If you've been through college, or currently in college, you know what it means to be poor. You live on next to nothing, eating/hoarding everything you can from the cafeteria, and when that runs out, you tap into your supply of Ramon Noodles and Mac & Cheese. For those four years, or 9 and a half in my case, you get a sense of what it's like to have "nothing" so to speak.
According to the United States of America, being poor typically means we lack certain things i.e. material possessions - money, cars, clothing, housing, phone, etc. We, the people of the America, measure ourselves according to these things. Those that have "X" amount of money according to "X" amount of people in the household are classified to be living below the means of acceptable financial gain, and those above these means we rank them as above standard well to do.
So we're taught that to help or give back to the needy. Religious or not we all want to help those that are "down on their luck." This need to support is in our DNA. We run in 5k's to raise support, we serve with Habitat For Humanity, and we donate "not used anymore" items to Goodwill.
But what if we were to tell you that being poor includes the richest of rich (see the story of Zacchaeus the tax collector Luke 19:1-10)? "The Poor" according to the message of Jesus was not classified by the lack of financial gain. Being poor according to Jesus meant you lacked Christ in your life or lacked in trusting in God's provisions (Luke 12:1-12).
The Bible tells of stories of Jesus encountering these "Social Outsiders" i.e. "The Poor" and healing them. Either they did something above and beyond, or a party was acting on their behalf did something, that stood out to Jesus that got his attention. Or Jesus did something totally against the standards of that time that showed God's grace and unconditional love to that person leaving them wanting to abandon their way of life and live a life committed to Christ. Either way, they were living a life lacking Christ and decided they wanted more. They wanted to start living a life beyond their classification of being poor or as a social outcast.
Jesus tells us that he came to seek and save the lost i.e. "The Poor" the "Social Outsiders" (Luke 19:10). So, when we speak of "The Poor" according to today's standards do we mean the same thing as Christ i.e. the lost or social outsiders? In Ephesians 1:18 Pauls speaks to the people of Ephesus and tells them: "I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you."
We must align our heart to God's way of life and start seeing "The Poor," or lost as Jesus speaks of, not as those lacking financial gain, but those who are lost i.e. lacking Christ. Don't get us wrong. We are all for supporting efforts that assist those that are "down on their luck." But we must tap into the eye of our heart, or God's desire, and see what God wants us to see - the lost.
Inventory your way of thinking. Do you see "The Poor" as lacking financial gain or do you see "The Poor" as those living a life lacking Christ? Strip away what society or the secular world tells you about who is poor and tap into God's desire to see what he sees. From there you'll begin to understand what God means by caring for the "The Poor."
Thanks and God Bless!