Here’s a good one for you. The Washington Post recently published the results of a study indicating that Christians are twice as likely as other groups to believe that poverty is caused by a lack of effort.
While The Post does not use the results of the study to imply that Christians are irrational hypocrites, other publications were not so restrained. Newsweek wrote: “Jesus Christ may have lived as a poor man and consistently been on the side of those with little material wealth, but a poll shows almost half of the Christians in the United States believe people who live in poverty do so because they’re lazy.”
The Daily Mail indicated that Christian’s beliefs about the poor were irrational: “A study last week suggested that religious people cling to certain beliefs even when they contradict evidence because they are overly emotional and irrational.” Lastly, The Huffington Post stated:
The Jesus of the Bible had plenty to say about the poor ― their dignity, righteousness, and faith. He went so far as to suggest that those who serve the poor will inherit the kingdom of God.
Some American Christians’ beliefs about the poor may not be as forgiving, according to a recent poll from The Washington Post and Kaiser Family Foundation.
Ouch. Sounds pretty bad, doesn’t it? Well, there is more to the story.
The Washington Post partnered with the Kaiser Family Foundation conducted a study where they asked 1,686 adults the following question: “Which is generally more often to blame if a person is poor: lack of effort on their own part or difficult circumstances beyond their control?” The responses showed that Christians are more likely to believe that poverty results more from individual failures rather than external events. But, you might be wondering why Christians hold to this belief.
In the article, The Washington Post doesn’t go into much detail as to why Christians believe what they believe about poverty, but it does refer to the passage in the book of Thessalonians that states “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” They also interview several religious people who indicate that one’s financial state is tied to the decisions they make.
If you listen to individuals on the left who believe the findings of this study prove hypocrisy among Christians, you might think that Christians truly are uncaring people who know nothing of the plight of the poor in the United States. But is that really true? Let’s take a look at the facts.
The data shows that personal decisions are the primary determining factor in relation to whether or not a person lives in poverty. In March 2013, The Brookings Institute published a study demonstrating that if people follow three fundamental rules, they will be far less likely to live in poverty: “At least finish high school, get a full-time job and wait until age 21 to get married and have children.” People who adhere to these guidelines are more likely to avoid living in poverty for an extended period of time. The Brookings Institute continues:
Our research shows that of American adults who followed these three simple rules, only about 2 percent are in poverty and nearly 75 percent have joined the middle class (defined as earning around $55,000 or more per year). There are surely influences other than these principles at play, but following them guides a young adult away from poverty and toward the middle class.
This isn’t to say that poverty cannot be caused by factors outside of an individual’s control. There are many cases where a person experiences events or situations that drive them into poverty. However, one’s personal decisions do play a crucial role in determining their financial well being. Regardless of the cause of one’s poverty, it is also important to look at what Christians believe when it comes to helping the poor.
The left might attempt to depict Christians as hypocrites, but their arguments are not in line with reality. Christians give more to the poor than any other group in the United States. In 2013, Gallup released a poll indicating that Christians are “more likely than those with no religious affiliation to report that they made donations and volunteered time.” A piece in American Magazine discusses the high level of charitable contributions in the Bible Belt. It states that “religious people are more likely to donate to charities of all kinds.”
The left may want us to believe that Christians are hypocrites for professing a belief in caring for the poor while also thinking that poverty is tied to personal effort, but it’s not true. The notion that one is individually responsible for their financial success has proven to be true. As stated previously, most Christians are aware of the fact that there are many cases where a person might become poor due to events outside of their control. However, this does not mean that individual effort cannot play a significant part in determining whether or not the person stays in poverty.
Regardless of the cause of a person’s poverty, Christians know that the Bible says about caring for the poor. Matthew 25:37 – 40 states:
Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you? The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
This verse describes the reason why Christians give the most to charity. It shows why Christians provide comfort to people in prisons and hospitals. It is the reason so many Christians travel all over the world to help people in developing countries. They are simply following the teachings of Jesus.