Question: "What does the Bible say about being poor?"

The Bible has a lot to say about being poor. In many places, the Bible portrays poor people as having been blessed, while many who are rich are seen in a negative light. Jesus Himself was poor, not having a home or a place “to lay his head” (Matthew 8:20). The disciples and most of Jesus’ followers were poor, at least in worldly terms, but rich in spiritual wealth. The disciples even left all they had to follow Him, giving up all they owned, placing their full trust in Him to provide what they needed. Jesus said the poor will always be with us (Matthew 26:11). There is no shame in being poor. Our attitude should be that of the writer in Proverbs who said, “Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread” (Proverbs 30:8).

The rich, on the other hand, are generally portrayed negatively in the Bible. Wealth itself is seen as a detriment to those who desire to enter the kingdom of God. Jesus talks a lot about the woes of being rich and the blessings of being poor. For example, in the scene where He interacted with the rich young ruler, He declares: “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” (Mark 10:23). In fact, He repeated this statement in the very next verse to emphasize the reality of what He just said. Why did He make such a shocking statement? Because the rich tend to trust in their “riches” more than in God. Wealth tends to pull us away from God.

The story of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) displays clearly the temporary nature of riches. The rich man enjoyed great luxury in life, but spent eternity in hell because of his greed and covetousness. Lazarus suffered the indignities of extreme poverty, but was comforted in heaven forever. Jesus Himself left His throne in heaven in order to take on the lowly form of a poor man. Paul said of Him, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).

At some point, as Christians we must ask ourselves: What are we really doing here in this temporary place? Where is our heart (Luke 12:34)? Are we really denying ourselves? Are we really giving sacrificially as did the poor widow? To follow Jesus is to take up our cross. This means to literally give our total lives to Him, unencumbered by the riches of this world. As Jesus put it in the parable of the sower, “The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful” (Matthew 13:22).

It is those thorns, “the worries of this life” and the “deceitfulness of wealth,” the not-so-subtle tools of Satan, that lure us away from God and His Word. In essence, the Bible paints for us a vast contrast between those who are poor yet rich in Christ and those who are rich yet without God.