The Bible and the Constitution say ‘yes’

In the Old Testament, 15th chapter of Deuteronomy, verses 1-11, God says a lot about his law concerning the poor. Verse 1: “Cancel debts every seven years.” Verse 7: “For the poor shall never cease out of the land.” He is talking to people who did not always obey him.

In the New Testament, Matthew 26:11, Jesus tells his disciples who have been following him, “The poor you will always have with you.” He is saying there will always be some need. We are to follow his commandments and meet those needs.

The Declaration of Independence says that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” and that “to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men.”

The Preamble of the Constitution lists “promote the general Welfare” as one of its six goals.

God knew that people would be disobedient and unjust. God knew that the same government that bails out the auto industry and subsidizes farmers and other industries would deny individuals life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, housing, health care, education and jobs.

In the Old and New Testaments, God is saying to people of faith, to the church and to the government — help the poor. Open your hand wide. 

— Alberta McCrory, Gaines Chapel AME Church, Anniston

We should ALL help those in need

In a word – YES. Yes, the church should help the poor. Yes, the government should help the poor. Yes, we should all help the poor.

From a Christian perspective, we are commanded to help those in our midst who are poor, sick or marginalized. Jesus’ whole life, his teachings, his actions pointed to helping those in need.

In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Jesus never questioned the poor decisions Lazarus made to put him in such an impoverished state. He just said the rich man should have shared what he had with him (Luke 16).

When Jesus told his followers to invite the poor to their banquets instead of the rich and powerful, He did not tell us to first ask, “WHY are you poor? Do you deserve my help?” (Luke 14).

And when Jesus told the parable of the Judgment of the Nations, he told us that those who were there for the poor, the needy, the lonely, the incarcerated, were there for Him; therefore they inherited the Kingdom of God (Matthew 25).

Jesus preached a kingdom of justice, and he gave his life so that we might all be justified — made equal — in preparation for God’s kingdom.

As far as the government goes, I do believe it should also help the poor. And by helping, I don’t just mean handouts; I mean that the government should be implementing programs and policies that help people move up and forward in life. Food stamps and other welfare programs are important and necessary, AND there should be ways for people to move out of those programs into a place of self-sufficiency, self-respect and dignity. 

In addition to that, rather than deporting people who don’t have documentation, help them get the proper documentation so they can feed their families, pay their taxes and give back to society. Rather than incarcerating minor criminals, create programs that will help them move out of their desperate situations.

I’m not advocating a specific kind of economy or a particular political party; I’m advocating for a world that looks like the Kingdom we often pray for: “Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” It’s not about doing what is convenient; it’s about doing what is right in the eyes of God.

— Rev. Laura Hutchinson, First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)