POVERTY. The condition of having insufficient money, goods, or means of subsistence, measured by the standard of a given society at a given time. It is therefore always a relative condition. (For the Biblical terminology, see Poor.)
In speaking of the poor, the Bible never exactly specifies the standard of living by which they were judged. By modern western standards, most men who lived in Biblical times would be classified as poor. Yet Biblical standards designated only some as poor, and these are the ones we are concerned with, whether or not we can delineate their standard of living. The poor widow had nothing left after her contribution to the treasury (
After Israel conquered the Promised Land, everyone was given a portion of it. But time brought business deals, the sale of land, and normal economic fluctuations. Some families profited and became wealthy, but others sank into poverty. Anticipating the defenselessness of poor individuals, God provided protection by special legislation (see below). But it is not only the poor who are protected, but also all those who are economically weak or the victims of poverty. These include the widows, orphans, and resident aliens (gerîm) (
AIs (1961), 68-79, 164-177; TDNT VI (1968), 37-40, 318-332, 865-915.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
This word, found but once in the Old Testament (
"Poverty" occurs 3 times in the New Testament (
The teaching of the Bible on this subject would, however, be incomplete unless all the references to the "poor" were considered in this connection. Indeed the word for "poverty" has its root in the word for "poor" (ptochos; `ani, or dal).
3. Two Degrees of Poverty:
At least two degrees of poverty are recognized. The Old Testament does not distinguish between them as clearly as does the New Testament. The New Testament, for example, by its use of two words for "poor" sets forth this distinction. In
4. Causes of Poverty:
The causes of poverty are failure of harvest and poor crops (
The happiest mother and the noblest and holiest son that ever lived were among the poor. Jesus was born of poor parents, and had not where to lay His head (
Figurative: Of course there is also a spiritual poverty indicated by the use of this word--a poverty in spiritual things: "Blessed are the poor in spirit." By this is meant, Blessed are they who feel that they have no self-righteousness, no worth of their own to present to Christ as a ground of their salvation, who feel their utter bankruptcy of spirit, who say "Nothing in my hand I bring." It is to this state of spirit that Christ refers in