The Kingdom: What Does Poor Even Mean?

In talking about the poor we automatically assume we are talking about a certain class of people. As soon as we envision “poor people” we would most likely have a neighbourhood in mind which would be classified as poor. Or maybe we have a person in mind, or a street corner where a lot of homeless people seem to hang out. The first thing we should all notice is that whenever we think of poor we think of lack of money. We think of bad housing, crappy jobs, kids with old clothing, sleeping on cement and welfare; all benefactors of not having enough money. What if though, the poor that the Bible speaks of isn’t a money thing? I think that our culture has a serious problem in that we make all our judgements and rating systems about money and infiltrate everything we do by a dollar value.

Why is it that those that are discredited and spat on in our society are those with no money? It’s because money has become a god all around us, and when we think of helping the poor we actually think that means giving people with lack of money more money. Money is so ingrained into our thinking that the word poor means absolutely nothing to us unless money is what we are talking about.

It’s difficult for us to separate the term money from the term poor because money is easy. It’s easy to look at someone and know they are poor. It’s also easy (so we think) to fix them, we just throw money at them. After all, I think it was George Barna that said that the evangelical church has spent over a trillion dollars into its ministry work in the past twenty years or so. We as the church are great at throwing money at people. Since we are supposed to be giving to the poor you would think much of this trillion dollars would have helped. Unfortunately, the stat also continues by George Bara that there has been no significant growth in the church in the past twenty years either. Money is easy to use and spend but I have a feeling that throwing money around because we think that’s all people need is just as ineffective as it is easy.

If we stopped using money as our judgement system I think we would have a lot different of a definition of what poor was around us. Just because someone has lots of money, doesn’t mean they are not poor, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t in need spiritually. Just because someone has no money, and may live in conditions we wouldn’t wish for our pets doesn’t mean that they are poor and want our money. If we could actually train ourselves to not think in terms of poor and rich but in terms of Christ’s value upon them I think we would start to see progress. The kingdom seems to be about levelling the playing field, and that doesn’t happen by constantly pointing at a group of people and saying that they are poor and that you (being rich) are there to help them. This is probably why Christ told the rich to get rid of everything and give it to the poor and in the same lifetime commended the poor widow for getting rid of everything also. He was taking money out of the equation. After the poor widow gave her two pennies and if the rich young ruler ever sold all his stuff, they would be equal, the would be where Christ wanted them, unable to achieve status through which we are inclined to try to, through money.

What if in the kingdom, poor wasn’t about money at all? What if in the kingdom money wasn’t our currency for goods, love, power and security but it was something else? Jesus ministry didn’t just consist of the poor, it also consisted of the rich, money swindling tax collectors also. Obviously Jesus saw some sort of ‘poor’ characteristic in these rich tax collectors. Maybe our definition of poor needs to change. But what would it even change too? Obviously poor neighbourhoods, cities, countries and continents need our help, and for some reason my only instinct is to have lots of money and give it to them.

God direct our passions and our good intentions and help us help people get better and not worse.

3 Comments

  • thanks for the post nathan. In some ways I agree with Tom Skerritt about the often unhealthy obsession with the poor by the church. And by that I mean we have over the past 20 years seen it as a fad to throw money at the poor in hopes to clear our often nagging conscience. I think our problem stems from our lack of actually living out the values of the kingdom as the church. We are more of a not for profit organization or club than we are the church as it was meant to be. This is why so many Para-church organizations have sprung up over the last 20-30 years, we as the church have become more and more wealthy monetarily so instead of us doing what Jesus has called us to do we have decided to let the paid professionals do the dirty work. This doesnt even necessarily just apply to the poor in terms of money but in all areas rich, poor, mentally ill, drug addicted, depressed, etc. Instead of truly living for the kingdom as a church we have let the paid professionals take care of peoples needs while we show up on Sunday, put our cheque in the offering and leave at 12pm sharp to make it to the restaurant before the other churchs show up and we have to wait in line, we never see anyone from our faith community during the week, but I guess thats okay as long as we are there on Sunday.

  • Phil, you were that guy that butted in front of me at Swiss Chalet on Sunday afternoons. I wasnt a Christian then, but if I were, you would of known about it.

    Thank God you live in London now.

  • haha next time im in sarnia i’ll butt in front of you again…12pm sharp

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