Speaking to the Soul – March 16

Giving to the poor

Whoever gives to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to poverty will be cursed. Proverbs 28:27

The writer of Proverbs often refers to poverty. In his society there were no welfare state provisions and so poverty was an ever-present and terrible threat. If one’s family were unable to give support, then a person could become totally destitute. Begging would be the only option. It’s not surprising that many proverbs speak of the vital importance of giving to the poor and, in chapter 19, the writer speaks of the spiritual significance of such giving. He writes: “If you help the poor, you are lending to the Lord – and he will repay you” (Proverbs 19:17). God loves to see people who are generous to the poor. It is a theme that runs through the whole Bible, from the law of Moses to the sharp and down to earth wisdom of the letter of James. God expects us to care for the poor, and will reward those who do so.

The part of this verse that strikes me with particular force is the reference to those who close their eyes to poverty. The writer bluntly states that they will be cursed. God is clearly calling us to open our eyes to the reality of poverty, uncomfortable as that may well be. Poverty is never pleasant, and it is very easy for those who are financially secure to get on with their comfortable lives in blissful ignorance of the lives of those who are struggling through financial need.

The statistics are terrifying. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has been working for over a century to study the causes of poverty in the UK. It believes that more than 20 per cent of the population live in poverty and this affects every part of their lives – their children’s education, their health, their job prospects, their life span – everything. It is particularly painful to note that more than half of those who live in poverty are disabled or live in a family with someone who is disabled. I could go on, but these few details are enough to prove the point that this is a crisis which demands a response from all of us.

How aware are you of poverty in your area, and what can you do to help?
Loving God, thank you for all the resources you have given to me. Help me to be increasingly generous in sharing them with others, and especially the poor. Amen