Summary: The poor have a special place in God’s heart, and God expects His people to remember and respond appropriately to the poor.
A. As you know, I like the Peanuts cartoons.
1. In one cartoon, Lucy approaches Charlie Brown with a piece of paper and a pen, and says, “Here sign this. It absolves me from all blame.”
2. Then she goes to Shroeder with the same paper and says, “Here, sign this. It absolves me from all blame.”
3. Finally, she comes to Linus: “Here, sign this. It absolves me from all blame.”
4. As Lucy walks away, Linus says, “Gee, that must be a nice document to have!”
B. Today I want us to talk about poverty.
1. Like Lucy in the Peanuts comic strip, some people think we can just absolve themselves from the subject. “Gee, that would be a nice document to have!”
2. “Why talk about this subject?” you might ask.
3. First of all, because it is a subject that God addresses in His Word, perhaps as much or more than any other subject (except salvation). Some have counted 3000 verses dealing with poverty.
4. And secondly, because this time of the year is one when many do focus on the needs of the poor.
5. There are Christmas tree projects in stores where you can buy gifts for the needy, there are places to donate toys, and of course, there are the red Salvation Army kettles scattered about.
6. It’s a great time to talk about this subject that is so close to God’s heart.
7. So, let’s try to ask and answer several important questions.
I. Question #1: Who Are The Poor?
A. Just who are we talking about when we talk about the poor?
1. I think there are at least two answers to that question.
B. First, there are billions of people living in extreme poverty in other parts of the world.
1. There are 6 billion people on this planet, and more than 1 billion of them (17%) live on less than a dollar a day.
2. 50% of the world’s population struggle to survive on less than $2.00 per day.
3. 11 million children die each year, most under the age of five and more than 6 million from completely preventable causes like malaria, diarrhea and pneumonia.
4. 114 million children do not attend primary school.
5. More than 1 billion people do not have access to safe water and over 2 billion lack access to basic sanitation.
6. So, that’s a snap shot of the first group of the poor – the billions that live in extreme poverty in other parts of the world.
C. The second group of poor are the millions who live in poverty our country.
1. There are people living in our country, and right here in our community who are in need.
2. Now compared to the poor around the world, the poor in our country might be considered incredibly rich, and yet they are in real need.
3. They are often oppressed and exploited, and many are homeless and hungry.
4. The people who fall into this group are often single parents, the disabled, the elderly, the long term unemployed, and the working poor.
5. The “working poor” is a term used to describe individuals and families who maintain regular employment but remain in relative poverty due to low levels of pay and dependent expenses.
6. According to the U.S. Government Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 6.4 million working poor in the year 2000.
7. By 2003, the number had grown to 7.4 million.
8. An article in Business Week magazine said a more accurate figure would be 28 million. They would count those at least 18 years old who are employed and making less than $9.04 an hour, which is a full-time salary of $18,800 per year.
9. It does no good to argue about figures - whose numbers are right?
10. We know that in reality there are many workers without marketable skills who face low wages, economic exploitation, and unpleasant working conditions.
11. We know that it is very difficult for them to escape their personal and economic situations.
12. We know that in many cases, they are working multiple part-time jobs and that benefits like medical insurance and retirement plans are not available to them.
13. The point that I want to make is that not all the poor are the homeless, and the unemployed.
14. A recent article I clipped from a local paper said that “the hunger statistics in the Central New York area are staggering. Forty-one percent of the hungry are children, and 8 percent are seniors. More than half have a family member who works, but more than half also earn less than $10,000 a year for the entire household. And it’s not just the uneducated poor – 62 percent of hungry adults have a high school or college education.”