The words used to describe the Poor, the Orphans, and the Widows have the main meaning of humble, oppressed, needy, weak, and yet it is also means self-reliant and dependent. The impoverished Poor were often those who had been wrongfully oppressed and short of money, those who begged for food or those who had no economic or social status.
Poverty can be caused through idleness, human greed, lack of discipline, rash promises, misfortune, famine, lack of commonsense and sound judgement, and oppression. Poverty affects good people as well as evil-hearted people, and many godly people have been poor, although the blameless often escape genuine poverty. Neediness results in shame and ruin, misery and often results in crime but it need not necessarily lead to ungodliness.
God's promise of care for the Poor, the Orphans, and the Widows has always been a tremendous source of hope during times of severe difficulty. These are the three groups of people of the lower social classes that require protection from the rich and powerful who sometimes abuse them.
God is the safe haven and the deliverer of the Poor, the Orphans, and the Widows. Many of the Poor are identified as the righteous. Those without material possessions or great wealth indicate that this is contrary to what God had intended for His people and those who are destitute are to be treated with special consideration.
In actuality, God's blessings to people were and are not always shared with the Poor, the Orphans, and the Widows and if an unfortunate person was forced into slavery in times gone by because of debts, they were to be treated like a hired employee. The courts were and still are to see that the destitute received just, not favourable or unfavourable treatment.
The prophets predicted the destruction of Judah and Israel in part because of the oppression of the Poor by fellow Israelites. The Old Testament prophets encouraged the people to defend the Poor and instructed the kings to rule with impartiality. God brings judgment because of not caring for the Poor.
The obvious examples of the underprivileged who need to be helped greatly are the Orphans and Widows. God has always had a special tenderly concern for Orphans and Widows. The Civil Old Testament Law provided for the material needs of the Poor, Orphans and Widows who were to be fed from the third year's tithe, from sheaves left forgotten in the fields and from fruit God commanded to be left on the trees and vines. Judgement comes upon those who exploit Orphans.
The needy are to be cared for by Godís people, He expects them not to be oppressed, and God sees taking advantage of them as wickedness.
The prophets of the Old Testament were particularly concerned with the injustice done to Orphans and Widows. God declared that He would be a Father to the Fatherless and provide justice for the Widow.
Jesus condemned the Pharisees for devouring Widows' houses. Jesus was particularly concerned with the Poor. He preached a message of good news to those who were lacking earthly privileges and told parables that encouraged generosity toward the Poor. Jesus did teach that voluntary poverty was for some, but not everyone and love is essential in voluntary poverty.
The early Christians provided for the needs of Poor Widows, and Paul exerted great effort to collect funds for the Poor and Needy because of a famine in Jerusalem. This positive attitude toward the underprivileged was always present among all the early believers.
The condition and hope of the Orphans and Widows among the deprived were the most vulnerable. The Orphan is a fatherless child while the Widow is husbandless. In both cases, no mature male figure defends against unscrupulous persons who would wish to defraud these individuals. Consequently, Biblical legal codes provide for the protection of the rights of the Orphan and the Widow.
The Poor, the Orphans and the Widows were to be included in the celebrations of the worshiping community. In the New Testament; James defined worship acceptable to God as meeting the needs of Orphans and Widows
The image of the needy Orphan without a helper forms the background for Jesus' promise that His disciples would not be left orphans or comfortless. They would not be defenceless since the Holy Spirit would act as their advocate.
The New Testament measured true Christianity character by a person's care for the Orphan and the Widow. Compassion towards the poverty of others will be rewarded. Compassionate actions are seen in the form of the treatment of the Poor, the Orphan and the bereaved Widow. They are not to be neglected or treated unjustly; they are to have special rights and privileges, they are to be cared for and helped generously. God defends their rights and expects His people to do the same.
Although the Poor, Orphans and Widows will always exist their need can be alleviated as well as being encouraged to help themselves to gain employment. Both in the Old and the New Testaments of The Bible, Godís Word teaches that the Poor are expected help themselves when and wherever it is possible. Relatives should be willing helpers and those who are far better off financially should help those in need in whatever ways that are possible.
Spiritual riches are better than material riches. Scripture sees the lack of spiritual riches and gifts as spiritual poverty and it is better to be materially poor and be righteous, humble and have peace. Material riches fade but spiritual riches endure.
Scripture: Deut.10:18, Jer.22:3,Ps.14:5-6, Matt.23:40&11:5,Luke 4:18, Acts 6:1-8, James 2:1-6, 27.
Question: 1] Who are the greatest examples of those who are destitute? 2] What can the status of poverty be caused by? 3] Who did Jesus preach to? 4] What were the actions of the early Christians towards those in need?
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