Can We Win “The War on Poverty”?


Fifty years ago today, January 8, 1964,  President Lyndon Johnson, in his state of the union address declared “an unconditional war on poverty in America.”

According to analysis by the Cato Institute our government at the federal and state level has spent in excess of $15 Trillion on anti-poverty programs in the past 50 years.  And the result?  Almost the same number of people are living below the poverty level as in 1964.  Columnist Cal Thomas quipped, “The lack of government programs did not cause poverty, and spending vast sums of money has not eliminated it.”

This situation in American today reminds me of a statement made by Jesus when Mary anointed His feet with an expensive pint of perfume.  She was criticized for her extravagance  “Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” asked Judas Iscariot.

Of course, we know, and Jesus knew that Judas had ulterior motives.  He was a thief.  He didn’t care about the poor.  Like too many today who lament the plight of poor people, his motives were self-serving.

Jesus’ response? “Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial.  For the poor you have with you always, but Me you do not have always.”

Interesting!  Evidently our political leaders haven’t read this.  Or don’t believe it.  You will always have poor people.  Some because of their bad choices.  Others due to circumstances beyond their control.  Some live in countries that won’t allow them to rise out of poverty.  Others are poor because they’ve been abused by the rich.

Poverty may be the result of ill health.  Lack of education.  Physical handicaps. Economic down turns.  Risky investments. Addictions.  Dishonesty.  Crime.  Domestic neglect.  And a myriad of other reasons.

While every society will always have those who live in poverty, I believe the application of these Bible principles would improve the plight of poor, lessen the sting of poverty and help raise many people to higher economic levels.

(1) Taking and teaching personal responsibility.

Many people in our society have abandoned personal accountability and responsibility.  They play the “victim card.”  They engage in behaviors that are self destructive, but may result in more government assistance.  What if everyone followed the Bible admonition “to do their work quietly and to earn their own living”? (2 Thess. 3:12).  The wise man in Proverbs condemned laziness, extolled hard work, and encouraged thrift (20:4; 22;29; 5:6-8).

(2) Providing for our own families.

The Bible commands, “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” ( I Tim 5:8).  What if all deadbeat dads would provide for their children?  Of course, most of these are not Believers in the first place.  But if they were, they would care about their children. Feed their families.  And supply their needs.

(3) Assisting our extended families

In an era of government assistance this idea is largely lost on our society.  The Bible says, “Honor widows….if any widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show piety at home and to repay their parents; for this is good and acceptable before God” (I Tim 5:3-4).  What if children, grandchildren, parents, brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews all cared about one another?  And helped each other when they needed it?

(4) Churches helping their needy Members

The book of Acts speaks of the church caring for the indigent among them, for widows and for those suffering from famine (Acts 4:32-37; 6:-17; 11:27-30).  Nine times in the New Testament there is a specific mention of the church helping “poor saints.”  Along with preaching the gospel, benevolence is a part of the churches work.

(5) Individual Christians doing good for others. 

We are commanded to work so we have resources to “have something to share with those in need (Eph. 4:28), “to do good to all people,” (Gal. 6:10) and to help widows and orphans (Jas. 1:27).  Christianity is a religion of the open mind, open heart, and open wallet.  There are so many ways to help others.  Some are personal.  Others may be through worthy charitable organizations.

What if everyone in America followed these five steps to the best of their ability?  It wouldn’t eliminate poverty.  But fewer people would be poor.  And those who are poor would find relief.  Our country would be stronger.  Our tax burden lighter.  And God would be glorified!

-Ken Weliever, The Preacherman


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10 responses to “Can We Win “The War on Poverty”?

  1. Thanks – may God bless us to have hearts of compassion to do what we are able! The daily requests for help just from our brethren overseas tears at my heart and mind. I constantly pray that I do not become callous to these requests and make no effort to help. Offering prayer is powerful, but giving a cup of water in Jesus name must occur as well. Truly may God help us to preach His word and be compassionate people. Appreciate what you wrote so much – it came at good time as I see so may requests for help. God bless dear brother!


  2. Glenn Blankenship

    Absolutely wonderful points to remind us of!


  3. Craig Thomas


    Great article! I do fear many brethren think once they’ve given on the Lord’s Day they have fulfilled their “financial” duty. However, all the saints have such duties beyond the Sunday offering (e.g., Matt. 25:31-46; Gal. 6:10). Perhaps we preachers have not preached enough on the subject. We rightly teach the treasury of the church is limited to “needy saints,” but we as individual Christians have broader responsibilities and will have to answer to God concerning them.

    Thanks again!


  4. It does seem like we can do much as individuals but when you break it down a small act does make a small difference. The effect is cumulative.


  5. The war on poverty, initiated by government (or really by any system) will always fail. Your points and suggestions on taking it to a private and personal level are brilliant – full of the Light of God’s Truth!

    In fact, I wrote a very similar article today, so my thoughts were already in tune with your words here. Very well spoken – I greatly enjoyed reading this!!!


  6. Rev. Ken,
    Thanks for another thoughtful and powerful article. May I reblog it in several weeks, in a series on peacemaking? The series is 40+ days during the Season for NonViolence, and I will argue that how we treat each other is itself peacemaking.

    Peace and grace–
    Rev. Kebba


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