I received the following question:
I greatly enjoy your studies.
Thank you for the time you spend writing them.
Had a question.
I’m very intrigued by the emphasis the Bible and NT specifically puts on being poor.
Jesus mentions the poor often.
You read things like “hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith” in Hebrews
I plan to study this topic myself.
Have you ever looked into this?
Why would you be special because you have little money?
Or does “poor” really carry a different meaning than just having little wealth?
Thanks for any thoughts you might have
Glad you are enjoying the studies. You are very welcome for the time spent writing them.
You have hit on something with the idea that the “poor” carries a deeper meaning than just those with little money. Israel was set up with a very strict class system at the time of Christ. How exactly this got started is hard to say, but it may have had something to do with Antiochus Epiphanes and his attempt to restructure Israel into a typical, Greek-style nation with Jerusalem as a Greek city-state. When he was defeated and his ideas purged, somehow this one may have remained. At any rate, there was a very small, elite minority of people in Israel who made up the rich class. This was not so much about having wealth, though they certainly did have that. It was much more about having power. This rich class would take care of its own, however, and it is doubtful that anyone in the rich class could ever have become truly destitute. The vast majority of Israel belonged to the poor class. Most of the people of this kind were impoverished, but they also had very little power or influence. They were largely dominated by the rich, and had little say in their own government or how their nation was run.
Therefore the “poor” were also the powerless, the downtrodden, the common people. The “rich” were the nobility, the upper class, the powerful elite. The poor were considered of little importance to the powerful, yet God had a very different view of things. He never set up any kind of class or caste system, and He refused to value people based on it. When the poor were rich in faith, this is what impressed Him. In fact, often the privileges of the rich made them believe they could please God in their own merit, and so made it harder for them enter the kingdom of heaven than to pass through the eye of a needle. This was God’s perspective on it.
How foolish and groundless this caste system of “poor” and “rich” was is shown by the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ and His step-father Joseph, both of the house of David and heirs to the throne of Israel, were both of the “poor” class. How could the rightful, God-given heir to the throne be of the poor, powerless class? This alone shows there was nothing Godly about the division between the rich and the poor.
Remember too that most of the Lord’s most bitter enemies were of the rich class. They had the power, and they did not want to give it up to a Messiah Who did not promise to help them keep that power and maintain the status quo. The poor, who saw a compassionate friend in the Lord Jesus Christ, were often much more sympathetic to His message, though of course not all of them were.
Thanks for the great question, and I pray this helps you understand what this matter of the “poor” was all about.