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Nearly 2,000 years ago, Jesus Christ uttered words that have proven true throughout the history of man: “For you have the poor with you always” (Mark 14:7).
Philanthropists, charities, relief agencies, governments and popular movements alike have struggled to stamp out poverty. Religions of virtually every belief have called for adherents to assist the poor. In the wealthier nations of the world, food banks exist to feed the disadvantaged. Governments, from federal to local, have set up programs to house the unemployed and those who live paycheck to paycheck. The “Great Society” of the 1960s spent multiple millions of dollars as America waged war on poverty.
Sadly, poverty “won.”
Still, the destitute living in the United States, Britain, Australia, Canada and other prosperous nations of the West nearly live like royalty in the eyes of millions trapped in the living nightmare of day-to-day existence in developing regions—Third World nations in which refrigerators and indoor plumbing are practically nonexistent and brutal regimes are a way of life.
Again, why did Christ say, “For you have the poor with you always”?
Because all the programs, policies, efforts and good intentions have been implemented with manmade solutions.
Governments have created public housing developments for the jobless and working poor, crowding them in low-quality living conditions built by contractors of the lowest bids. Third and fourth generations have come and gone, yet the same families remain trapped in “the projects,” urban environments where substance abuse, single-mother families, teen pregnancies and gang activity are the norm. And where young minds who strive to acquire an education, and desire to escape society’s bottom rung, keep their dreams and aspirations secret, lest they fall under the suspicion and scorn of their peers, whose only goal is to “make it through the day.” No wonder the public housing developments that were once new and clean are now dilapidated and filthy, victims of graffiti, trash and vandalism, and of carelessness, ignorance, shortsightedness and despair.
Politicians, advocates and policymakers have worked to help the economically disadvantaged: programs for first-time home buyers (for both the lower and middle class); subsidized housing for the working poor; rent control for high cost-of-living cities such as New York and San Francisco. However, these efforts are akin to applying a small bandage to a gaping gunshot wound: They only slow the “bleed” of perpetual poverty. Society is far from being healed.
Why? “For you have the poor with you always.”
Efforts to aid the homeless are commendable. But giving money to panhandlers—donating shopping carts for the homeless—relaxing municipal laws so that vagrants can loiter wherever they please, without “harassment” from authorities—calling the homeless “displaced”—only serves to ease the collective conscience of the social order. They ultimately do nothing to eradicate poverty from existence.
Let’s face it, America has long been—and still is!—the land of opportunity. In what other nation could a descendant of slaves and a witness to the atrocities of “Jim Crow” grow up to become a classically trained pianist, a professor at Stanford University, and the U.S. Secretary of State, personally representing the global interests of the world’s greatest superpower? In what other country could a college dropout go on—through initiative, innovation and ingenuity—to become the wealthiest human being on the planet?
Yet despite the opportunities America offers—to acquire a free education, to pursue a lucrative career, to build one’s own business, to worship without government persecution—its citizens have been weaned on the belief that housing, healthcare, the minimum wage and other entitlements are “rights.” The U.S. is now, in effect, a “mommy state” whose adult children still live at home, refusing to grow up, and insisting on being taken care of—from womb to tomb!
We “have the poor with [us] always” because human beings have failed to recognize there are two opposing ways of life. For 6,000 years, mankind has lived according to the way of self-knowledge, with each man deciding for himself how he and others should live. History—its infamous record of wars, coups, monopolies, corruption, depravity and ineffective governments—stands as a witness to the way of men.
Consider a passage from the book of Proverbs, renowned for being a treasure-trove of wisdom: “As the bird by wandering, as the swallow by flying, so the curse causeless shall not come” (Prov. 26:2). In other words, life does not “just happen”—there is a cause for every effect!
Again there are two ways of life. Man has long practiced the way of self-knowledge, but has rejected—and thus cut himself off from—the way of true knowledge, and subsequent direction, instruction and blessings, from his Creator.
In Hosea 4:6, God declares, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge”—HIS knowledge—the laws, statutes, judgments and overarching spiritual principles that would teach all peoples, small and great, to exercise vision, to plan ahead, organize, and apply due diligence and discretion, training them how to get out of poverty—or how to avoid it altogether!
Yet man insists on having his own way, which is founded upon fulfilling personal lusts and greed at the expense of others: “You lust, and have not: you kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: you fight and war, yet you have not, because you ask not. You ask, and receive not, because you ask amiss, that you may consume it upon your lusts” (Jms. 4:2-3).
Man’s history—its governments, systems, cultures and societies—is written in blood, caked in many layers. The end-result? A dying world in which the socio-economic gap between the “have’s” and the “have not’s” widens without end.
In his March 2008 election-season essay, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer David Mamet wrote the following:
“I took the liberal view for many decades, but I believe I have changed my mind.
“As a child of the 60s, I accepted as an article of faith that government is corrupt, that business is exploitative, and that people are generally good at heart.
“These cherished precepts had, over the years, become ingrained as increasingly impracticable prejudices.”
“And, I wondered, how could I have spent decades thinking that I thought everything was always wrong at the same time that I thought…that people were basically good at heart? Which was it? I began to question what I actually thought and found that I do not think that people are basically good at heart; indeed, that view of human nature has both prompted and informed my writing for the last 40 years. I think that people, in circumstances of stress, can behave like swine, and that this, indeed, is not only a fit subject, but the only subject, of drama.
“I’d observed that lust, greed, envy, sloth, and their pals are giving the world a good run for its money, but that nonetheless, people in general seem to get from day to day; and that we in the United States get from day to day under rather wonderful and privileged circumstances—that we are not and never have been the villains that some of the world and some of our citizens make us out to be, but that we are a confection of normal (greedy, lustful, duplicitous, corrupt, inspired—in short, human) individuals…”
“What about the role of government? Well, in the abstract, coming from my time and background, I thought it was a rather good thing, but tallying up the ledger in those things which affect me and in those things I observe, I am hard-pressed to see an instance where the intervention of the government led to much beyond sorrow.”
Even a self-described “child of the 60s,” who for decades believed that government policies and initiatives can solve society’s problems, can come to see that the governments of men are, at the very heart, driven by human nature—which, like King Midas’ touch in reverse, ultimately corrupts all that it handles. To take license with an old adage, “The road to oblivion is paved with the good intentions of the carnal mind.”
Take, for instance, a hard look at the rapidly crumbling state of the family unit. This foundational building block of every thriving society is eroding, chipped away by the “Do what feels good” philosophy of human misconduct: rampant adultery and teenage promiscuity—and subsequent “quickie divorces,” unwanted pregnancies and abortions.
Regarding man’s nature, the apostle James, a brother of Jesus, asked a series of questions: “Does a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? Either a vine, figs? So can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh” (Jms. 3:11-12).
“But the tongue,” he observed, “can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceeds blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be” (vs. 8-10).
Carnal nature will lead political candidates to attack each other’s record and character without mercy. Yet that same mindset will suddenly “find a conscience” in the one who is elected, leading him or her to “fight for the good of the common man.”
The words people use, particularly in times of severe trial, reveal one’s inner being. “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: these are the things which defile a man” (Matt. 15:18-20).
Man’s nature—its proclivity to judge for itself right from wrong—has created a world in which destitution thrives. Partly, this is because those trapped in poverty are ignorant of the laws and principles that would free them from their circumstances. And partly because the “have not’s” have fallen victim to the callous whims and insatiable appetites of the “have’s.” Both cases are the handiwork of man’s nature.
But man was not born with carnal nature—it is acquired. (Our booklet Did God Create Human Nature? provides further detailed explanation.) Unless that nature is changed—from the “get” way of selfishness, vanity, greed and competition, to the “give” way of selflessness, service, moderation and cooperation—solutions founded upon human reasoning will fail. The rich will continue to get richer, and the poor, poorer. Government programs and non-profit organizations can address the effect, but are ignorant of how to identify the true cause.
There is another way.
A future government is on the horizon. It will administer perfect laws that will deliver equity to all nations, lands and peoples—but this will not be accomplished by the hands of carnal men. That worldwide supergovernment—the kingdom of God!—will be ordered and established “with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever” (Isa. 9:7).
Ancient Israel, when it was obedient to the One who miraculously delivered the slave nation out of Egypt, was to be a model nation, a type or forerunner of God’s kingdom. When the Israelites faithfully obeyed their Maker, they lived by laws that helped the poor and needy.
Year of Release: Leviticus 25 and Deuteronomy 15 record laws regarding creditors and debtors, and explain that those in need could borrow to pay for necessities—not desires. Loans were to be repaid; if, at the end of six years, they were not paid in full, the lender forgave the borrower of the debt—giving him a clean slate (Deut. 15:1-11).
God’s Year of Release, a way of providing debt relief, included the return of any land or farm that may have been mismanaged and confiscated. This was God’s way of ensuring that poverty did not plague a family generation after generation.
In the coming millennial rule of Jesus Christ, the Year of Release will arrive every seventh year, ensuring that every child will have a home, and every family will live without financial worries. All people will be happy, helping each other and showing mercy and brotherly love toward fellowman. Every debt will be gone. All will pay God His tithes (Mal. 3:8-10), and in turn have all their needs provided for them. People will then wonder why so many did not keep His laws before. They will come to realize that the only luxury—necessity—worth anything is that of true happiness and abundant living as God has always had in store for mankind.
Jubilee Year: Every 50th year—the year of Jubilee—all land in Israel was to revert to its original owners, again eliminating third and fourth generation poverty.
Gleaning: God established laws that allowed the fatherless, widows, and foreigners living among the Israelites to follow behind the workers who reaped the harvest, and collect the grain that was left for them, called gleaning (Lev. 19:9-10; 23:22; Deut. 24:19-21).
Just as God had mercy on His people Israel and delivered them from Egypt, He expected them to have mercy on the poor. But instead of simply giving them the food, God expected the needy to gather it for themselves. In this way, they would appreciate God’s merciful ways and not take them for granted.
Tithing: Obedience to God involves recognizing that He owns the earth and everything in it (Psa. 24:1; 50:10-12; Hag. 2:8). This means He owns everything we possess—it all belongs to Him! But God desires to share His creation and its resources with others. All He requires is 10%—a tithe—of the income of one’s labor. God promises to bless those who obey His tithing law.
This tithe is used to support the Work of God, which involves preaching the good news of His kingdom to all nations (Matt. 24:14). This is being accomplished through The Real Truth magazine and its website: rcg.org/realtruth.
Rather than giving them money, Jesus said that He gave the gospel to the poor (Matt. 11:5; Luke 4:18; 7:22). This “good news” message of hope is also a way of life—it is to be obeyed (I Pet. 4:17). Those who believe Christ’s true gospel (as opposed to the popular false gospel about Christ) will reap bountiful benefits—both in this life and especially in the world to come.
God also requires another tithe from His servants, to be paid every third year (not including the Year of Release). He commanded this of ancient Israel: “At the end of three years you shall bring forth all the tithe of your increase the same year, and shall lay it up within your gates: and the Levite, (because he has no part nor inheritance with you,) and the stranger [foreigners], and the fatherless, and the widow, which are within your gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied; that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do” (Deut. 14:28-29).
God’s solution to helping the poor makes sense! His laws, which are founded on outgoing concern for others, teach personal responsibility, both to those in need and those who have the means to provide their needs. God’s statutes and judgments train the obedient to exercise vision and plan ahead—to organize and apply diligence—to “count the cost” and never forget the principle of “cause and effect.”
The world of today rejects these laws—yet they will be taught and faithfully practiced by all in the world to come. And only then will perpetual poverty be eliminated.