The End of Poverty Nears
WHAT did Jesus mean when he said: “You always have the poor with you”? (Matthew 26:11) Did he mean that poverty would exist forever, without any solution?
Jesus knew that as long as the present system of human rule lasted, there would be poverty. He knew that it could not be permanently eradicated by any form of human government or any economic or social system. And the record of history bears this out.
Throughout the thousands of years of human history, every type of government and every type of economic and social system has been tried, yet poverty is still with us. Indeed, in spite of progress in such areas as science, industry, and medicine, the hard fact is that worldwide the numbers of people trapped by poverty keep increasing.
Jesus was well aware of the many factors that produce poverty, such as famine, drought, invasions by enemy armies, bad government, mismanaged economies, oppression of the poor and the weak by the rich and the powerful, accidents and sickness, and the death of husbands who leave behind impoverished orphans and widows. Moreover, he knew that people could bring poverty upon themselves and their families through such bad habits as laziness, drunkenness, gambling, and drug addiction.
So when Jesus said that “you always have the poor with you,” he meant that it was beyond any of this world’s agencies to eradicate poverty. He meant that as long as the present system of human rule existed, there would be poor people.
Though the problem of poverty is an ancient one, we should not conclude that either Jesus or his heavenly Father were insensitive to the poor. Nor should we conclude from the words of Jesus that poverty will never end. This is clear from what the Bible says about the matter.
Poverty and the Mosaic Law
For example, consider the Law that God gave to the ancient nation of Israel through Moses. One provision of the Law was that every Israelite family was given an inheritance of land in Canaan. (Deuteronomy 11:8-15; 19:14) The only exceptions were the Levites, who received no allotment. Instead, in view of their special work at the temple, they were sustained by receiving a tenth of the produce of the land.—Numbers 18:20, 21, 24.
Moreover, the laws of inheritance under the Mosaic Law ensured that the land would continue to be held by the family or tribe to whom it had been given. (Numbers 27:8-11) Even if a man sold his land, it could belong to the new owner only temporarily. In time the land would be restored to the family of the one who sold it.
For those who became poor for various reasons, such as mismanaging their land or squandering their resources, the Law guaranteed the right to glean food in the fields, orchards, and vineyards of others. (Leviticus 23:22) Furthermore, a needy Israelite could borrow money without having to pay interest. Indeed, a spirit of generosity was to be shown toward the poor.—Exodus 22:25.
Jesus Cared About the Poor
Centuries later when Jesus came to the earth, he continued to display the spirit of generosity that he had learned from his Father, Jehovah. Jesus took a personal interest in those who were materially poor. He and his disciples had a common fund from which they gave to needy Israelites.—John 12:5-8.
After Jesus was put to death, the same concern for the poor was shown by Christians when they provided material assistance especially to their poorer spiritual brothers and sisters. (Romans 15:26) True Christians today show the same loving care for one another.
Of course, the Bible, while expressing compassion for victims of oppressive conditions, reproves those who, in effect, ‘eat their own flesh’ because of laziness. (Ecclesiastes 4:1, 5) The apostle Paul wrote: “If anyone does not want to work, neither let him eat.” (2 Thessalonians 3:10) Similarly, those who squander funds on such habits as drug, tobacco, or alcohol addiction can find themselves in poverty. This is a result of their own bad actions; they are actually ‘reaping what they have sown.’—Galatians 6:7.
The Bible shows that God takes a special interest in the condition of those who endeavor to do his will. For instance, at Psalm 37:25, David states: “A young man I used to be, I have also grown old, and yet I have not seen anyone righteous left entirely, nor his offspring looking for bread.” Those who are righteously disposed are not promised riches, but the indication here is that God would see to it that they have enough material provisions to survive. And verse 28 of that same psalm states: “Jehovah is a lover of justice, and he will not leave his loyal ones.”
Jesus did more than show concern for the poor by helping them materially during his life on earth. He assured them that as long as they were trying to do God’s will, God would see to it that at least their minimum needs would be provided for, both present and future. Jesus said the following:
“Observe intently the birds of heaven, because they do not sow seed or reap or gather into storehouses; still your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth more than they are? . . . Also, on the matter of clothing, why are you anxious? Take a lesson from the lilies of the field, how they are growing; they do not toil, nor do they spin; but I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed as one of these. If, now, God thus clothes the vegetation of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much rather clothe you, you with little faith? So never be anxious and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or, ‘What are we to drink?’ or, ‘What are we to put on?’ . . . For your heavenly Father knows you need all these things.”—Matthew 6:26-32.
Jesus concluded by urging his followers: “Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness, and all these other things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33) What fine encouragement this is for those who are poor but who are seeking to do God’s will! Note, too, that Jesus showed that the Kingdom of God was to be the most important thing in the lives of his followers. Jesus knew that when God’s heavenly Kingdom would take complete control over the entire earth, then—and only then—would poverty be eliminated.
Not With Us Forever
Thus, Jesus gave a marvelous hope for the future. So when he said “you always have the poor with you,” he was referring to life under the present system of human rule. He was not referring to life in the future under the rule of God’s heavenly Kingdom. The Bible foretells: “Not always will the poor one be forgotten, nor will the hope of the meek ones ever perish.” (Psalm 9:18) And as King of God’s Kingdom, Christ Jesus will not tolerate any who try to exploit and oppress others.
Jesus made the rulership of God’s heavenly Kingdom the central theme of his teaching. (Matthew 4:17) Under Kingdom rule, conditions on earth will mirror, or reflect, conditions in heaven. That is why he taught his followers to pray to God: “Let your kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth.”—Matthew 6:10.
How will that happen? It is God’s purpose to eliminate the entire present system of human rule from the earth and to replace it with the rule of his heavenly Kingdom. The prophecy at Daniel 2:44 states: “In the days of those kings [now existing] the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be brought to ruin. And the kingdom itself will not be passed on to any other people [no more human rule]. It will crush and put an end to all these [present] kingdoms, and it itself will stand to times indefinite.”
Then, in a new world under the rule of God’s Kingdom, the entire earth will be transformed into a paradise of plenty, without any trace of poverty. Note some Bible prophecies regarding the conditions that will exist at that time:
“Jehovah of armies will certainly make for all the peoples . . . a banquet of wine kept on the dregs, of well-oiled dishes filled with marrow.” (Isaiah 25:6) “There will come to be plenty of grain on the earth; on the top of the mountains there will be an overflow.” (Psalm 72:16) “Pouring rains of blessing there will prove to be. And the tree of the field must give its fruitage, and the land itself will give its yield, and they will actually prove to be on their soil in security.” (Ezekiel 34:26, 27) “The earth itself will certainly give its produce; God, our God, will bless us.” (Psalm 67:6) “The wilderness and the waterless region will exult, and the desert plain will be joyful and blossom as the saffron.”—Isaiah 35:1.
Furthermore, Micah 4:4 promises: “They will actually sit, each one under his vine and under his fig tree, and there will be no one making them tremble.” All will have their own homes: “They will certainly build houses and have occupancy . . . They will not build and someone else have occupancy.” (Isaiah 65:21, 22) No wonder Jesus could promise those who believed his teachings: “You will be with me in Paradise”!—Luke 23:43.
Yes, God’s own inspired Word clearly teaches that there will be a complete end to poverty. And that time is nearing, for Bible prophecies show that this world is now in its “last days,” experiencing “critical times hard to deal with.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5, 13) Soon the present system of things will be removed forever and poverty will be stamped out permanently—not by human efforts but through divine intervention. The King Jesus Christ “will deliver the poor one crying for help, also the afflicted one and whoever has no helper. He will feel sorry for the lowly one and the poor one, and the souls of the poor ones he will save.”—Psalm 72:12, 13.
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In God’s new world, there will be good housing and abundant food for all
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In the new world, there will never be hungry children