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What does the Bible say about being homeless / homelessness?


 

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Question: "What does the Bible say about being homeless / homelessness?"

Answer:
The Bible acknowledges the fact of homelessness and instructs us to help those who are poor and needy, including those in homeless situations.

Jesus could identify with the homeless in His itinerant ministry. In Matthew 8:20, Jesus states that even animals have a place to call home, but He had nowhere to lay His head. He stayed in the homes of whoever would welcome Him and sometimes outside. He was born in a stable and even spent His last night before His crucifixion outside in a garden. The apostle Paul was also at times in a homeless situation (1 Corinthians 4:11).

God expects His people to help those who are homeless. The Law directly addressed care for those in need. In Leviticus 25:35 God commands His people to help support those who have no home and cannot support themselves: “If any of your fellow Israelites become poor and are unable to support themselves among you, help them as you would a foreigner and stranger, so they can continue to live among you” (see also Deuteronomy 15:7–11). The Lord rebuked those who kept the outward form of religion yet did not care for the poor: “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: . . . to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” (Isaiah 58:6–7).

The book of wisdom, Proverbs, lays down the principle of giving to the poor and attaches it to a blessing: “Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward them for what they have done” (Proverbs 19:17). Those who refuse to help the poor will find themselves on the losing end: “Those who give to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to them receive many curses” (Proverbs 28:27).

In the New Testament, Jesus and His disciples regularly gave to the poor (see John 13:29), and Jesus commands that we follow His example and also care for the poor: “Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you” (Matthew 5:42). As James points out, talk is cheap; our talk (and our faith) must be accompanied by action: “Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?” (James 2:15–16).

The Bible does not shy away from the difficult and unpleasant reality that some people have experienced terrible setbacks and hardships in their lives, even to the point of becoming destitute. The Bible recognizes that poverty, social injustice, and homelessness are real problems that constantly plague society (Mark 14:7). The Bible teaches that we are to be radically different from the world in how we view and treat our neighbors. In fact, we should go out of our way to provide for the homeless and others in need, trusting God to reward us in His time. Our Lord said, “When you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous” (Luke 14:13–14).

Because God created all people in His image (Genesis 1:27), everyone, regardless of social status or economic limitations, has intrinsic worth. Oppressing or exploiting those who are weaker or poorer than we are is wickedness. From cover to cover, Scripture says that we should show generosity, compassion, kindness, and mercy in practical, tangible ways. Even our Lord Jesus “did not come to be served but to serve” (Mark 10:45).

Recommended Resource: Homeless at Harvard: Finding Faith and Friendship on the Streets of Harvard Square by John Frame


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