Assisting the Poor and Needy


We often hear stories about programs for assisting the poor and needy. Some of those stories show the success of such plans. Others show how the system fails and is even abused.

An internet search for “solving the welfare problem in America” produces lots of information on this topic. Here’s one:

When President Lyndon Johnson launched the War on Poverty, he said that it was intended to strike “at the causes, not just the consequences of poverty.” He added, “Our aim is not only to relieve the symptom of poverty, but to cure it and, above all, to prevent it.”

Five decades and $24 trillion later, the welfare system has failed the poor. Poverty rates remain stagnant, and self-sufficiency languishes.

Today the federal government operates roughly 80 means-tested welfare programs that provide cash, food, housing, medical care, and social services to poor and lower-income Americans. Total federal, state, and local government spending on these programs now reaches over $1 trillion annually.

The cost of welfare is unsustainable, and pouring dollars into an ever-increasing number of welfare programs has failed to improve rates of self-sufficiency. It is time to get welfare spending under control and to reform welfare to encourage self-reliance and human thriving in the context of community.

In addition, in one of my computer files I found these statements on this topic, written by an unknown author from an obviously conservative perspective:

  1. You cannot legislate the poor into prosperity by legislating the wealthy out of prosperity.
  2. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving.
  3. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.
  4. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it!
  5. When half the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that is the beginning of the end of any nation.

These statements may seem a bit harsh and surely do not tell the whole story of human need and how it can be met. Yet governmental, religious, and other public or private agencies need to assist the poor responsibly to avoid harming both givers and receivers.

The Bible says: “There will always be some in the land who are poor…Share freely with the poor and with other Israelites in need.” (Deut. 15:11 – NLT)

The Bible also says: “If any would not work, neither should he eat.” (2 Thess. 3:10 – KJV)

If a poor person is truly unable to work, we who have been abundantly blessed have a duty to assist. If a poor person is truly able to work, to rely on external assistance is hard to justify.


The World’s Wealthiest

Credit:  Sufi Nawaz

Credit: Sufi Nawaz

The January 21, 2014 Austin American Statesman published an article by Matthew Schofield citing a report issued by the British-based anti-poverty charity Oxfam. It stated that the richest 85 people in the world own half the world’s wealth.

The report’s observation was that “the world’s poorest 3.55 billion people must live on what the richest 85 possess.” It also reported that “the wealth of the one percent of the richest people in the world amounts to $110 trillion.” That number looks like this: $110,000,000,000,000.

In addition, a March 3, 2014 report by Forbes Magazine identified the world’s richest people, stating that there are 1,645 billionaires in the world, “with an aggregate net worth of $6.4 trillion.” You know what that number looks like. There are 172 women billionaires, up from 138 last year.

A net worth of $31 billion was needed to make the top 20, up from $23 billion last year. The U.S. had the most billionaires with 492, followed by China with 152 and Russia with 111.

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, 58, topped the list with an estimated net worth of $76 billion. As of May 16, 2013, Gates had donated $28 billion to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, established “Globally, to enhance healthcare and reduce extreme poverty, and in America, to expand educational opportunities and access to information technology.”

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, 29, “was the biggest gainer in 2013, with his fortune jumping $15.2 billion to $28.5 billion.” Reports are that Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, were the most generous American philanthropists in 2013. They contributed 18 million Facebook shares worth $990 million to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, which its Web site says exists to “build and energize a community of philanthropists who strengthen the common good.”

If you or I had anywhere near that level of wealth, we might choose charitable recipients quite different from those noted above. There are many charitable endeavors with both temporal and eternal impact. They are worthy of our generous support!

Six truths come to mind from these two reports:
1.  Many people in the world live in abject poverty. A few possess unimaginable wealth.
2.  Everything we have comes from God and really belongs to him, not to us. (1 Cor. 10:6)
3.  We brought nothing into this world and we will take nothing out of it. (1 Tim. 6:7)
4.  We are simply managers of whatever God entrusts to our care. (Matt. 25:14-30)
5.  Jesus tells us to feed the hungry and to clothe the naked. (Matt. 25:31-46)
6.  He also says, “To whom much is given, of him much is required.” (Luke 12:48)

Some of the world’s wealthiest understand these truths. Others probably have no clue. The same could be said of most of us whose wealth is measured not in trillions but in other treasures from our heavenly Father’s bountiful hand. Some of us understand our privilege and responsibility. Others don’t. May God help us to increase the numbers of those who do!