Sunday, June 12, 2011

A Biblical View of Poverty: Cuased by Foolishness

The Scriptures teach us that people can bring poverty on themselves through laziness and greed. The Bible also teaches that another cause of poverty is foolishness. The word foolishness, as used in Scripture, does not mean stupid or mentally dull. A fool is someone who is immoral and pernicious. It is not easy for our modern minds to accept that God's providence has anything to do with one's level of prosperity, but as it says in Psalm 75:6-7
For not from the east or from the west
and not from the wilderness comes lifting up,
but it is God who executes judgment,
putting down one and lifting up another.
Elsewhere in Scripture, God specifically instructs us that poverty can be the result of one's own folly, one's own poor moral decisions. Speaking of the Israelites who came out of Egypt, Psalm 106:13-15 reads "But they soon forgot his works; they did not wait for his counsel. But they had a wanton craving in the wilderness, and put God to the test in the desert; he gave them what they asked, but sent a wasting disease among them."

In Proverbs we are taught that "the mouth of a fool brings ruin near" (Prov.10:14-16) and that "poverty and disgrace come to him who ignores instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is honored" (Prov. 13:18). Additionally, a foolish man "devours" what treasure and oil is in his household (Prov. 21:20), and a woman's folly will destroy her own house (Prov. 14:1).

The bottom line is that a general consequence of foolishness is impoverishment. One reason some people are poor, consequently, is that they ignore God's instruction and they instead lead wanton, profligate lives. A 2004 study by the National Poverty Center, for example, found that substance use and abuse was an important "barrier to self-sufficiency" and hence a contributor to poverty. Again this does not mean that all poor people are immoral and foolish. It is to say that there are often negative economic consequences to foolish behavior.

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