Poverty is a WORLD-WIDE issue. Can it be legislated out of existence? — solved with public funds? Here's the sobering TRUTH of a problem facing NINE-TENTHS of this earth's population!
WHAT is the real ANSWER to the grinding poverty facing millions of Americans? What about the hundreds of millions who are even worse off in Europe, Asia, Africa and South America? Is there no solution to their miserable existence?
Poverty a WORLD-WIDE Problem!
In America, a strange paradox exists. While we are the most affluent nation in the history of the world, yet fully twenty per cent of American citizens are classified as living below minimum economic standards. The problem in the Appalachian Region alone is so severe that FOUR BILLION dollars are being earmarked over the next five years to try to lift the beleaguered ten-state area out of its economic doldrums. Mayor Robert Wagner, of New York City, recently declared that a total war on poverty in America would require twenty years and two hundred fifty-five BILLION dollars. A truly staggering sum!
Yet American Affluence Is Widespread
The four-fifths of Americans who are prospering, however, have never had it so good. Incomes are at a record level. The Gross National Products is clipping along at an all-time high. The new "good life" allows plenty of time for leisure activities. It seems we can't build sports stadiums fast enough. Private boat marinas dot our seacoasts and inland lakes. Camping is a big business. The less energetic just watch their TV sets — which will soon be able to receive eighty-two more channels. American young people, especially, are expecting a higher and higher standard of living as a "right." A common complaint of children is: "Why can't we have two cars?" A three-car family is no longer unusual.
Developing Nations Demand a Share in Prosperity
Not only among the poor in America is there a demand to share in the "affluent society." But among the newer and smaller nations of the world. Some of the new "developing" countries are attempting to make the leap from savagery to prosperity in one or two generations — a Herculean task. A new "Third Force" bloc of underprivileged nations from Africa, Asia and Latin America has been the most salient feature of the one-hundred-nineteen-nation Development Conference held recently in Geneva. The seventy-five nations banded together to push for a speed-up of their economic emancipation. They have created a united front in defense of the claims of the "underprivileged." The bloc has served notice it means business and wants to push for the reorganization of world trade and an end to the division of the world into areas of poverty on the one hand, and prosperity on the other! United Press International reports that these developing nations warn "that they will NOT TOLERATE the existing gulf in living standards indefinitely!" (Emphasis ours) It seems these "developing" nations — along with the Socialists, Communists and others — fail utterly to recognize the REASON for poverty. There is a cause for every effect. There is a cause or REASON why people and nations are poor. We need to learn what that reason is!
Why Communism and Socialism FAIL
The early Communist idealists in Russia and the Socialist planners in Britain, India and elsewhere attempted — in varying degrees — to solve the problem of poverty by limiting Capitalism and personal initiative. They engaged in massive government controls, handouts and aid, and "redistributed the wealth" through these means coupled with progressive income taxes and other governmental devices. Yet, in the Soviet, the gigantic experiment of Communism has FAILED! Even realistic Communist leaders are beginning to admit this sobering truth. To retain power, Red leaders — in nation after nation — are being forced to alter the Communist system to adapt to reality. The Associated Press recently reported that Premier Nikita Khruschev has recommended bringing into the Soviet economy "all progressive things which have been done in Capitalistic countries." "There is nothing shameful in this," the Premier added. "He again said farm workers must be given an INCENTIVE to produce," Associated Press reported. (Emphasis ours) "We must," he said, "find a method of paying for labor which could encourage growth of production." On April 20, 1964, the U.S. News and World Report magazine stated: "Communists now realize their system will not work. To retain power, they are trying to change the system. There is a visible trend toward decentralization of economic power and the adoption of Capitalist-style INCENTIVES... "What the Communists waste most is not raw materials or even time, but human initiative and inventiveness. Under their system, the horizons of freedom are simply not wide enough, the INCENTIVES not big enough, the REWARDS not large enough to call forth the best efforts of men and women..." (Emphasis ours) Notice that people need initiative, freedom and INCENTIVE to produce goods. Although the "government dole" system may temporarily alleviate the surface symptoms of poverty — it can NEVER get at and alleviate the real CAUSE.
Where Wealth Comes From
For all wealth comes out of the ground. It is the result of man's diligence and wisdom in cultivating, using and distributing what comes out of God's earth! The very food we eat comes out of the ground. Yet man's knowledge and effort is required to produce it. The lumber we use to build our houses and factories, our tables and the very chairs we sit on — this too comes from the ground and must be intelligently extracted by man's effort. The gold, silver, iron, copper, tin and aluminum must all be extracted from the ground by man's intelligence and effort. The processing and manufacturing of these and many other basic elements into finished products is not something that just "happens." It is something that requires man's initiative, intelligence and EFFORT. In plain language, it requires physical and mental WORK! This factor is tremendously important to understand when considering the world-wide problem of poverty. For the prosperity that these "developing" nations suddenly DEMAND is something that must be worked for and PRODUCED! Conversely, the LACK of mental and physical effort and production actually produces POVERTY!
Poverty Results From BROKEN LAW
Poverty is the result of broken law. It is the result of physical and spiritual SIN! "For sin is the transgression of the law" (I John 3:4). Nearly every account of the reasons for poverty in America shows that SIN — MISMANAGEMENT, LAZINESS, VANITY and STUBBORNNESS — IS very deeply involved. A continuing phenomenon in the poverty cycle is that of the broken home. Nearly half of all families headed by a woman are poor. Sickness is a constant factor in the poverty cycle — involving, as it does, broken health laws. Drinking, dope, prostitution and criminality are often basic contributing factors as well as continuing effects in the vicious cycle of poverty. The stubbornness of many individuals and families in failing to change their occupation or geographical location is a primary factor in many poverty situations. Also, the stubborn refusal to acquire a proper education has played a tremendous part in the poverty of many. And, very frankly, just plain LAZINESS exists in more millions of cases than the idealists and social planners like to admit! Often, this very laziness has been or is being encouraged by various types of government "doles" which stifle initiative and the desire to be employed. Of course, and let me make this VERY PLAIN, the above-mentioned factors are not always the "fault" of those who are presently suffering from the effects of poverty! The real blame may rest on parents and grandparents, older brothers and sisters, husbands, or — admittedly in many cases — those outsiders who, through covetousness, WITHHOLD a fair opportunity for help, education and opportunity. But whether committed by the poor individual or by others, all of the above factors are the result of SIN. There is no mistaking that! Broken homes and fatherless children are the result of sin. Drunkenness, dope addiction and criminality are SIN. They involve breaking God's law. The unfair discrimination against Negroes and those of other minority groups is certainly SIN. When you understand the principles of God such as Jesus' instruction to become perfect even as your Heavenly Father (Matt. 5:48), then you can grasp the fact that even the laziness or stubbornness involved in one's failure to get a proper education is sin. Yes, we recognize that some are prevented from gaining a proper education because of wretched family situations, racial discrimination and other causes. But remember that these causes are in themselves the result of SIN. There is no getting around it! Poverty is the result of broken LAW — the result of sin. Who, then, can forgive this sin? Can President Johnson and the social planners in America? Can the Socialists in England? Can the Communists in Asia and Africa? The answer, of course, to the above questions is that GOD forgives sin.
Quit BREAKING the Laws!
But He only does so after we REPENT and quit breaking the law! The desire of President Johnson and other benevolent leaders to help the poor is a good thing. And certain GOOD will result from it! But — if we are to face the facts — we must realize that it will do only a LIMITED amount of good for a very LIMITED amount of time. Robert M. Hutchins, noted educator and columnist, recently made this comment on President Johnson's "Poverty Program": "Whatever the value of the war on poverty as a means of drawing public attention to a grave issue, as an actual war it is a HOAX so far. No less than FIFTEEN TIMES the proposed initial expenditures would have to be laid out annually to make a dent in the situation. "The Appalachian venture in its present form is a HOAX. Eighty-eight per cent of the money to be spent on it would go to highways. These might help the people leave Appalachia for the urban slums. Highway construction will not bring work, to say nothing of prosperity, to Appalachia." (Emphasis ours) Mr. Hutchins, we might add, is not alone in his views. Most economists realize that a fantastic amount of money would have to be doled out to really "solve" the poverty situation even in the wealthiest land that has ever existed! Such a "solution" would soon leave the entire nation bankrupt and helpless! Clearly, the way to solve the poverty problem is to get at the CAUSE — not merely to soothe the surface symptoms of the disease. And that cause involves the broken laws of marriage, health, personal diligence and responsibility to God and fellow man.
The Real ANSWER to Poverty
You readers of The PLAIN TRUTH regularly receive — through this magazine — the means to prove the existence of a literal, personal GOD. He is the One who makes and unmakes nations. He is the One who has set in motion inexorable, invisible, spiritual laws — laws which produce great BLESSINGS if obeyed, and definite CURSES if disobeyed. Laws which are as real and as active as the law of gravity! The true ANSWER to poverty all revolves around the true GOSPEL of Jesus Christ. He preached the Kingdom of God — which means God's GOVERNMENT over our lives and our society. God's Government has LAW — the "royal" law composed of ten points (Jas. 2:10), the Ten Commandments. These laws of God's Government are the ways of LOVE — of giving, rather than getting — of serving, rather than taking. The great overall LAW of God is designed to protect the family, rid the entire society of crime and corruption, eliminate discrimination by causing everyone to love his neighbor, and to promote diligence and INDUSTRY as opposed to laziness — "Six days shalt thou LABOR." In plain language, this great LAW of God's Government is the ONLY WAY to peace, true happiness, physical and mental health and lasting PROSPERITY. Every last vestige of human suffering, inequality and poverty has come from transgressing that great spiritual, eternal LAW. Sin Is the transgression of that LAW (I John 3:4). The only true WAY to PROSPERITY, then, is to obey God's Law — and to follow His instructions, the examples in His Word, and to trust in the written promises in His Bible.
Does God want us to live in Poverty?
Many religious people have felt that — because God calls the "poor of the world rich in faith" — He is against prosperity. Is this true? "I wish above all things that thou mayest PROSPER and be in health," says God through John (III John 2). "Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly... but his delight is in the LAW OF THE ETERNAL... whatsoever he doeth shall PROSPER" (Ps. 1:1-3). Jesus said: "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more ABUNDANTLY" (John 10:10). The Greek word translated "abundantly" means just that. It is not the synonym for eternal life, but for the full, happy, PROSPEROUS life which Christ wants EVERYONE to enjoy as the world eventually learns and obeys God's WAY OF LIFE. Prosperity, then, may often be God's express will for a true Christian once he has learned to put the Kingdom of God first in his life — and OBEY the laws of God which PRODUCE prosperity and happiness. Although God often calls the poor to spiritual conversion, then, because they are willing to HUMBLE THEMSELVES and trust in Him — He does not intend that they remain in ignorance, squalor and poverty! Rather, His laws and the examples in His Word — reveal the WAY of life which would bring prosperity to every family and individual. In the World Tomorrow, this WAY OF LIFE — with its BLESSINGS — will eventually be practiced by everyone as the knowledge of God's Word gradually covers the entire surface of this earth. There is no sane reason why you should not learn this WAY right now — and begin to practice it!
How Does Prosperity Come?
Who is the most fantastically wealthy person in the universe? Do you know? Why, GOD is of course! "Whatsoever is under the whole heaven is mine," says God (Job 41:11). "The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the Lord of hosts" (Haggai 2:8). But what is the reason for God's right to control all this immense wealth and power? For all those things hath mine hand made," God might well answer (Isa. 66:2). God has worked — God has labored — He has produced, CREATED and brought into being everything in this universe. "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work," said Jesus (John 5:17). God is a WORKER — a LABORER! He is busy — on the job 24 hours a day. He does His work with ZEAL. "The zeal of the Lord" is an expression used many times in the Bible. And every real, Spirit-filled Christian is to be LIKE God! "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 2:5). The very MIND of God which we receive through the Holy Spirit is the mind of the Planner, Creator, and Builder of the universe and of the One who sustains the universe and keeps it operating continuously in perfect order and harmony. The product of God's mind reflects diligence, perseverance, ability, knowledge, and wisdom. It reflects the mind of one who has great understanding and SELF-MASTERY. This is the kind of mind which can work for and produce great material wealth and can then wisely use and direct that wealth. As true Christians — overcoming "self" and growing in the grace and knowledge of Christ — WE are to develop that kind of mind. And as we yield to God's Spirit within us, we should grow in knowledge and wisdom to the point where greater material reward will automatically come our way. Prosperity, then, usually comes through the exercise of wisdom, knowledge, zeal, and perseverance in our work or profession. These are not EVIL qualities — to be looked down on by those who are "just poor, humble folks."
False Idea of Humility
We should take time right here to explain the false concept some people have which actually causes them to be proud of their poverty. Many such people notice that very few of the rich are called to spiritual truth — whereas more of the very poor are. They also see and hear of a few examples of men who became wealthy through dishonesty and greed. These poor people automatically ASSUME, then, that all wealth is "tainted" — and is probably the result of sinful acts and thoughts. This idea produces in them a feeling of spiritual superiority, or — in plain language — spiritual pride and VANITY. Being blinded to the real nature of this feeling — as most of us are to our own sins — they fail to see this vanity in themselves. More often than not, they come to regard their lack of material goods as being synonymous with humility. Thus they often speak of themselves as "just poor, humble folks." Such an attitude is not humility, but VANITY — which God condemns. And such people would do well to REPENT and be really humble, and meek, and teachable. Then they might learn through God's Spirit how to exercise the good qualities of diligence, perseverance, dependability, and wisdom which those who have material goods have had to employ — even though they have sometimes misdirected their qualities and abilities because they lacked God's Spirit to guide them. The right USE of material wealth — and of the qualities which help produce it — is NOT wrong. Remember, God is no pauper! On the contrary, the right use of wealth is fulfilling part of the very PURPOSE for which we were placed on this earth. It is helping us to grow in right mental direction and character to become like God — like Christ, WORTHY of being born of the Spirit into the Supreme, Divine, world-ruling kingdom and family of God! Jesus Christ said: "Be ye therefore PERFECT, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" (Matt. 5:48).
Develop Right Qualities
In the book of Proverbs, God warns us against the habits that would tend to produce poverty. He shows that an upright and diligent man will have a reasonable amount of material wealth. Proverbs 6:6-11 gives us the example of saving ahead for a rainy day — and warns us against laziness: "How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard?" (verse 9). God continues: "He becometh poor that dealeth with a slack hand: but the hand of the diligent maketh rich" (Prov. 10:4). "The hand of the diligent shall bear rule... The righteous is more abundant than his neighbors... The substance of a diligent man is precious" (Prov. 12:24, 26-27). Notice how often Solomon was inspired to use the word "diligent" in describing a man who would be successful. This thought is repeated in Proverbs 13:4: "The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing: but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat." We are further instructed on how to do our work in Ecclesiastes 9:10: "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy MIGHT." Even the New Testament abounds with instruction on doing our work with zeal. Notice Colossians 3:22-24: "Servants [or laboring men], obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eye-service, as men-pleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God. And whatsoever ye do, do it HEARTILY, as to the Lord, and not unto men." Then Paul continues to show that we are bound to be rewarded by God for our efforts — and we are to look to Him for our reward: "Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ" (verse 24). In this age of strife and jealousy between labor and capital — when the prevailing attitude is to "get as much as you can and give as little as you can" — how many men really do their work with zeal, with wisdom, with diligence, and with all their MIGHT? The Eternal God in His Word instructs us to do our work in this manner. If we yield to Him and develop these qualities within ourselves, He promises us material blessings here and now — and spiritual, everlasting blessings as well. As the Apostle John wrote: "I wish above all things that thou mayest PROSPER and be in health." God has shown us the WAY to achieve that prosperity.
The Real OUTCOME of the "War Against Poverty"
As stated earlier in this article, President Johnson's "War Against Poverty" may temporarily alleviate the financial hardship of many people. But most economists agree that it will not even BEGIN to solve the financial problems of the majority. In its present form, all it can do is provide temporary financial help for a very small percentage of those suffering from poverty. To do much more might well WRECK the economy of the entire nation! But what about those in this nation who DON'T benefit from this program? What about the more than TWO BILLION people in Asia, Africa and South America who are suffering far worse poverty than most of their "poor" American cousins would dare to imagine? The only real answer to poverty is for people everywhere to begin to cooperate and to PRODUCE — to learn and to practice God's WAY OF LIFE. The solution is for Christ's Government to be set up on this earth! After describing a soon-coming national PUNISHMENT for our sins, notice how God says He will BLESS the modern descendants of the "House of Israel" — the British Commonwealth and the American peoples! "Thus saith the Lord God; In the day that I shall have cleansed you from all your iniquities I will also cause you to dwell in the cities, and the wastes shall be builded. And the desolate land shall be tilled, whereas it lay desolate in the sight of all that passed by. And they shall say, This land that was desolate is become like the GARDEN OF EDEN..." (Ezek. 36:33-35). It takes WORK to rebuild entire cities! It requires thought and EFFORT to plant and harvest bountiful crops! But God will inspire and BLESS His people in that day to rebuild civilization in the right way. As pictured above, God says a veritable TROPICAL PARADISE is coming, a restored "Garden of Eden"! Quite evidently the cities will be smaller and more open than they are now. Most families will have their own plot of ground, with a garden and perhaps fruit trees. For, "they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid" (Micah 4:4). No more fear of war or poverty! Christ's soon-coming Government — His WAY OF LIFE — this will be the final and glorious SOLUTION to man's age-old "fight against poverty." You, personally, need to grasp the REALITY of that solution. You need to learn and practice God's WAY right now — so you will be qualified to teach this way to others in His Kingdom. If you are concerned about the only REAL solution to poverty — and to ALL of humanity's ills, you need to think — to plan — to prepare — to pray: "Thy kingdom COME."