The United States is by far the wealthiest and most self-sufficient nation on earth, yet poverty remains a problem.
Since January 1964, our nation has spent nearly TWENTY-FIVE TRILLION DOLLARS in Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty.” It might surprise you to know that the poverty rate in America today is not only unchanged but that fewer people are capable of self-sufficiency than when the war began.
In today’s text, Jesus rebuffs His disciples for criticizing the woman who broke her alabaster box and anointed Him. “It should have been sold and given to the poor” was the cry of Judas Iscariot (John 12:4-5). But he said this not because he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and stole from the money given to Jesus and His disciples for their ministry (John 12:6).
The Lord’s response? “There will always be poor people.”
The war on poverty may have had noble intentions (which is certainly debatable), but it was wrongheaded and misguided. Poverty will never be eliminated for several reasons.
Some people are poor because they are lazy. “The desire of the lazy man kills him, for his hands refuse to labor” (Prov 21:25). The lazy man’s field is overgrown in weeds; its wall is broken down, and by love of sleep and loathing of labor poverty awaits to overtake him like a prowler (Prov 24:30-34).
Some people are poor because of misfortune or tragedy. God gave Israel specific instructions on helping the orphaned and widow (Lev 19:9; Deut 24:19-22).
Some people are poor because of bad management, “There is much food in the fallow land of the poor, and for lack of judgment there is waste” (Prov 13:23).
Christians should be alert and avail themselves to help those who are truly in need. Through these means the name of God is glorified (Matt 5:13-16; 2 Cor 9:10-14) But the idea that poverty will be solved through the confiscation of the labors of others and given away like water to the indolent is simply wrong (2 Thes 3:10; Eph 4:28; Gen 3:19).