“Did Jesus come to solve poverty?” That depends. Poverty of possessions? No. Poverty of spirit? Yes.
Did Jesus have an affinity for the poor? Absolutely. After all, He spent a tremendous amount of time among the poor. On more than one occasion, His compassion motivated Him to miraculously feed them. He found in them a receptive audience as “the common people heard Him gladly” (Mark 12:37). Their receptivity was, perhaps, due in part to the fact that He was one of them. He did not bemoan the fact that “foxes have holes, birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has not where to lay His head,” — it was simply a fact. He was born to a family that offered the sacrifice of the poor at His presentation at the temple, (Luke 2:24). And financial matters didn’t seem to improve much for “the carpenter” in the years that followed.
Did He, however, come to solve financial poverty? Much of organized religion seems to think so, but, of course, the issue is, “What saith the Scriptures?” Have you ever noticed how many times Jesus explicitly said, “I have come to” and then identified a particular purpose for His incarnation? I read for example, that He came to “fulfill” the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 5:17). He came to “do the will” of the Father who sent Him into the world, part of which was to “preach” to all who would hear, (John 6:38; Mark 1:38). He came to cause people to make a definitive choice regarding their spiritual loyalties, (Matthew 10:35). To help them make an informed choice, He came offering “light” and “life” and promising “judgment” (John 12:46; 10:10; 9:39). But perhaps most clearly, the Scriptures preserved this testimony: “Pilate therefore said to Him, ‘Are you a king then?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice’” (John 18:37).
Clearly, He came to cure poverty of spirit: A physician sent to heal the hurt of sin. Note carefully that He never lost that focus. He steadfastly refused to allow His miracles to be made the impetus for simply drawing a crowd. In fact, when the multitudes wanted to make Him a king, His immediate retort was, “you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled” (John 6:26).
Modern religion would do well to heed the example of Him whom they claim to follow. In trying to “minister to the whole man,” much of what passes for religion in America is simply a glorified “bait and switch” scheme. “What do you need? Rent, utility or grocery money? Day care for your kids? No problem: The Church will provide.” A well-known preacher told me that in their new church building, a full-scale medical and dental clinic for the poor is planned. The rationale, of course, is that Jesus helped the poor and so must we. Then, once we help them with their poverty, we will have the opportunity to introduce them to the gospel. I’m sorry, but doesn’t that reverse the process and invert the pyramid of priorities established by Christ? Isn’t the church still designed to be the “pillar and ground of truth”? (1 Timothy 3:15). And if a “bait and switch” tactic was the most expedient method of evangelism, don’t you suppose God would have included it in His instruction manual to us?
I’m sure you’ve noticed that Jesus came into a world that was dominated by an oppressive government, saturated with slavery, and disadvantaged economically for much of the population. Yet, He did not seek to alter man’s political, social or economic status. Why not? Simply put, the externals in life will never change much. It is forever true that one “born of woman is of few days and full of trouble” (Job 14:1). Jesus told the truth when He noted, “the poor you have with you always” (John 12:8). So He came to change what was in the hearts of men and women. “The poor have the gospel preached unto them,” was the report to be given to John the Baptizer. And so do the rich, the young and old, black and white, American and Asian. Why? Because we were (are?) impoverished spiritually. Because, in the words of the song, we “owed a debt we could not pay; He paid a debt He did not owe.” Because in our poverty we had sold our sin-sullied soul to the devil and the only currency of redemption that would spend in heaven was the blood of Christ.
The only thing more amazing than Him making those provisions for us, is the refusal of those very riches by the spiritually impoverished. Does that describe you, my friend?