A majority of the world lives in poverty. According to United Nations statistics, roughly 2.7 billion people live on less than two dollars a day. What is the cause of their poverty?
The Bible teaches three basic causes of poverty. (1) the foolish behavior of the poor, which calls for reform; (2) the oppressive behavior of the rich, which calls for repentance; and (3) forces outside the power of the poor and the rich, which call for generosity. Over the next three days, we look at each of these causes in turn, beginning today with the foolish behavior of the poor.
A variety of proverbs identify laziness as a foolish behavior that leads to poverty.
Lazy hands make a man poor,
but diligent hands bring wealth.
He who gathers crops in summer is a wise son,
but he who sleeps during harvest is a disgraceful son (10:4, 5).
No one gets wealthy by doing nothing. As the Romans said, “From nothing, nothing comes.” Of course, the lazy always have creative excuses.
The sluggard says, "There is a lion outside!"
or, "I will be murdered in the streets!" (22:13)
Another foolish behavior is dishonest work, such as get-rich schemes, fraud, bribery, and robbery.
Dishonest money dwindles away,
but he who gathers money little by little makes it grow (13:11).
Food gained by fraud tastes sweet to a man,
but he ends up with a mouth full of gravel (20:17).
A fortune made by a lying tongue
is a fleeting vapor and a deadly snare (21:6).
To show partiality is not good —
yet a man will do wrong for a piece of bread.
A stingy man is eager to get rich
and is unaware that poverty awaits him….
He who robs his father or mother
and says, "It’s not wrong" —
he is partner to him who destroys (28:21, 22, 24).
A third cause of poverty is unwise or immoral spending patterns, such as spending money on luxuries or vices.
It is not fitting for a fool to live in luxury —
how much worse for a slave to rule over princes! (19:10)
He who loves pleasure will become poor;
whoever loves wine and oil will never be rich….
In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil,
but a foolish man devours all he has (21:17, 20).
A man who loves wisdom brings joy to his father,
but a companion of prostitutes squanders his wealth (29:3).
A fourth cause of poverty is unwise choices in lending and borrowing.
He who puts up security for another will surely suffer,
but whoever refuses to strike hands in pledge is safe (11:15).
A man lacking in judgment strikes hands in pledge
and puts up security for his neighbor (17:18).
The rich rule over the poor,
and the borrower is servant to the lender (22:7).
Of course, not everyone is poor because they have engaged in foolish behavior. But some people are. If they want to get out of the poverty trap, they must reform their manner of life.