Saint Paul, the biblical writer, says surprisingly little about the poor. This could lead us to believe that caring for the poor is unimportant to him, but it seems more likely that he said so little about the poor because it was a given to him that believers in Christ would help others.
However, there are a few moments when Paul gives us direct glimpses into his view of helping the poor. One of these occurs in the middle of his most salvation-focused letter, Romans.
“But now I am traveling to Jerusalem, serving the saints. For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. For they were pleased to do so, and they are obligated to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in their spiritual things, they ought also to serve them in material things. Therefore, after I have accomplished this and sealed this fruit for delivery to them, I will depart by way of you for Spain” (Romans 15:25–28 LEB).
Here are five lessons from Paul’s comments about the poor in Romans.
Paul travels to Jerusalem to help the church there in their work among the poor.
Paul sees assisting others financially as a natural and necessary result of his ministry.
Paul notes that the Christians in Macedonia and Achaia should be satisfied by the opportunity to help the poor in Jerusalem.
Paul notes that the non-Jewish (Gentile) Christians in Macedonia and Achaia benefited from the initial efforts of the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem to spread the Good News of Jesus, and should respond in kind. The sharing of physical belongings is a way they can thank the church in Jerusalem for their efforts.
Paul desires to visit the Roman church on his way to Spain, but he realizes that his first obligation is to the church in need (Jerusalem).
What will we do with what Paul has to teach us about helping the poor? Are you living these five lessons?
(This post is part of the new series, “What Saint Paul Says about Poverty.” Thanks to Eng Hoe, Lim's work in The Gospel of the Kingdom: my viewpoint on why Paul rarely addresses poverty is rooted in Eng Hoe, Lim's thinking.)