will pay back what he has given.”
This gives the assurance that whatever you give to the poor is as a loan being given to God. And our faithful God must always repay the loan given to Him. Of course, repayment of such loan is always with interest; and the interest from God cannot compare with what any bank can give on your deposit.
There are many investment portfolios that assure good interest. But when God blesses or repays a loan, it may not be only in monetary forms. It may be in form of business ideas, protection from accidents and losses, good health, peace of mind and prosperity, in general.
In Job 31, Job rehearses a list of sins that he was not guilty of committing, but which many professing Christians today are committing. Job 31:16-22(NLT) says, “Have I refused to help the poor, or crushed the hopes of widows? Have I been stingy with my food and refused to share it with orphans? No, from childhood I have cared for orphans like a father, and all my life I have cared for widows. Whenever I saw the homeless without clothes and the needy with nothing to wear, did they not praise me for providing wool clothing to keep them warm? If I raised my hand against an orphan, knowing the judges would take my side, then let my shoulder be wrenched out of place! Let my arm be torn from its socket!”
Job identified the poor, the widows and the orphans and asserted that if he hadn’t fulfilled his obligations to them, he had sinned and deserved God’s punishment. However, he did not fail to care for them.
I believe that the best investment of money should be on people who need our help and not on things. The Bible is very clear on the blessings we receive by giving to the poor and needy around us. They constitute hidden treasures.