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This 1999 background paper is a biblical primer on poverty, written to help contemporary Christians understand the importance of the Bible's message about poor neighbours. It sets out a biblically based framework for understanding and acting on poverty in today's society.
Good News to the Poor examines:
- who are the poor?
- the nature of poverty, wealth and idolatry,
- the relationship of poverty to grace,
- the spiritual roots of present-day poverty,
- the ways contemporary differentiated society can engage poverty, and
- the state's distinct role in addressing poverty.
The Social Action Commission of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada Background Paper on the Bible, Poverty and Government in Contemporary Canada
August 26, 1999
An EFC Position Paper has been officially endorsed by the Organization. An EFC Background Paper is a serious document, created by a Task Force or Commission to encourage dialogue within our community.
Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you,
or thirsty and give you something to drink?
When did we see you a stranger and invite you in,
or needing clothes and clothe you?
When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you? (Matthew 25:37-39)
Jesus inaugurated his ministry with a sermon announcing good news to the poor, freedom for prisoners, sight for the blind, release for the oppressed, and the coming of the year of the Lord's favour (Lk 4:16-30). His startling claim that "today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing" led some of his home town listeners to try kill him! What does Jesus' claim lead Christians to do as we enter the third millennium? How does Jesus' death on the cross influence our hearing of this passage? Will we proclaim good news to the poor in our time and place?
This paper is a biblical primer on poverty, written to help contemporary Christians understand the importance of the Bible's message about poor neighbours. A vast body of literature has been written on the Bible, poverty, the church, and government. This paper will not duplicate this important work. Nor is this paper a public policy paper that presents direct advice to government. Such policy options need to be developed in response to poverty issues in specific times and places. Rather, this paper addresses some obstacles that many Christians experience in responding positively to the poor. It does so by setting out a biblically-based framework for understanding and acting on poverty in today's society. This paper helps Christians see that the needs of poor people at home and abroad are connected to the very heart of the Gospel.
In specific, this paper aims to encourage dialogue in our community regarding contemporary poverty issues, to inform the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada’s action in the public realm, to encourage local churches to serve the poor in our communities, to inspire Christians in all social roles--work, recreation, volunteering, investing, family, etc.--to serve and empower the poor, and finally to encourage the state to do justice for the poor and eliminate the causes of poverty. This paper seeks to achieve these aims by examining: (1) who are the poor? (2) the nature of poverty, wealth and idolatry, (3) the relationship of poverty to grace, (4) the spiritual roots of present-day poverty, (5) the ways contemporary differentiated society can engage poverty, and (6) the state's distinct role in fighting poverty.