"HAVE no fear, for, look! I am declaring to you good news of a great joy that all the people will have." (Luke 2:10) These uplifting words were heard by astonished shepherds near Bethlehem on the night that Jesus was born. In harmony with that declaration, Jesus laid great stress on "good news" during his earthly ministry. Today, when we depend so much on money to care for our needs, how can the good news about Jesus benefit us?
Jesus Christ declared the "good news to the poor." (Luke 4:18) According to Matthew 9:35, "Jesus set out on a tour of all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the good news of the kingdom." His message was especially encouraging to the poverty-stricken. "On seeing the crowds he felt pity for them, because they were skinned and thrown about like sheep without a shepherd." (Matthew 9:36) True, Jesus said, "You have the poor always with you," but we should not conclude from these words that there is no hope for the needy. (John 12:8) As long as this wicked system lasts, there will be poor people, no matter what may cause their plight. God's Word does not ignore the reality of poverty, but it does not dwell on the negative aspects. Rather, it offers the poor help to cope with the anxieties of life.
Help for the PoorEdit
Notably, it has been said: "No greater burden can be borne by an individual than to know no one cares or understands." Yet, despite lack of compassion on the part of the majority, there is still good news for the poor—both for the present and for the future.
Unhappily, many have little interest in helping the poor. According to The World Book Encyclopedia, some believe that "people in society compete for survival and . . . superior individuals become powerful and wealthy." Those who believe this theory, called social Darwinism, may view the poor as just lazy people or spendthrifts. Yet, rural laborers, migrant workers, and others, despite being poorly paid, often work very hard to feed their families.
In many lands poverty is quite common. Hence, the poor—the majority—are not made to feel that they are a failure. Nevertheless, in such lands there are people living in great luxury in the midst of the poverty. Comfortable, sumptuous homes exist alongside crowded, unhealthy shanties. Well-paid men drive their expensive cars along streets crowded with the indigent and unemployed. In such lands the poor are painfully aware of their plight. Really, "the poor suffer not only from poor nutrition, bad housing, and inadequate medical care, but also from constant anxiety about their condition," says The World Book Encyclopedia. "Unable to get and hold good jobs, they lose all sense of dignity and self-respect." How, then, do some of the very poor cope with their situation? What has the good news about Jesus got to do with coping?
First, remember that poverty may be made worse by unwise habits. Consider some examples. Valdecir admits that while his wife and small children had little to eat, he wasted money maintaining an immoral life-style. He says: "Although employed, I never had any money but always had various lottery tickets in my pocket." Milton, because of heavy drinking and smoking, lost a business with 23 employees. He says: "I spent nights on the street, unable to go home, and my family suffered a great deal because of me."
João too wasted his salary on vices. "I spent nights away from home. All I earned was not enough for my vices and affairs. The situation became unbearable, and my wife wanted a separation." In addition to his financial and marital problems, there were yet others. He says: "I caused problems with relatives and neighbors, and I especially had problems at work. As a result, I was constantly out of work." Júlio was a drug addict. However, he explains: "Since my salary was never enough to sustain my drug habit, I began working as a narcotics dealer so as not to have to buy drugs."
Raised in a poor family of eight children, José wanted to have something for himself. Figuring he had nothing to lose, together with other youths he began robbing people. In despair, another youth became a member of a gang named Headbangers. He explains: "Since most of us were very poor, we found a certain satisfaction in breaking things and attacking people."
Yet, today these men and their families no longer suffer deep privation or feelings of bitterness and resentment. No longer are they helpless or hopeless. Why not? Because they studied the good news that Jesus preached. They applied the Bible's counsel and associated with like-minded individuals in congregations of Jehovah's Witnesses. And they learned some very important things about wealth and poverty.
Help to Cope With PovertyEdit
First, they learned that if Bible principles are applied, the bad effects of poverty can be mitigated. The Bible condemns immorality, drunkenness, gambling, and drug abuse. (1 Corinthians 6:9, 10) Such things are very expensive. They can make a rich man poor, and a poor man even poorer. Abandoning these vices and others like them does much to improve the economic situation of a family.
Second, they found that there are more important things in life than wealth. A balanced view is expressed in these inspired words: "Wisdom is for a protection the same as money is for a protection; but the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom itself preserves alive its owners." (Ecclesiastes 7:12) Yes, money is necessary. But Bible-based wisdom and knowledge of God's purposes are far more useful. Indeed, to one lacking wisdom, having too much money can be as much of a burden as having too little. The Bible writer wisely prayed: "Give me neither poverty nor riches. Let me devour the food prescribed for me, that I may not become satisfied and I actually deny you and say: 'Who is Jehovah?' and that I may not come to poverty and I actually steal and assail the name of my God."—Proverbs 30:8, 9.
Third, they discovered that if a person lives according to the good news Jesus preached, he need never feel abandoned. The good news has to do with God's Kingdom. The message is termed the "good news of the kingdom," and in our day it is being preached in all the inhabited earth. (Matthew 24:14) Jesus told us that we would be supported if we put our hope in that Kingdom. He said: "Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and [God's] righteousness, and all these other things will be added to you." (Matthew 6:33) God does not promise fancy cars or luxurious houses. Jesus was speaking of the necessities of life, things like food and clothing. (Matthew 6:31) But millions today can testify that Jesus' promise is reliable. An individual, even a very poor individual, is not left entirely if he puts the Kingdom first.
Fourth, they found that one who puts God's Kingdom first is not embittered by economic hardship. Yes, a poor man has to work hard. But if he serves God, he has a privileged relationship with his Creator, of whom the Bible says: "He has neither despised nor loathed the affliction of the afflicted one; and he has not concealed his face from him, and when he cried to him for help he heard." (Psalm 22:24) In addition, a poor person has help in coping with the problems of life. He enjoys warm companionship with fellow Christians and has a knowledge of and confidence in Jehovah's revealed will. Things like these "are more to be desired than gold, yes, than much refined gold."—Psalm 19:10.
At Last, No More Poverty!Edit
Finally, individuals who heed the good news learn that Jehovah God has purposed to solve the problem of poverty once and for all by means of his Kingdom. The Bible promises: "Not always will the poor one be forgotten, nor will the hope of the meek ones ever perish." (Psalm 9:18) The Kingdom is a real government, established in the heavens with Jesus Christ as Ruler. Soon, that Kingdom will replace human governments in the administration of human affairs. (Daniel 2:44) Then, as enthroned King, Jesus "will feel sorry for the lowly one and the poor one, and the souls of the poor ones he will save. From oppression and from violence he will redeem their soul, and their blood will be precious in his eyes."—Psalm 72:13, 14.
Jehovah God will solve the problems of human poverty by means of his Kingdom
Looking forward to that time, Micah 4:3, 4 says: "They will actually sit, each one under his vine and under his fig tree, and there will be no one making them tremble; for the very mouth of Jehovah of armies has spoken it." Who is spoken of here? Why, all those who submit to God's Kingdom. That Kingdom will solve all the problems that afflict mankind—even the problem of sickness and death. "He will actually swallow up death forever, and the Sovereign Lord Jehovah will certainly wipe the tears from all faces." (Isaiah 25:8;33:24) What a different world that will be! And remember, we can believe these promises because they are inspired by God himself. He says: "My people must dwell in a peaceful abiding place and in residences of full confidence and in undisturbed resting-places."—Isaiah 32:18.
Confidence in God's Kingdom overcomes the lack of self-respect often caused by poverty. A poor Christian knows that he is just as important in God's eyes as is a Christian who is wealthy. God loves both equally, and both have the same hope. Both eagerly look forward to the time when, under God's Kingdom, poverty will be a thing of the past. What a glorious time that will be! At last, no one will be poor!