The Common Good
February 2010

From the Archives: February-March 1974

by Bob Sabath | February 2010

The Bible and the Poor

The Bible’s teaching on wealth is one of the most extensive and clear emphases in all of scripture. The sheer bulk of material is overwhelming. Some have claimed that in terms of number of verses, the subject of wealth and poverty is the second most dominant motif in the Bible, the most dominant being idolatry.

In a quick reading of the New Testament with this theme in mind, I isolated more than 500 verses of direct teaching. This is one out of 16 verses and does not include passages of indirect teaching, such as implications drawn from the actions of Jesus and Paul, or related doctrines that bear on the question. In the gospels, Jesus talks more about this issue than almost any other, including heaven and hell, sexual immorality, or violence. In the synoptics, an amazing one out of 10 verses (288 in all) deal directly with the rich and the poor … Jesus’ concern with the dangers of affluence was not a casual, occasional remark incidental to more important issues of discipleship, but a major emphasis in his teaching …
Not only is the Bible extensive in its teaching on wealth and poverty, but it is uncomfortably clear and plain. There is not the ambiguity and complexity that one finds in some other subjects, as in the “tension” and dynamic balance of apparent opposites that one finds in such doctrines as the New Testament view of the state. The Bible is clearly and emphatically on the side of the poor.

Bob Sabath
was a contributing editor to the Post-American (the original Sojourners) when this article appeared.
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