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Social Issues: Poverty

What is the Christian response to poverty?


The UK is one of the world’s wealthiest nations. It may feel as though money can be tight for us at times, but the fact that so many people own cars, have bank accounts and can readily purchase food from the supermarket means that people in the UK can class themselves as ‘rich’ when compared to much of the world. A quick look at some statistics may help put things in perspective:

  • Enough food is produced globally to feed everyone and yet about 1 in 8 people in the world go hungry every day. That's more than the EU and USA populations combined.
  • Nearly 10 million children under the age of five die each year, mostly from preventable illnesses such as diarrhea and malaria.
  • 780 million people without clean water and 2.5 billion without access to a basic toilet. As a result, every 20 seconds, a child under the age of five dies because of diarrhea, an entirely preventable disease. (Statistics: Tearfund, 2013)

In the UK, every child has access to free education. But in many countries around the world, education costs money. Families may not be able to afford school fees, or can only afford to send some of their children to school, usually boys, rather than girls.

Even if schooling is free, the family may need their children to go out to work instead, otherwise, there would be no money to eat and to live. When we are ill, we can get a free appointment with a doctor and get treated for free. But in many LEDC countries, if people get sick they may not be able to afford the medicine to make them better. As a result, people die unnecessarily from diseases which we in the UK could take a pill for.

Also, natural disasters are increasingly taking their toll. Many countries in Africa, Asia, and South America feel the effects of global warming through increased numbers of droughts or floods, leading to famine. And increasingly, it’s the consequences of a lot of simple choices we make in the West that make a difference. Our decision whether to take the car for a short journey may not seem a big deal to us, but could ultimately mean more bad harvests for those whose weather systems are impacted by increased carbon emissions.

There are many Christian organisations that work to alleviate poverty around the world. Here just several examples, click on each link to find out more information:

What do Christians believe about wealth and poverty? These issues are what the Bible refers to as ‘justice’ issues. It teaches that people should not be living in poverty and need – and certainly not as a result of another person’s irresponsible or unfair actions, or their failure to help. A lot of the books written by prophets in the Old Testament (e.g. Isaiah, Amos and Micah) show God as being angry that His people are not doing their duty towards the poor. The Micah Challenge aims to mobilise Christians to live up to this calling. The Bible also has a lot to say about the use of money. Whether people are rich or poor, the Bible teaches that everyone should act responsibly with the resources and opportunities that they have.  Christians believe that they have a responsibility to show God's love by helping all in need, because they are doing it for God himself.  Giving should be in proportion to a person's wealth, so that the rich have a greater responsibility before God to be generous. The Bible is not against wealth and Christians do not regard being rich as being a wrong thing in itself. After all in order to meet the needs of others, wealthy Christians are needed. The Bible does not condemn wealthy people for being rich but encourages them to give their lives in faith to God, and ask His guidance in the way they use their success, their profits and also how they run their business or organisation. It isn't money but 'the love of money that is the root of all evil.' (l Timothy 6:10). Jesus talks about serving God before money. If you love God wholeheartedly, this love will change the way you see who you are, what you have and what you can offer others in turn.