The Poor and Lowly

This article discusses how we are to treat the poor and lowly, according to the Bible.

Questions to consider:

Why should we show kindness to the poor and lowly?

How do we show kindness to the poor and lowly?

One of God’s biggest desires for his people is that we would show kindness and generosity to his people. The Bible talks highly of the poor in scripture, much more than society does today. I think that Jewish society in the time of Jesus probably was pretty similar in this sense. When Jesus delivers his Sermon on the Mount, he brings some news to the Jews.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:3-5 ESV)

A little counter-intuitive. Blessed are the meek? Aren’t the rich the ones who have the blessings? 

I think that we are somewhat trained to view the poor as a burden these days, while the Bible teaches us that giving is a way of worshipping God. Since the US promotes a race for money, a lot of people probably view the poor as the “losers” in this country. However, circumstances for people who have jobs that require degrees are different than for people on the streets who grew up in abusive households or grew up wondering when their next meal would be. 

Instead of viewing the poor and the homeless as burdensome, we are taught to love those who have less, and to share what we have. Besides, what we have materialistically is just borrowed anyways.

16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. (Hebrews 13:16 ESV)

Giving to the poor constitutes as sacrifice that God finds pleasing. When we have surplus, this is physically one of the easiest ways to please God, I think. However, it doesn’t always feel easy, and it is a practice that has been declining. Christians now are giving less than they were giving (percentage-wise) during the Great Depression! Jesus talks about how when the righteous serve the lowly, they serve Christ.

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:31-40 ESV)

Scripture reveals that God doesn’t care as much about sacrifices to him as he does treating his people with love.

“Is not this the fast that I choose:

    to loose the bonds of wickedness,

    to undo the straps of the yoke,

to let the oppressed go free,

    and to break every yoke?

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, (Isaiah 58:6-9 ESV)

Jews of this time probably fasted and proclaimed themselves righteous because of it. However, God does not care for their fasting if they treat the lowly like dirt. God’s will is that his people love by action. Scripture shows that when we love our neighbor, we fulfill God’s will.

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. (Romans 13:8 ESV)

Giving to the poor is one thing, but I think that human dignity is even more important than money. Therefore, we should also not just toss money at the homeless, but maybe even stop to chat about life. 

16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. (Romans 12:16 ESV)

We are to associate with those who are poor and lowly and not just treat them like tax write-offs. How can we do this? There are plenty of opportunities to associate with the lowly and poor, even if it means just having a conversation with whoever cleans your office space, or going out to lunch with someone that people think is a tad weird at work. We also have the ability to go downtown, pass out extra clothes and hang out with people near a shelter or somewhere else on the streets.


Whoever despises his neighbor is a sinner,

    but blessed is he who is generous to the poor. (Proverbs 14:21 ESV)

When Jesus was asked to define a neighbor, he gave the parable of the good Samaritan. That’s one you probably know. Let’s treat the poor and lowly like what they are – neighbors. (What does the Bible say about Poverty?)

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