Sunday, June 5, 2011

A Biblical View of Poverty: Caused by Greed

Thursday, I began examining the various causes of poverty as outlined in the Bible. I cited E. Calvin Beisner who did the heavy lifting documenting that God's Word indicates that poverty is often self-caused. It is the natural consequence of the actions that lead to poverty. Thursday I provided scriptural evidence showing that laziness is one source of self-caused poverty.

Another source of poverty people bring on themselves is greed. This may seem paradoxical at first, because it would be natural to think that greedy people would be anything but poor as they fill their bank accounts with cash by always grasping for more. In Jeremiah 6:12-13 the weeping prophet communicates judgement on those greedy for unjust gain and as a result, they would have their homes turned over to others.

In Proverbs we are taught that greedy people trouble their own homes (Prov. 15:27). This is partly because greed often results in poverty. "A stingy man hastens after wealth and does not know that poverty will come upon him" (Prov. 28:22).

As Charles Bridges notes,
And how often in our own day, has greediness of gain plunged whole families into misery by ruinous speculations! For where the enriching blessing of God is not desired or sought, we cannot wonder that it is withheld!
In Habakuk 2, the prophet contrasts the righteous who shall live by faith with the idolatrous Chaldeans.  He pronounces woe against those who seek to enrich themselves through injustice. Habakuk proclaims
“Woe to him who heaps up what is not his own—
for how long?—
and loads himself with pledges!”

Will not your debtors suddenly arise,
and those awake who will make you tremble?
Then you will be spoil for them.

Because you have plundered many nations,
all the remnant of the peoples shall plunder you,
for the blood of man and violence to the earth,
to cities and all who dwell in them.

“Woe to him who gets evil gain for his house,
to set his nest on high,
to be safe from the reach of harm!

You have devised shame for your house
by cutting off many peoples;
you have forfeited your life.

For the stone will cry out from the wall,
and the beam from the woodwork respond.
Habakuk here makes it clear that the Chaldeans who made a practice of heaping up what was not their own, placed themselves in debt, plundered nations, obtained dishonest ("evil") gain so as to become financially secure actually were devising shame and economic spoliation for themselves and their households. Some even forfeited their own lives. 

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