William Booth, known as the “Prophet of the Poor,” was a British minister who gave his life ministering to the outcasts and poor people of Nottingham, England. Booth became famous for founding the Salvation Army which originally emphasized street preaching, personal evangelism, and practical philanthropy. Booth’s battlecry was, “Go for souls, and go for the worst!” Booth made it his mission to go to the poorest of society and bring them both physical and spiritual relief. Booth had an open heart and a wide hand towards the poor of London.
In Deut. 15, God says, “If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren within any of thy gates…thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother: but thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth” (vv. 7-8). God told the Israelites that the poor would always be with them (15:11). And God reminded the Israelites of their duty to their poor brethren. The Israelites were to have an open heart and a wide hand to those who were poor. God expected His people to be generous and help those who needed the basic necessities of life. In Lev. 19, God commanded His people to not glean the corners of their fields so that the poor of the land could gather the food. God made it clear that the Israelites were to be charitable to the poor.
The Bible never says that wealth is a sin and it never says that poverty makes one righteous. God does not choose people based upon their net worth. However, the Scriptures do make it clear that God has a special concern for the poor. Proverbs 19:17 says, “He that hath pity on the poor lendeth unto the LORD…” Galatians 6:10 reminds us “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” We see in this verse that our generosity begins with those closest to us. It begins with fellow believers. James 2:15-17 says, “If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” This admonition to charitableness extends beyond our brethren to all men. “Therefore, if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink…” (Romans 12:20). God’s concern for the plight of the poor must move us to the point of assisting those who truly have a need. We ought to be wise stewards of our resources. Those who refuse to work are not those in need (2 Thess. 3:10). But those who truly are in need, should be helped.