Articles

WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT THE OPPRESSED POOR?

“The Spirit of the Lord has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners, and to release the oppressed” (Is. 61:6, Lk. 4:18-19).

These words have sparked the most powerful revolution the world has ever seen - a Gospel revolution. It began first by releasing satan's prisoners, then went on to liberate the whole of society as well. This Gospel has released the poor from political and economic oppression by giving them faith, discipline, generosity, and godly family lives. This Gospel liberated the state and economy by putting them under bondage to God and His Law. No longer did an oppressive, centralized state bureaucracy use the excuse that they were "benefactors of the people" (Lk. 22:25) to confiscate private property. No longer were men forced into oppressive prisons because they crossed a tyrant. The state became a "servant" not a "lord" (Lk. 22:24f). The businessman also became a servant to his consumers. He was compelled to be service oriented by competition in a newly freed market place. The Gospel had liberated the market from state granted monopolies, controls and subsidies. These things protect businessmen from competition and failure and thus do not give them any motivation to give good service and non-oppressive prices.

But alas, temporarily, the West has turned its back on this Gospel freedom. Politicians, Archbishops and Councils of Churches quote Isaiah 61 but twist it into a manifesto for the very things from which Jesus set us free. They say, competitive, private-property Capitalism thrives on "profits," all of which are robbed from the wages due the workers. That is the source of poverty and evil in society. Elite state bureaucrats, they state, must again act as "benefactors," "lording it over" the market place, controlling it for the good of their self-wise, self-created social democratic Utopias. To be free, a man must be again enslaved to the state, they preach!

Capitalist "Oppression" is Not the Cause of Poverty
The Bible, the final source of truth, has much material on the true causes of poverty. This is especially true of the Proverbs. Idolatry, ancestor "reverence," and spiritism, it says, are a fundamental cause (Deut. 12:29f, 18:9f). "Slothfulness" (i.e. love of sleep, negligence, lack of diligence, and not saving for the future) is a major cause (Prov. 6:6-11, 10:4-5, 14:23). Covetousness (e.g. craving to confiscate another's wealth) is another (Prov. 13:4). So does the craving to get rich quick by debt financing and "gambling" (Prov. 28:20, 22, 22:7). A high profile, consumptive life-style (Prov. 21:17), as well as love of sexual immorality and alcohol (Prov. 5:10, 6:26, 23:17) are also causes. Then poverty also can come from catastrophes such as drought, fire, locust and whirlwind (Job 1-3). Poverty, undeniably, is also created by the genuine oppression of the common man by the rich and powerful who steal land, wages, and food (Job 20:19, 24:1-12; Prov. 14:31; 22:16, 28:15-16; Ps. 35:10). This includes charging interest to catastrophe stricken farmers (Ex. 22:25; Prov. 19:17, 28:27; cf. Neh 5). The society that lacks generosity for the genuine, deserving poor will end in poverty (Prov. 11:24, 21:13; Ez. 16:49-50; Amos 5:11ff).

It is quite significant that all these causes of poverty are just the opposite of the much maligned "Protestant Ethic." In addition, it is clear that the oppressive theft of wages is a cause of poverty, not the only nor the major one. Contrary to our anti-capitalist theologians, a "profit" from the sale of private property in a free, uncoerced "market place" is never mentioned as being oppressive, nor as a "theft" of workers’ wages. Neither is it mentioned as the cause of poverty! In fact, in the Parable of the Talents, Christ praises making profits. They come from the wise and kind use of the resources God has given us (Matt. 25:14-30) (1).

One major source of poverty, according to the Bible is the centralized, bureaucratic state so praised by our socialist Theologians. This occurs when it expropriates property by confiscation and oppressive taxation; and when it destroys the free market. The classic example is the story of the vineyard which King Ahab stole from Naboth (1 Kin. 21; cf. Num. 16:13-15; 1 Sam. 12:3; Ps. 35:10). "There is much wealth in the ground of the poor, but oppression sweeps it away," Proverbs states (13:23). In His Law, God guarantees property rights and the resulting free market (cf. Ex. 20:15, 17, 22:1-15; Matt. 20:13-15). The Socialists' solution of creating equality by either gradually (i.e. Social Democracy) or quickly (i.e. Revolutionary Socialism) abolishing private property always brings God's judgment. The reason is because this system breaks God's Law at many points. Socialism expresses systematic, rebellious, contempt for God in both heart and action. That brings God's curse. That curse upon all of life is the fundamental cause of poverty (Deut. 5:1-8:16, esp. 8:17-18). Leviticus 26:14-39 is defiantly clear on that issue: "If you do not obey Me ..., if, instead, you reject My statutes, and if your soul abhors My ordinances ..., I, in turn will strike you ..., punish you, ... and break down your pride of power, [because] you act with hostility against Me ...."(2)

  1. Exception: situations such as when a profit is "interest" charged to the poor for the necessities of life (Ex. 22:22-27) or made by withholding food from the market until the prices are higher (Prov. 11:26: cf. Lk. 12:15-20. 33) In these cases, God enjoins compassion not exploitation (Ex. 22:21f). These examples do not invalidate the "profit" principle because they are not "free market" situations. The poor man is not "free." His very existence coerces him to take loans or buy food at whatever price.

Gospel Repentance, Not Socialism, is Needed
No nation or system that has long disobeyed God's moral and civil Law has ever prospered nor lasted (cf. Deut. 28; Jer. 12:14-17; Ps. 37, 73). That bodes ill for our Western society which is even now teetering on the brink of disaster! The Third World is in deep poverty because of the lack of a Christian ethic. That includes the work ethic. Colonialism or Capitalism is not the problem. Their economies were larger and their peoples better fed when their economies were not as socialist and their governments were run by the Christianized West. They are in trouble because of the oppression of their own idolatry, spiritism, and rebellion to God's Law. Their covetousness and theft oriented economics kills. When a person's hard earned profits are repeatedly "stolen," no-one wants to be creative, or to produce, or create jobs for the hungry! The First World is headed quickly for Third World status if it doesn't repent of these same sins!

The Gospel which establishes God's Law (Rom. 3:31) is the comprehensive salvation of the Third World not impoverishing, oppressive socialism! God's solution, then, is Spirit-wrought obedience to God's Law-word (Rom. 8:1-7). That produces a just, "service oriented" free market. Obedience guarantees honesty, diligence, initiative, efficiency, planning for the future, moral purity, and private property rights. Those qualities alone bring economic growth and progress!

Oppression According to the Bible
The Bible's definition of "oppression" is contrary to the socialist-humanist definition. "Oppression," according to God's Word, is the opposite of "justice." "Justice," is always defined in both Testaments as the "keeping of God's Law." God's prophets in both Testaments always called God's people back to obedience to that Law, not to any humanist or man-made law (3). Thus, any violation of God's Law especially by the courts, government officials or by the powerful, is "oppression."

"Oppression," then is "partiality" in court and by act of parliament in favour of one class of people, either the rich or the poor (Deut. 1:17; Lev. 19:15; Ex. 23:2-6). This specifically forbids the socialist, progressive income tax whereby the "oppressors" must pay a greater percentage than the "oppressed poor." Only a flat rate tax is "just." Also, because justice is impartial, it is "oppressive" for government to grant any private citizen or businessman a price control, a subsidy, a monopoly. It is not just to use government to restrict one's competitors. In addition, God forbids the oppression of following the "democratic-majority multitude" in making decisions in court and parliament (Ex. 23:2). A "majority vote" does not make right. God's Law does. Pure democracy always leads to oppression and poverty because people vote for themselves tax monies from the public treasury until the state is bankrupt. Thirdly, it is "oppression" for the state to be influenced by any "bribe" (Deut. 16:19; Amos 5:12). Bribery includes give-aways to voters, "robbed from" the public treasury, in order to "buy" votes for parliamentarians (Is. 1:23). Fourthly, an "oppressive" tax is a tax taken away but then not returned to the tax payer in the exact equivalent Rand-amount of government service as the amount confiscated by the state (1 Sam. 12:3). State wealth redistribution is oppressive theft (4). Lastly, "inflation" is a major form of "oppression." Inflation is caused by the debased, "counterfeit" money created by banks and governments. This "paper" money is not 100% backed by gold and silver. In ancient days, the kings would drill a core out of gold coins and replace the gold with cheaper tin or lead. They would then use the gold drilled out to "create" more money. Today we are more sophisticated. Our coins are all "tin." Our "gold" is paper and computer blips! If the ordinary citizen makes his own "counterfeit" money, he is rightly punished for larceny. When the Reserve Bank does it, we call it wise, economic policy! God says that inflation creating "counterfeiting" is oppressive theft whether a "king" or a criminal does it (5).

  1. Amos 2:4; Jer. 9:13f; Is. 29:13; Matt. 5:17ff, 15:1ff; 1 Tim. 1:8-11; Jms. 1:22-2:13, 5:1ff.

Socialism Oppresses: Christian Charity is the Answer
All these examples of "oppression" are violations of God's justice and the Biblical Law based "free market, private property" economic system based on that justice. All the above examples are essential to the present socialist system which concentrates wealth in a few hands and which causes the rich to get richer and the poor and middle class to get poorer! Much "oppression," then, is simple theft of property even if the stated motive is to help the "oppressed poor." Socialist redistribution of wealth always enriches a large population of bureaucrats (cf. 1 Sam. 8:10-18), while the poor receive only small percentage of what was confiscated! Only private, Christian charity is truly just, kind, and efficient!

In their desire to steal property, socialist theologians make a virtue out of covetousness, theft, and being an irresponsible "child" (i.e. addicted to paternalistic government hand-outs). They teach that stirring up man's sinful lusts and making men bitter slaves to the state, makes them free and prosperous! Righteousness, contentment and truth do that (Ps. 37, 73; Lk. 3:14, 12:15f; 1 Tim. 6:6-10; Heb. 13:5-6)! Their failure is to believe that the Gospel is the power of God unto a transforming, comprehensive salvation (Rom. 1:17f). Salvation changes man's heart and all his institutions. Salvation brings "a servant ethic," generosity, and love (Ps. 37).

The Conclusion: Put On Love
"In all else, put on love" (Col. 3:14). Love obeys God's just Law - moral and judicial (Rom. 8:1-7, 13:8ff; Matt. 5:17ff)! Love is strict (Prov. 26:3: "the rod is for the back of a fool") but it will never oppress! Love never allows the one helped to become irresponsible, dependent upon "hand outs" as socialist welfare programmes do. God commands us to actively help and defend the deserving poor. The Scripture is full of references to this (cf. Ex. 22:21f; Job 29:14f, 30-31; Prov. 24:4; Ps. 82, 146; Is. 61:1f, Matt. 25:31f; 1 Jn. 3:16f, Jms. 2:14f). But the Bible clearly says, in the context of the Church's poverty programme: "If a man will not work, he must not eat" (2 Thes. 3:10) and "Him who steals, let him steal no more but learn to work with his hands" (Eph. 4:28). This has led throughout history to massive, private Christian poverty alleviation and job training programmes (cf. George Grant, Bringing in the Sheaves: Transforming Poverty into Productivity [Atlanta: American Vision Press, 1985].

"So my little children, let us love one another" (1 Jn. 2:16f).

That's God's way!

Mark Kreitzer, June 1988.

Gospel Defence League
P. O. Box 587 Sea Point 8060
Cape Town South Africa
Tel/Fax: 021-510-6854



DMC Firewall is a Joomla Security extension!