In the 1960s, the United States government launched a war on poverty. It was officially declared by President Lyndon Johnson, and at the time it must have seemed like a good idea to many people—both Democrats and Republicans. There was just one problem: It was not a war the American government, or any other government in the world, could win.
Today, the percentage of people living in poverty in this nation is almost identical to what it was in the ’60s because poverty isn’t a financial problem. It’s a spiritual problem. It can’t be solved by politics or conquered by man-made programs.
You can throw all the money you want at it and you won’t get rid of it. In fact, you’re likely to make it worse because the devil is the driving force behind it, and he uses money as leverage and power. He’s figured out that if he can get people to look to something other than God to meet their needs (he doesn’t care if it’s welfare or Wall Street) he can control them…and control is what the devil is all about.
That’s the reason God doesn’t want His people to be financially dependent on anything or anyone in this fallen world order. He doesn’t want you looking to the government as the source of your prosperity. He doesn’t want you looking to your rich Uncle Charlie. He doesn’t even want you looking to the company where you work.
God wants you to be dependent only upon Him, because only He can set you free from the devil’s control and prosper you—regardless of what’s happening in the world’s economy.
My parents found this out in the 1930s during the Depression. The economy was miserable all over the nation back then, but in West Texas where they lived, it was particularly bad. In those days, West Texas was a hard place to make a living—even when times were good. The primary source of revenue was dirt farming and no one had any irrigation. Even a minor drought could cause major problems. So you can imagine what it was like from 1931 to 1941 when hardly any rain fell there at all.
During those 10 years the Texas Panhandle, along with Oklahoma and New Mexico, became the great Dust Bowl. Sandstorms got so bad that people died in them. Their lungs got full of dust and they couldn’t breathe. If that wasn’t enough, job opportunities—which had already been scarce—dried up as well and people left in droves.
Mama and Daddy didn’t know much about divine prosperity in those days but they loved The LORD. They knew He was their Source, so in their wedding vows they committed to tithe on every dime they made for the rest of their lives.
All through the Depression my dad was never without a job for more than a day. If one job played out, he and my mother would catch hands and pray for another one. “I’d stand at the door and watch him go down the road until he was completely out of sight,” my mother told me. “Then I’d go about my chores all day just praising and worshiping God.”
Every time, in less than 24 hours my father would find employment. God would direct him, show him where to go and get him jobs—good ones—when there weren’t any to be found. Talk about winning a war on poverty! In the worst times the country has ever seen, while others were looking to the government or someone else in the world to meet their needs, my parents looked to God, kept tithing and were BLESSED.
Keeping Poor People Poor
“Well, Brother Copeland, I’m glad things worked out so well for your parents, but surely you don’t think everyone should follow their example. Surely you’re not suggesting that God wants people who are genuinely poor to be givers.”
No, I’m not suggesting it. I’m saying it outright because it’s in the Bible. Luke 6:38 says to both rich and poor alike, “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.”
It’s the devil who came up with the idea that a poor man shouldn’t be expected to give. It’s the way he keeps poor people poor. God wants everyone to tithe and give offerings so He can make them rich.
Jesus proved this by the way He responded to the destitute widow when she gave her offering at the Temple. Because He always did the will of His Father, if God didn’t want poor people to give, Jesus would have objected when that widow threw her last two pennies into the offering bucket. He would have said something like, “Hold on there, sweetheart. God doesn’t need your money. There are plenty of rich people around here to finance His work. You just keep those two pennies for yourself because you’re going to need them.”
But Jesus didn’t say any such thing. Instead, he blessed her offering and called it the biggest one in the bucket. He told His disciples: “Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living” (Mark 12:43-44).
One of the things I’m looking forward to when I get to heaven and they open the archives of Church history, is finding out what ultimately happened to that widow. She probably became a rich real-estate tycoon and ended up as one of the biggest givers in the early New Testament Church. What makes me think so?
She tapped into the revelation Paul preached to the believers in Macedonia! A deeply impoverished bunch, those saints actually had to beg Paul to let them contribute to the offering he was receiving for another group of believers. When Paul agreed to accept their gifts, God revealed this to him: “He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully…for God loveth a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:6-8, emphasis mine).
According to The Amplified Bible, having all sufficiency in all things means “possessing enough to require no aid or support and furnished in abundance for every good work and charitable donation.” I believe that’s what the widow expected to receive from God in return for her giving, and that’s what she got.
The $35,000 Rice Bowl
“But the New Testament hadn’t been written when the widow gave her two pennies!” you might say. “How did she know what God would do for her?”
She had plenty of Old Testament scriptures to base her faith on. Verses such as:
- “There is one who scatters, yet increases more; and there is one who withholds more than is right, but it leads to poverty. The generous soul will be made rich, and he who waters will also be watered himself.” (Proverbs 11:24-25, New King James Version)
- “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” (Malachi 3:10)
- “Honour the Lord with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase: So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.” (Proverbs 3:9-10)
Personally, I’m persuaded this widow had so much faith in those verses that she was more than just willing to give, she was determined to give. I think she marched up to the offering bucket with such an attitude of defiant confidence no one would have dared try to stop her.
She was probably a lot like the poor widow Dr. Paul Yonggi Cho encountered at his church in Korea some years ago. As he tells it, she came forward during offering time carrying her rice bowl and boldly put it on the altar. Dr. Cho knew that rice bowl could mean the difference between eating and starving for someone as poor as she was, so he tried to give it back to her.
“Who do you think you are to interfere with my offering?” she said. “This rice bowl is mine and I’ll do with it whatever God tells me.”
As Dr. Cho stepped aside, properly chastened by her rebuke (“I needed it!” he said later), a wealthy man in the congregation jumped out of his seat and ran up to the woman. He’d been watching her, and through her giving she’d taught him something that changed his life. “The LORD just told me to pay you $35,000 for that rice bowl,” he said to her.
“OK,” she replied.
In an instant, that woman went from poverty to wealth.
“But Brother Copeland,” you might say, “what if the rich man hadn’t obeyed? How would God have prospered such a poor woman? It’s not like He can dump resources out of heaven.”
Yes, He can! Haven’t you ever heard about the manna the Israelites ate in the wilderness? God dumped enough of it out of heaven to feed 2.5 million people every day. He doesn’t have to depend on this earth for resources. He has all spiritual resources in heavenly places at His disposal—and if He needs more, He can create them.
Go to God First
My friend, God is rich, rich, rich…and if you are born again, as a joint heir with Christ, all His resources belong to you. This isn’t just religion, it’s New Testament reality! When Jesus went to the cross, He totally defeated poverty on your behalf once and for all. As 2 Corinthians 8:9 says, “Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.”
Notice that verse doesn’t say He did it so you would just have your needs met. It says He became poor so that you might be rich! What’s more, 2 Corinthians 9:8 tells us how such a thing is possible. It says: “God is able to make all grace (every favor and earthly blessing) come to you in abundance, so that you may always and under all circumstances and whatever the need be self-sufficient [possessing enough to require no aid or support and furnished in abundance for every good work and charitable donation]” (AMP).
This is God’s will for you! He doesn’t want you having to go to the government for finances. He doesn’t want you having to borrow money from the bank. He Himself wants to supply you with more than enough for every good work, so that when the pastor announces, “We’re going to build a new church building,” you don’t have to say, “I can only give a little.” You can say, “I’ll pay for the north wing.”
Sadly, most believers can’t even imagine such a thing. They look at themselves, their background, their educational level or whatever, and think it would be impossible. “Not even God could get that kind of money to me,” they say. “It would be too hard.”
But that’s an absolutely unscriptural statement! Nothing is too hard for God. He is able to do “exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us” (Ephesians 3:20). The only reason we think things are too hard for God is because they’re too hard for us.
Let’s get rid of such thinking. Let’s stop limiting God to what we can figure out with our finite, human brains. According to the Bible, “With God nothing shall be impossible” (Luke 1:37), and “all things are possible to him that believeth” (Mark 9:23). So let’s get our eyes off ourselves and everything else in this natural world order, put them on God and simply believe.
To do this, of course, we must renew our mind to the point where we go to God first concerning our finances. We don’t go to the bank first, and Uncle Charlie second, and then to Grandma who tells us we should pray about it. No! Prayer should be the place where we start. We’re children of Almighty God and He owns everything in heaven and earth. We’re joint heirs with Jesus and He has been appointed heir of all those things. In Christ, we’re not just guardians of God’s vast resources, we’re co-owners. How can someone who’s joint owner of the entire universe be worried about paying the rent?
That doesn’t even make sense!
I’ll tell you what does make sense, though. It makes sense for you and me and every other believer to have all sufficiency in all things. It makes sense for us to abound, not just enough to pay our bills but to do every good work.
This has always been the heart of God: “He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes…” (1 Samuel 2:8). That’s something that, try as they may, the governments in this fallen world order can’t do. It’s up to us as the Church of The LORD Jesus Christ to receive the resources God has made available to us and launch a war on poverty that’s the real thing. It’s up to us to take a stand on the victory Jesus has already won and put that poverty spirit where it belongs—under our feet!