I’ve decided to embark on an exploration of poverty and social justice with respect to the biblical text. “Social justice” is currently a hot-button issue and, in my view, is a term easily manipulated by politicians and theologians who want to wield political influence. In other words, this is an area where the Bible becomes prime political fodder. And that in turn means the biblical text gets routinely abused in the process.
Toward kick-starting the topic, I’m hoping readers will read the informative (and lengthy – 24 pp) overview of terms for the poor in the Old Testament from Anchor Bible Dictionary. I’ll follow it later with a survey of the terminology of the New Testament. In the next post I’ll offer some observations from this essay.
As you read these essays and future posts, I’d encourage you to entertain three questions / issues:
1. What does the terminology indicate about the status of the poor? That is, what kinds of poverty are described by the terminology?
2. What does the biblical text tell us about the circumstances of or occasions for the poverty situations described? In other words, why are the poor poverty stricken? Whose fault is it?
3. Who is responsible for a solution to the poverty described?
The last question is, in large part, where the “social justice” rubber meets the road. It has many nuances, as we’ll see. Answering this question will in many ways articulate a biblical theology of social justice.