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David Hagni

This paper was written by David Hagni.

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Dave graduated from Rhema Bible Training Center and Oral Roberts University in Tulsa. He holds master's degrees in both divinity and business administration from Regent University.

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Articles > Charismatic Theology > Wealth according to Jesus

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  Central to Old Testament thought on the subject of wealth and poverty is that Yahweh is protector of the poor and needy[4].The commandments listed in Exodus 20 mandate basic human respect. Property rights are also affirmed since the command “Thou shalt not steal” (vs. 15) assumes people have private property to steal. Included in the legal tradition of the Old Testament is the command to “ . . . not deny justice to your poor people in their lawsuits” (Ex. 23:6) and to lend provision to the poor and needy (Deut. 15:7-11). Under the Old Covenant, God’s blessing on a person’s finances was directly tied to his benevolence to the poor (15:10). But what about those who are poor because of debt?

 

  Mosaic Law in Leviticus 25 established the Year of Jubilee to free all debts, return ancestral lands, and free slaves. This provision gave the poor a clean slate to try again to better their lives. This is the setting in which the words were written, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:18), which Jesus quoted as recorded in Matthew 19:19. Love in this context is not essentially a feeling, but concrete acts that meet a person’s need[5].

 

  God as protector of the poor is also found in the writings of the prophets. The prophets, in large part, spoke to the people of Israel who had forsaken the covenant[6].They spoke warnings and judgments to those who held power in order that they would steer the people back to honoring God’s commands. Loyalty to the covenant required social justice and the end of unfair taxation (Amos 5:12), theft of land (Micah 2:1-3), unjust business transactions (Amos 5:12), and the neglect of the poor and needy (Is. 1:17).

 

  An important concept that emerges in the Psalms is the unification of the social aspect of the poor with the religious dimension. In Psalm 82, Asaph argues to defend the weak and fatherless, to maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed, and to rescue the weak and needy (vs. 3,4). Psalm 72:1-4 carries the thought of the poor praying to God for justice in the midst of their poverty. And, there seems to be more at stake than mere material goods in Psalm 35 as David talks to his Lord about the poor and needy (vs. 10). David could well have been financially sound by the time he wrote this Psalm[7].Justice and capital seem to be of equal concern to David as he submits his cause to God.

 

  Some have even gone so far as to suggest the poor and needy are a special class of people that could be called the “pious poor.”[8]These are people poor not because of their own doing but because of becoming legitimate victims of the strong, powerful, and rich. This idea of God defending the pious poor plays heavily in the New Testament in Jesus’ teaching concerning wealth.

 

  The book of Proverbs demonstrates many different views toward wealth and poverty. There is strong rebuke to those who are poor because of laziness, foolishness, or extravagance. Yet, the Lord has sympathy for true victims of injustice and will take up their case (22:22). Proverbs sharply criticizes the rich who oppress the poor (14:31), but – as is the general consensus in the rest of the Old Testament – wealth is seen as a blessing, which is desirable and obtainable if acquired ethically and wisely.

 

  At least four main social groups are addressed in Proverbs including the royal court, the educated urban society, prosperous agricultural workers, and small farmers (the working poor).[9]A synopsis of Proverbs gives three general conclusions.[10]First, the presence in society of a number of poor persons will always remain. It is unfortunate, but, like sickness, poverty is something to which human society is vulnerable. Fortunately, there are measures that can be taken to eliminate or at least minimize sickness – so too poverty. Secondly, the believing community has humanitarian and religious obligations to provide protection for the poor and needy from exploitation. Acts of charity preserve the poor from starvation and exposure. Proverbs does not suggest that complete eradication of poverty is possible or commanded, but rather that assistance should be provided on a limited but caring basis for basic needs.

 

  Thirdly, as mentioned above, Proverbs condones wealth as desirable and possible but warns of its inherent dangers and pitfalls. Wealth should not be sought after at the expense of breaking down one’s body through exhaustion (23:4,5). This is similar to Jesus’ challenge recorded in Matthew 16:26, “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?” In the eighth Proverb wealth is a lower priority to wisdom, yet one of the results of wisdom is wealth. Those who want to increase their financial condition are given practical instructions in Proverbs 1-9 on how to properly climb the social ladder. And other passages in Proverbs remind the prospering to remember the less fortunate along their way to a better life (Prov. 31).

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | Footnotes

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