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Why understanding material poverty matters

Material poverty is a complicated reality, with many causes and perhaps just as many proposed solutions. According to the World Bank, just over 1 in 10 people lived in extreme poverty in 2013, categorized as living under $1.90 a day. While this number is falling, it still represents 767 million people.

Those living in material poverty face many challenges: lack of basic resources like food, shelter, and money; corrupt social systems; poor education; and limited access to health care.

But those who haven’t experienced poverty often overlook one of its most profound impacts: hopelessness and shame. Material poverty can compound the brokenness that exists in our relationships with each other, with God, with ourselves, and with the rest of creation. Material poverty says to those in its grasp: You are not worthy. 

Perhaps that is why God seems to show a special concern for those living in material poverty. The Scriptures include over 2,000 verses addressing poverty, many expressing God’s tenderness for this group and His anger toward their oppressors. When we view poverty as a departure from God’s plan for humanity, a result of brokenness in this world, we can understand God’s special concern not as a form of favoritism but as the beginning of a process of restoration and renewal.

The raw truth is that poverty has no place in God’s Kingdom. In Isaiah 61, the prophet Isaiah proclaims that God has anointed him to “proclaim good news to the poor” (Isaiah 61:1, emphasis added). The Lord will trade their ashes of mourning for crowns of beauty, replace their sorrow with gladness, and trade cloaks of despair for garments of praise (verse 3).

There is no mistaking this: God cares deeply and passionately for men, women, and children living in material poverty. His words and actions make it clear. And as Christ’s ambassadors on this earth, we are to mirror our Father’s heart, loving our brothers and sisters in poverty with the same fervor. 

In your everyday life, where do you interact with those living in material poverty? 

This post was taken from HOPE’s “Preparing to Serve: A Biblical View of Poverty” YouVersion Bible reading plan. You can read the rest of this devotional plan (and many more) here.



As Christ’s followers responding to His great love, HOPE International seeks physical, social, spiritual, and personal restoration in places of brokenness. Through Christ-centered economic development, we empower men and women to strengthen their families, build their businesses, and unleash their dreams.

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