Good News for the Poor
The New Testament repeatedly and clearly calls on Christians to share their wealth with the poor (Hays 466). Because all humans are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26), we are required to care for one another and ensure each has their basic needs met. It is each person’s right to have his or her basic needs met. A failure on the part of the wealthy to care for the poor is to defraud the poor of what is rightfully theirs (Tuininga 227). It is their right, not on the basis of the Gospel, but of the created order (228). Individuals own property in order to steward it and use it on behalf of the common good, especially that of the poor (Aquinas 204).
Government has a particular responsibility to ensure justice for the poor (Tuininga 230). Yet the public sphere is limited in addressing the needs of the poor. Government intervention into the economic system in order to promote greater equality is expensive and slows down economic growth (Gregg 49). It also cannot address the true reason for human greed: a breakdown in the relationship between humanity and God (Tuininga 229). Only in the Kingdom of God can true justice and equity among persons be actualized. The Church, as the means by which the Holy Spirit brings the Kingdom into the present age, has a mission to care for the poor (232). The early Church established the office of deacon to specifically care for the material needs of the poor (Acts 6:1-7). The Church’s service does not nullify government, nor does it address all issues of injustice in the present (Tuininga 234). It reflects a change amongst Christians “by the Word and Spirit such that love and liberality are increasingly becoming community virtues” (235). The New Testament narrative shows this playing out in the call to “sell everything you have and give to the poor” (Mark 10:21) or in the radical generosity of Zacchaeus who gives half of his goods to the poor (Luke 19:1-10; Hays 465).
Ahearn, David Oki., and Peter R. Gathje. Doing Right and Being Good: Catholic and Protestant Readings in Christian Ethics. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2005.
Greeg, Samuel. Economic Thinking for the Theologically Minded. University Press of America, 2001.
Hays, Richard B. The Moral Vision of the New Testament. New York, NY: HarperOne, 1996.