The Gospel and the Poor (Part 3)

the gospel and the poorOne of the greatest reasons for needing a lose term such as “need” to help conceive of poverty is the radical differences in standard of living that occur between the continents and even among the poor themselves. D. L. Mundy in his ground breaking book, Christianity and Economic Problems wrote:


Even ‘the poorest he’ in the highly industrialized countries expects a standard of living unprecedented in earlier ages. He lives longer, he has access to educational and medical facilities, he has better clothes, a more solid and warmer house (even if it be a slum), more leisure from work, less sheerly [sic] back-breaking labor when at work, a dependable food supply, and opportunities to enjoy those luxuries of modern civilization in the form of tobacco, films and daily papers, which tend to be regarded as necessities, and no longer luxuries, though the mass of human kind have managed to live fairly satisfactory lives without knowing them or caring for them.[1]

The 2012 Poverty Guidelines Federal Register Notice from the United States Department of Health and Human Services based on the Census Bureau’s official poverty thresholds records the poverty line for a family consisting of four people, presumably two adults and two children, living in the lower forty-eight states to be at $23,050; higher in both Alaska and Hawaii.[2] This breaks down to roughly $15.80 per person, per day to live at the poverty line in the United States. The breakdown is higher for single adults living on their own assuming they are not able to share the expenses of shelter and basic utilities. The World Bank standard for the world poverty line around $1.25 per person per day.[3] The poverty line for the United States is roughly twelve times higher than the world poverty line. Incidentally the world poverty line put forth by the World Bank does not take into account large industrialized nations such as the United States, Canada, and Australia in its findings.  The conclusion is that the cost of living or at least the standard of living is higher in the United States and other industrialized nations than it is in third world countries.

D. L. Munby stated; luxuries of modern civilization have come to be counted on as necessities.[4]  Some such luxuries would include processed foods which increase the cost of food in the super market, stricter food laws that prevent markets from selling out of date products, utilities such as electricity, water and the sewer/ septic systems that are standard in America,  rigorous building codes, the cost of transportation, child care, etc.  All of these factors indicate a higher standard and therefore cost of living in the United States.

Though the United States Census Bureau attempts to put a figure on the cost of living it is difficult for any national organization to really address the specific issues of poverty in a region. Individual issues often complicate the poverty issue. Attitudes such as depression or culturally ingrained mindsets prevent people from reaching their full economic potential. Issues such as a gambling addiction, drug addiction, alcohol addiction and others are localized situations that keep individuals poor and cannot be addressed or even fully realized through suggesting  a poverty line. Ultimately the matter of poverty has to be addressed on a local and individualized level.[5]

[1] D.L. Munby. Christianity and Economic Problems. (New York: MacMillon & CO, 1956), 107-8.

[2] “,” 2012 Poverty Guidelines, (accessed April 20, 2012).

[3] “,” Replicate the World Bank’s Regional Aggregation, (accessed April 20, 2012).

[4] Munby, 108.

[5] Jay Wesley Richards. Money, Greed, and God, (New York: HarperOne, 2009), 50-51.

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2 thoughts on “The Gospel and the Poor (Part 3)

  1. Nadine De Lisle

    Let us please stop saying “the poor”. Good intentions aside- and we know how the path to hell is paved…we are talking, I believe, about human beings- people- who happen to be without the resources- financial and other- they need.


  2. Thanks for your comment. I think I see where you are coming from and I certainly wouldn’t want to define a person by their circumstance. But in this case I was attempting to use “the poor” in very general sense (as a state of being) as is commonly used even among organizations who attempt to alleviate poverty. I certainly understand the hurtfully defining aspect of saying for example “Joe is Poor” but have trouble making the same application to say Jesus’ words in John 12, “You’ll always have the poor among you.” The second example is where I was headed with the term “The Poor”.


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