ARE THE POOR RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR OWN POVERTY?

A Bible Study on Economic Justice for Small Discussion Groups

By Jim Jordal

READ ALOUD THE FOLLOWING SCRIPTURES:

I Thess. 2:9:  For you remember, brothers, our labor and travail; for working night and day, that we might not burden any of you, we preached to you the Good News of God.

II Thess. 3:8-11: … neither did we eat bread from anyone's hand without paying for it, but in labor and travail worked night and day, that we might not burden any of you; not because we don't have the right, but to make ourselves an example to you, that you should imitate us. For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: "If anyone will not work, neither let him eat." For we hear of some who walk among you in rebellion, who don't work at all, but are busybodies.

Prov. 6:6-11:   Go to the ant, you sluggard. Consider her ways, and be wise; Which having no chief, overseer, or ruler, Provides her bread in the summer, And gathers her food in the harvest. How long will you sleep, sluggard? When will you arise out of your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, A little folding of the hands to sleep: So your poverty will come as a robber, And your scarcity as an armed man.

Prov. 10:4-5:   He becomes poor who works with a lazy hand, But the hand of the diligent brings wealth.

He who gathers in summer is a wise son, But he who sleeps during the harvest is a son who causes shame.

Prov. 12:11: He who tills his land shall have plenty of bread, But he who chases fantasies is void of understanding.

Prov. 12:24: The hands of the diligent ones shall rule, But laziness ends in slave labor.

Prov. 13:4:  The soul of the sluggard desires, and has nothing, But the desire of the diligent shall be fully satisfied.

Prov. 13:7:  There are some who pretend to be rich, yet have nothing. There are some who pretend to be poor, yet have great wealth.

Prov. 13:23:  An abundance of food is in poor people's fields, But injustice sweeps it away.

Prov. 20:13: Don't love sleep, lest you come to poverty; Open your eyes, and you shall be satisfied with bread.

Prov. 21:17:  He who loves pleasure shall be a poor man: He who loves wine and oil shall not be rich.

Prov. 21:25: The desire of the sluggard kills him, For his hands refuse to labor.

Prov. 22:16: "Whoever oppresses the poor for his own increase and whoever gives to the rich, Both come to poverty"

Prov. 23:21: " For the drunkard and the glutton shall become poor; And drowsiness clothes them in rags.

Prov. 24:30-34: I went by the field of the sluggard, By the vineyard of the man void of understanding; Behold, it was all grown over with thorns. Its surface was covered with nettles, And its stone wall was broken down. Then I saw, and considered well. I saw, and received instruction: A little sleep, a little slumber, A little folding of the hands to sleep; So shall your poverty come as a robber, And your want as an armed man.

Prov. 28:19: One who works his land will have an abundance of food; But one who chases fantasies will have his fill of poverty"

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION:

  1. List some of the reasons given above why people are poor:

a.________________________________________________________________________________

b.________________________________________________________________________________

c.________________________________________________________________________________

d.________________________________________________________________________________

e.________________________________________________________________________________

2. What personal behaviors other than those mentioned can lead to poverty?

  1. What disabilities other than poverty can result from these negative behaviors?
  2. a.________________________________________________________________________________

    b.________________________________________________________________________________

    c.________________________________________________________________________________

  3. Are people who are poor in this manner also poor in spirit? How do you know?
  4. Are there any qualitative differences you can think of between people who are poor because of their own personal failings and those made poor by oppression and injustice?
  5. Is it personal failings that create poverty, or is it systemic and structural injustice, or both? To what extent do you lean toward one or the other?

PRINCIPLES FOR CONSIDERATION:

  1. Personal failings and dysfunctions do result in poverty.
  2. The vast majority of Scriptures, however, support societal factors as the chief causes of poverty.
  3. Social injustice and economic oppression of the suffering many by the fortunate few, and their deliverance by Jesus Christ, constitute the major theme of Scripture.

The church needs to model and advocate against both negative and counterproductive personal behaviors and the structures and systems of societal oppression and injustic

A RICH, POWERFUL KING STEALS A POOR MAN'S PROPERTY

A Bible Study on Economic Justice

By Jim Jordal

READ ALOUD THIS PASSAGE:

 
17 And the word of Jehovah came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, 18 Arise, go down to meet Ahab king of Israel, who dwelleth in Samaria: behold, he is in the vineyard of Naboth, whither he is gone down to take possession of it. 19 And thou shalt speak unto him, saying, Thus saith Jehovah, Hast thou killed and also taken possession? And thou shalt speak unto him, saying, Thus saith Jehovah, In the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick thy blood, even thine. 20 And Ahab said to Elijah, Hast thou found me, O mine enemy? And he answered, I have found thee, because thou hast sold thyself to do that which is evil in the sight of Jehovah. 21 Behold, I will bring evil upon thee, and will utterly sweep thee away and will cut off from Ahab every man-child, and him that is shut up and him that is left at large in Israel: 22 and I will make thy house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah for the provocation wherewith thou hast provoked me to anger, and hast made Israel to sin. 23 And of Jezebel also spake Jehovah, saying, The dogs shall eat Jezebel by the rampart of Jezreel. 24 Him that dieth of Ahab in the city the dogs shall eat; and him that dieth in the field shall the birds of the heavens eat. 25 (But there was none like unto Ahab, who did sell himself to do that which was evil in the sight of Jehovah, whom Jezebel his wife stirred up. 26 And he did very abominably in following idols, according to all that the Amorites did, whom Jehovah cast out before the children of Israel.) 27 And it came to pass, when Ahab heard those words, that he rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his flesh, and fasted, and lay in sackcloth, and went softly. 28 And the word of Jehovah came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, 29 Seest thou how Ahab humbleth himself before me? because he humbleth himself before me, I will not bring the evil in his days; but in his son's days will I bring the evil upon his house.

I Kings 21:17-29 (ASV)

BACKGROUND:

First Kings 21:1-16 details how powerful King Ahab of Israel coveted a small vineyard owned by a landholder named Naboth. Ahab desired the land for a vegetable garden since it was adjacent to palace grounds. He offered either to purchase or trade for the land, but Naboth, citing inheritance strictures, refused. Thus deflated, Ahab returned in desolation to his palace, where he sought solace from Queen Jezebel (Yes, that one). Jezebel, even more wicked than Ahab, contrived a treacherous plot to gain the vineyard by proclaiming a ritual fast for elders and nobles of the city, seating Naboth there in a place of honor, then hiring two nefarious characters to publicly accuse him of treason. As was customary for suspected traitors, Naboth was stoned to death, allowing Jezebel to present Ahab with the coveted

vineyard.

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION:

 

  1. After reading the Scripture above and the background account, what do you think were the motivations of King Ahab? Were his motivations the same as those of Queen Jezebel?
  2. What's the moral or ethical difference between what Ahab and Jezebel did and what occurs today as rich, powerful transnational corporations savage the poor and the earth itself in their craze for ever-increasing growth and profits? Give some examples of this.
  3. What counterpart in the political situation today does Jezebel's strategy to discredit Naboth have?
  4. Why does the modern church not complain more when behavior such as Ahab's occurs?
  5. What does this account teach concerning the role between church and state then? Today?
  6. What was the prophetic role back then? Do we have prophets today? If so, who?
  7. Does the present doctrine of separation of church and state in America preclude such action today.
  8. As a result of this sin, Jezebel was eaten by dogs. What happened to Ahab, and why?
  9. How do people today suffer because of the sins of their leaders? Give examples.
  10. PRINCIPLES FOR CONSIDERATION:

    1. It's unfortunate, but often rich, powerful people either create laws for their own benefit, or go around the law when it forbids what they wish to do.
    2. Scripture considers this type of behavior probably the leading cause of poverty and oppression.
    3. There is a prophetic role for the church today in advocating against injustice.
    4. Charity must be supplemented by advocacy and action if progress is to be made against injustice.

REFERENCES:

I Tim. 6:6-10, 17-19; Jer. 9:23-24; Amos 5:11-12

 

 

PROVERBIAL CONTRASTS BETWEEN RICH AND POOR

A Bible Study Discussion Lesson

by Jim Jordal

INTRODUCTION:

The Proverbs of Solomon (a title, more than an attribution of authorship) offer comparisons and contrasts between personal and group behaviors and life's deepest truths. King Solomon of Israel used his God-given wisdom to compile and administer these bits of philosophy, practical living, and the negative consequences associated with making poor choices. Many of these wise sayings contrast the torments of poverty with the pleasures of wealth, while at the same time promising retribution to the arrogant rich and succor and eventual restitution to the suffering, then and now.

 The concept of poverty as used in Proverbs represents not only financial destitution, but also the social and political marginalization and disenfranchisement associated with it. Conversely, the idea of wealth or riches means not only financial plenty, but also includes the arrogance, indolence, indifference, and generally oppressive behavior exhibited by persons possessing wealth and power toward those less fortunate.

CONTENT: READ ALOUD THESE PASSAGES FROM THE BOOK OF PROVERBS:

Prov. 1:19: "So are the ways of everyone who is greedy for gain; it takes away the life of its owners."

Prov. 3:31: "Do not envy the oppressor, and choose none of his ways; for the perverse person is an abomination to the Lord, but His secret counsel is with the upright."

Prov. 10:15: "The rich man's wealth is his strong city; the destruction of the poor is their poverty."

Prov. 11:4: "Riches do not profit in the day of wrath; but righteousness delivers from death."

Prov. 13:7: "There is one who makes himself rich, yet has nothing; and one who makes himself poor, yet has great riches."

Prov. 13:11: Wealth gained by dishonesty will be diminished; but he who gathers by labor will increase."

Prov. 14:20: "The poor man is hated even by his own neighbor, but the rich has many friends."

Prov. 18:23: "The poor man uses entreaties, but the rich answers roughly."

Prov. 22:7: "The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender."

Prov. 28:8: "One who increases his riches by usury and extortion gathers it for him who will pity the poor."

Prov. 28:27: "He who gives to the poor will not lack, but he who hides his eyes will have many curses."

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:

  1. What basic spiritual principles are evident in these proverbs?
  2. How does greediness for gain take away the life of its owners? (Prov. 1:19).
  3. How do we often "envy the oppressor"? (Prov. 3:31).
  4. What does Prov. 10:15 mean to you?
  5. What is God saying in Prov. 11:4?
  6. What great spiritual principle is illustrated in Prov. 13:7?
  7. What application to present-day business values could you make from Prov. 13:11?
  8. Prov. 14:20 speaks to how money affects social status systems. How does it?
  9. Think of an example from recent events that illustrates Prov. 18:23?
  10. From your own experience, how have you found Prov. 22:7 to be true?
  11. Prov. 28:8 concerns economic justice and redistribution. Why, when, and how?
  12. Consider Prov. 28:27. Do you have faith enough to follow its advice? How?

REFERENCES: No specific ones today. The Mosaic Law, writings of the prophets, and the teachings of Christ all support these truths.

TWO PROPHECIES ON JESUS’ VIEW OF THE POOR AND OPPRESSED

A Bible Study on Economic Justice

By Jim Jordal

CONTENT: READ ALOUD THESE TWO PROPHECIES BY ISAIAH AND MARY, MOTHER OF JESUS:

(1) "There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots. (2) The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord. (3) His delight is in the fear of the Lord, and He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes, nor decide by the hearing of His ears; (4) But with righteousness He shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked. (5) Righteousness shall be the belt of His loins, and faithfulness the belt of His waist."

Isaiah 11:1-5 (NKJV)

(46) And Mary said: My soul magnifies the Lord, (47) and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. (48) For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; for behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed. (49) For He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name. (50) And His mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation. (51) He has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud in the imaginations of their hearts; (52) He has put down the mighty from their thrones; And exalted the lowly. (53) He has filled the hungry with good things; And the rich He has sent away empty.

The Magnificat of Mary, Luke 1:46-53 (NKJV)

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION:

ISAIAH’S PROPHECY:

  1. Who is being spoken of? How do you know?
  2. According to verses 3 and 4, what criteria will the Rod or Branch use to judge the earth?
  3. Think of some ways that Christ might "judge" the poor should He appear on earth today (v. 4).
  4. How might the earth be struck with the "rod of His mouth"?
  5. How might Jesus slay the wicked with the "breath of His lips"?
  6. Do these passages present the Jesus we commonly hear about? Why, or why not?

MARY’S PROPHECY (THE MAGNIFICAT)

  1. What are some "imaginations of the proud" that Christ will scatter?
  2. What could possibly occur to "put down the mighty from their thrones"? Is this happening anywhere today?
  3. Are the lowly being exalted anywhere on earth? If so, where, and how?
  4. Are the hungry today being "filled with good things"? If so, what?
  5. Is Mary speaking of good things spiritually, or of good things materially for the poor?
  6. What might Mary mean when she says Christ will "send the rich away empty"?

GENERAL QUESTIONS:

  1. These two prophecies were uttered over 1,000 years apart by vastly different people. What similarities
  2. do you find in them?

  3. Using what you know about Christ and Christian history, to what extent do you believe these

prophecies have already been fulfilled? What do you think is still to come?

PRINCIPLES FOR CONSIDERATION:

  1. Jesus is not all sweetness and light! He also stands for and promises righteousness and justice in political, social, and economic arenas.
  2. Christ's earthly millennial kingdom will bring these benefits to earth. Meanwhile, we are to teach and administer justice, truth, and mercy wherever possible.

REFERENCES: James 5:1-6; Isa. 32:16-17; Isa. 49:8-9; Isa. 61:1-3; Matt. 6:19-33

THE PROPHET AMOS ATTACKS MONSTROUS ECONOMIC EVIL

A Bible Study on Economic Justice 

By Jim Jordal

BACKGROUND: Amos, whose name means "burden bearer") was not of noble or priestly descent, but was an agricultural worker from Tekoa, a small village about 10 miles from Jerusalem. Called to deliver God’s message mainly to the northern tribes of Israel, he spoke eloquently and forcefully concerning the rampant idolatry and economic injustice prevalent in society of that time. Note: The New Moon mentioned was a feast day on which all work or commerce was prohibited, as was the case on all Sabbaths. The phrase "selling the bad wheat" refers to creating economic conditions of scarcity and poverty under which bad wheat filled with chaff or other impurity could be sold as good wheat, for the same or even higher price.

CONTENT: READ ALOUD AMOS 8:4-6:

Hear this, you who swallow up the needy,

And make the poor of the land fail,

Saying:

"'When will the New Moon be past, that we may sell grain?

And the Sabbath, that we may trade wheat?

Making the ephah small and the shekel large,

Falsifying the scales by deceit,

That we may buy the poor for silver,

And the needy for a pair of sandals---

Even sell the bad wheat?"

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION:

  1. What unjust market practices at that time was Amos complaining about?
  2. What did Amos indicate was the intent or goal of these practices?
  3. What modern market practices might Amos complain about if he lived today?
  4. In the larger sense, how are the "scales" often falsified today?
  5. Scripture speaks often of just weights and measures. Could inflation and deflation be examples of unjust measures? How?
  6. In the U. S. the Federal Reserve System instigates monetary policy. What does this mean?
  7. How can modern monetary policy create situations where the "shekel" becomes large? (Think "tight" money).
  8. Can you name any historic examples of this? With what effects?
  9. How does easy credit and debt threaten the middle and lower classes?
  10. It sounds as if Amos thinks these damaging policies are created deliberately. Are they today?
  11. What does God say concerning foreclosure for debt? ( See Lev. 25 and Nehemiah 5.1-8).

PRINCIPLES FOR CONSIDERATION:

  1. Manipulating markets (money, goods, or services) to create poverty or oppress people is sinful.
  2. Never should government or its quasi-institutions be used for oppressive purposes.
  3. "Tight" money has in past times served to oppress the poor.
  4. The Bible opposes usury (interest) because it transfers wealth from debtor to creditor.
  5. The Bible places strict limits on foreclosure for debt of homesteads and needed personal property.

REFERENCES: Lev. 25, Neh. 5, Ps. 10:8-11, Prov. 11:1, Prov. 28:8, Isa. 10:1-2, Deut. 23:19-20, Deut. 25:13-15.