Welfare Ministry


Chapter 20—Ministry to the Poor

The Gospel in Its Greatest Loveliness—Unto the poor the gospel is to be preached. Never does the gospel put on an aspect of greater loveliness than when it is brought to the most needy and destitute regions. To men of every station it delivers its precepts, which regulate their duties, and its promises, which nerve them to the discharge of their duties. Then it is that the light of the gospel shines forth in its most radiant clearness and its greatest power. Truth from the Word of God enters the hovel of the peasant and lights up the rude cottages of the poor, both black and white. Rays from the Sun of Righteousness bring gladness to the sick and suffering. Angels of God are there, and the simple faith shown makes the crust of bread and the cup of water as a banquet of luxury. Those who have been loathed and abandoned are raised through faith and pardon to the dignity of sons and daughters of God. Lifted above all in the world, they sit in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. They have no earthly treasure, but they have found the pearl of great price. The sin-pardoning Saviour receives the poor and ignorant and gives them to eat of the bread which comes down from heaven. They drink of the water of life.—Letter 113, 1901. WM 169.1

Jesus Associated Himself With the Poor—It has become fashionable to look down upon the poor.... But Jesus, the Master, was poor, and He sympathizes with the poor, the discarded, the oppressed, and declares that every insult shown to them is as if shown to Himself. I am more and more surprised as I see those who claim to be children of God possessing so little of the sympathy, tenderness, and love which actuated Christ. Would that every church, North and South, were imbued with the spirit of our Lord's teaching!—Manuscript 6, 1891. WM 170.1

Christ Came to Minister to the Poor—Christ stood at the head of humanity in the garb of humanity. So full of sympathy and love was His attitude that the poorest was not afraid to come to Him. He was kind to all, easily approached by the most lowly. He went from house to house, healing the sick, feeding the hungry, comforting the mourners, soothing the afflicted, speaking peace to the distressed.—Letter 117, 1903. WM 170.2

“And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up: and, as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto Him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He hath sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” WM 170.3

This is a wonderful description of Christ's work. The Pharisees and Sadducees despised the poor. The learned and rich neglected them, as though their wealth and knowledge made them of more value than those who were poor. But Jesus declared that it was His work to give encouragement and comfort and help where it was most needed.—Manuscript 65b, 1898. WM 171.1

How Christ Awakened Soul Hunger—Christ's chief work was in the preaching of the gospel to the poor. He chose to minister to the needy, the ignorant. In simplicity He opened before them the blessings they might receive, and thus He awakened their soul's hunger for the truth, the bread of life. Christ's life is an example to all His followers.—Manuscript 103, 1906. WM 171.2

The Evidence of the Divinity of the Gospel—Christ met with the greatest success among the poor, and with this class every human being, whether learned or unlearned, may find abundance to do. The poor need comfort and sympathy, for there are those who without a helping hand will never recover themselves. In working for these Christ's disciples will fulfill their commission. This is the highest credential of the gospel ministry. Had the gospel been of men, it would have been popular with the rich and mighty; but it pours contempt upon the rich and mighty, and calls upon all who accept it to work the works of Christ, helping those who are destitute, despised, forsaken, afflicted. WM 171.3

Those who take hold of the work for the love of Christ and the love of souls will work in Christ's lines. This world is a lazar house of disease, but Christ came to heal the sick, to comfort the brokenhearted, to proclaim deliverance to the captives, to give sight to the blind. The gospel is the very essence of restoration, and Christ would have us bid the brokenhearted, the hopeless, and the afflicted, take hold His strength; for the acceptable year of the Lord has come.—Manuscript 65b, 1898. WM 171.4

Christianity the Solace of the Poor—There is a connection between the religion of Christ and poverty. Christianity is the solace of the poor. There is a false religion, endangering the souls of all who advance it, that teaches that selfish pleasure and enjoyment is the sum of happiness. But the parable of the rich man and Lazarus shows us that this is false. There came a time when the rich man would have given all he possessed to have exchanged places with Lazarus, once poor, and covered with sores. WM 172.1

In the humanity of Christ there are golden threads that bind the believing, trusting poor man to His own soul of infinite love. He is the great physician. In our world He bore our infirmities and carried our burdens. He is the mighty Healer of all diseases. He was poor, and yet He was the center of all goodness, all blessings. He is a reservoir of power to all to consecrate their powers to the work of becoming sons of God.—Manuscript 22, 1898. WM 172.2

Christ Lifted the Stigma From Poverty—Christ has ever been the poor man's friend. He chose poverty, and honored it by making it His lot. He has stripped from it forever the reproach of scorn by blessing the poor, the inheritors of God's kingdom. Such was His work. By consecrating Himself to a life of poverty He redeemed poverty from its humiliation. He took His position with the poor that He might lift from poverty the stigma that the world had attached to it. He knew the danger of the love of riches. He knew that this love is ruinous to many souls. It places those who are rich where they indulge every wish for grandeur. It teaches them to look down on those who are suffering the pressure of poverty. It develops the weakness of human minds and shows that notwithstanding the abundance of wealth, the rich are not rich toward God. WM 172.3

The characters of many have been molded by the false estimate placed on the worldly rich man. The man possessed of houses and lands, lauded and deceived by the respect given him, may look down upon the poor man, who possesses virtues that the rich man does not. When weighed in the golden scales of the sanctuary, the selfish, covetous rich man will be found wanting, while the poor man, who has depended in faith upon God alone for his virtue and goodness, will be pronounced heir to eternal riches in the kingdom of God.—Manuscript 22, 1898. WM 173.1

World's Great Men Cannot Solve the Problem—In the great cities there are multitudes living in poverty and wretchedness, well-nigh destitute of food, shelter, and clothing; while in the same cities are those who have more than heart could wish, who live luxuriously, spending their money on richly furnished houses, on personal adornment, or worse still, upon the gratification of sensual appetites, upon liquor, tobacco, and other things that destroy the powers of the brain, unbalance the mind, and debase the soul. The cries of starving humanity are coming up before God.... WM 173.2

There are not many, even among educators and statesmen, who comprehend the causes that underlie the present state of society. Those who hold the reins of government are not able to solve the problem of moral corruption, poverty, pauperism, and increasing crime. They are struggling in vain to place business operations on a more secure basis. If men would give more heed to the teaching of God's Word, they would find a solution of the problems that perplex them.—Testimonies for the Church 9:12, 13. WM 173.3

God's Plan for Israel to Check Inequality—It was to be impressed upon the minds of all that the poor have as much right to a place in God's world as have the more wealthy. Such were the provisions made by our merciful Creator, to lessen suffering, to bring some ray of hope, to flash some gleam of sunshine, into the life of the destitute and distressed. WM 174.1

The Lord would place a check upon the inordinate love of property and power. Great evils would result from the continued accumulation of wealth by one class and the poverty and degradation of another. Without some restraint the power of the wealthy would become a monopoly, and the poor, though in every respect fully as worthy in God's sight, would be regarded and treated as inferior to their more prosperous brethren. The sense of this oppression would arouse the passions of the poorer class. There would be a feeling of despair and desperation which would tend to demoralize society and open the door to crimes of every description. The regulations that God established were designed to promote social equality. The provisions of the sabbatical year and the jubilee would, in a great measure, set right that which during the interval had gone wrong in the social and political economy of the nation. WM 174.2

These regulations were designed to bless the rich no less than the poor. They would restrain avarice and a disposition for self-exaltation and would cultivate a noble spirit of benevolence; and by fostering good-will and confidence between all classes they would promote social order, the stability of government. We are all woven together in the great web of humanity, and whatever we can do to benefit and uplift others will reflect in blessing upon ourselves. The law of mutual dependence runs through all classes of society. The poor are not more dependent upon the rich than are the rich upon the poor. While the one class ask a share in the blessings which God has bestowed upon their wealthier neighbors, the other need the faithful service, the strength of brain and bone and muscle, that are the capital of the poor.... WM 174.3

There are many who urge with great enthusiasm that all men should have an equal share in the temporal blessings of God. But this was not the purpose of the Creator. A diversity of condition is one of the means by which God designs to prove and develop character. Yet He intends that those who have worldly possessions shall regard themselves merely as stewards of His goods, as entrusted with means to be employed for the benefit of the suffering and the needy. WM 175.1

Christ has said that we shall have the poor always with us, and He unites His interest with that of His suffering people. The heart of our Redeemer sympathizes with the poorest and lowliest of His earthly children. He tells us that they are His representatives on earth. He has placed them among us to awaken in our hearts the love that He feels toward the suffering and oppressed. Pity and benevolence shown to them are accepted by Christ as if shown to Himself. An act of cruelty or neglect toward them is regarded as though done to Him.—Patriarchs and Prophets, 534-536. WM 175.2

Christ Sees Opportunity in Man's Extremity—Christ's heart is cheered by the sight of those who are poor in every sense of the term; cheered by His view of the ill-used ones who are meek and of those bowed down with the sorrows of bereavement; cheered by the seemingly unsatisfied hungering after righteousness, by the inability of many to begin. He welcomes, as it were, the very condition of things that would discourage many ministers. He sees an opportunity to help those who are so much in need of help by meeting them where they are. WM 175.3

The Lord Jesus corrects our erring piety, giving the burden of this work for the poor and needy in the rough places to men and women of adaptability who have hearts that can feel for the ignorant and for those who are out of the way. The Lord teaches them how to meet these cases. These workers will be encouraged as they see doors opening for them to enter places where they can do medical missionary work. Having little self-confidence, they give God all the glory, taking none of it to themselves. The Saviour is present to help to make a beginning through those whose hands are rough and unskilled, but whose hearts are susceptible to pity and awakened to do something to relieve the woes so abundant. He works through those who can discern mercy in misery, gain in the loss of all things. When the Light of the world passeth by, privileges appear in all hardships, right and order in confusion, the success and wisdom of God in that which has seemed to be failure in human experience.... WM 176.1

Christ pronounces His blessing upon those who hunger and thirst after righteousness. In Luke we read, “Blessed be ye poor.” The poor have not a hundredth part of the delusive temptations of the rich. In Matthew we read, “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Poverty of spirit signifies wealth to be supplied by the riches of the grace of God.—Letter 100, 1902. WM 176.2

If Poverty Were Removed From the Earth—Want and poverty there will always be. However high the standard of knowledge and morality may be, whatever heights we may reach in civilization, poverty will always continue, as a display of the riches of the grace of God, a standing memorial to the truth of the words, “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.” It would not be for the benefit of Christianity for the Lord to remove poverty from the earth. Thus a door would be closed that is now open for the exercise of faith—a means whereby the hearts of the afflicted can be reached by the gospel of goodness. By Christian liberality souls are reached that could be reached in no other way. It is the helping hand of the gospel.—Letter 83, 1902. WM 177.1