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What are the Bible’s teachings about the…
poor

Hebrew: עָנִי —transliteration: ani
עָנָו —transliteration: anav
עָנָו —transliteration: anav
עָנִי —transliteration: ani

Meaning: poor, needy or afflicted or humble or meek

Greek: πτωχός —transliteration: ptóchos (ptochos) —meaning: (of one who crouches and cowers, hence) beggarly, poor


The Mosaic laws regarding the poor are important to understand, as they illustrate God’s love and care for those who are impoverished. These were the Creator’s commands to the children of Israel and how the poor in their midst where to be treated. These laws apply to Old Testament times, before the Messiah’s redemption.

  1. GLEANING—The poor had the right to glean the fields (Leviticus 19:9-10; Deuteronomy 24:19; Deu. 24:21).

  2. SABBATICAL YEAR PRODUCE—In the sabbatical year, they were to have their share of the produce of the fields and the vineyards (Exodus 23:11; Leviticus 25:6).

  3. PROPERTY LOST TO DEBT RETURNED—In the year of jubilee, they recovered their property.

    “If a fellow countryman of yours becomes so poor he has to sell part of his property, then his nearest kinsman is to come and buy back what his relative has sold.

    Or in case a man has no kinsman, but so recovers his means as to find sufficient for its redemption, then he shall calculate the years since its sale and refund the balance to the man to whom he sold it, and so return to his property.

    But if he has not found sufficient means to get it back for himself, then what he has sold shall remain in the hands of its purchaser until the year of jubilee; but at the jubilee it shall revert, that he may return to his property.” —Leviticus 25:25-28 NASB

  4. Usury was forbidden.

  5. Pledged clothing was to be returned before the sun went down (Exodus 22:25-27; Deuteronomy 24:10-13).

  6. The rich were to be generous to the poor (Deuteronomy 15:7-11).

  7. DEBT SERVITUDE CANCELATION—In the sabbatical and jubilee years, the bond-servant was to go free (Deuteronomy 15:12-15; Leviticus 25:39-42, 47-54).

  8. Certain portions from the tithes were assigned to the poor (Deut. 14:28-29; 26:12-13).

  9. SHARE IN FEASTS—They shared in the feasts (Deut. 16:11; Deut. 16:14; Neh. 8:10).

  10. QUICK PAYMENT—Wages were to be paid at the close of each day (Leviticus 19:13).

In New Testament times

In the New Testament, we have similar commands given with reference to the poor (Luke 3:11; Acts 6:1; Gal. 2:10).

“…when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind” —Luke 14:13 NASB

“If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,’ and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?” —James 2:15-16 NASB

For a follower of Christ, what is LOVE—a feeling, an emotion, or an action? And what does God say about love? Answer

Begging

Begging was not common under the Old Testament, but it was at the time of Christ and the apostles (Luke 16:20-21, etc.).

But begging in the case of those who are able to work is forbidden, and all such are urged to “work with their own hands” as a Christian duty (1 Thess. 4:11; 2 Thess. 3:7-13; Eph. 4:28).

Figurative poor

The word “poor” is used figuratively in Matthew 5:3; Luke 6:20; 2 Corinthians 8:9; Rev. 3:17.

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Article Version: March 26, 2019