Blessed are the poor

"God blesses those who are poor and realise their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs." Matthew 5:3 (NLT)

If you don’t like statistics, then skip the next section!   Just take the headline figure that 10% of the world is living in extreme poverty.   This is an improvement over the last 15 years, but it’s still a huge number, and affects people mainly in sub-Saharan Africa.   In the United Kingdom, it is widely accepted that around 20% of people live below the poverty line.

Now, skip to the next section if you don’t want to read more about the statistics!   If you do want to learn more, then read on!

The poorest countries in the world (Concern Worldwide US) are:

  • Mosambique
  • Liberia
  • Mali
  • Burkina Faso
  • Sierra Leone
  • Burundi
  • Chad
  • South Sudan
  • Central African Republic
  • Niger

Other statistics (focus-economics.com) list the poorest as:

  • DR Congo
  • Mosambique
  • Uganda
  • Tajikistan
  • Yemen
  • Haiti
  • Ethiopia
  • Tanzania
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Uzbekistan

But even in the United Kingdom and the United States there are many who live in poverty and suffer hardship every day.

The United Kingdom is the fourth richest country in the world, following the United States, China and Japan.   The next six are Germany, India, Australia, Canada, France and Italy.   Combined, the ten countries represent 74% of total private wealth worldwide.   Thus nearly three-quarters of the world’s wealth is shared between 5% of the countries in the world, as there are 195 countries in total.   (Other sources state that there are 232 countries in the world – including Vatican City, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, and others which are included as territories belonging to other countries in the 195.   This would mean that 4.3% of the countries in the world would share three-quarters of the world’s wealth.)

Inequality is growing year upon year, and the richest 10% own 85% of all household wealth, and the top 1% own almost half (47%) of the world’s household wealth.   These statistics, and those following, are taken from various online resources, correct in July 2020, including visualcapitalist.com, the Institute for Fiscal Studies, UK government, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, fullfact.org, lifewater.org, and World Vision.

These statistics are shocking when you realise that within those top five countries, the poverty rates are as follows:

Source: Wikipedia

<$1.90

<$3.20

<$5.50

Year

United States

1.2%

1.5%

2%

2016

China

0.5%

5.4%

23.9%

2016

Japan

0.2%

0.5%

1%

2008

United Kingdom

0.2%

0.2%

0.7%

2015

Germany

0

0

0.2%

2015

Comparing poverty levels between countries is difficult, as there are many different ways of looking at poverty.   The table above shows the percentage of people living on different amounts per day – either $1.90, $3.20 or $5.50 a day.   Germany, particularly, seems to be doing quite well.   However, the percentage of people living below each country’s national poverty line are as follows:

  • United States 11.8%
  • China 3.1%
  • Japan 16.1%
  • United Kingdom 15%
  • Germany 16.7%

The poverty line is the minimum level of income deemed adequate in a particular country.   The previous figures use the international poverty line – those in extreme poverty or absolute poverty – living on less than $1.90 a day.   According to the World Bank, the levels of $3.20 a day and $5.50 a day reflects poverty lines in lower-middle-income countries and upper-middle-income-countries respectively.   A higher rate of $21.70 applies to high-income countries, such as the United States.

Measuring and documenting poverty here in the United Kingdom seems to be quite confusing.   There is a vast amount of data, with different measures used to define poverty, making a mountain of facts and figures that merely serve to prove the point the author is trying to make.   And, of course, the same is true in reading this.  

However, there does seem to be a consensus that says that around 20% of the population of the UK are living below the poverty line.   This differs from the 15% in the previous figures but is adjusted to bring into account housing costs.   This represents around 14 million people in the UK, and that figure has changed very little over the last twenty years.

What does Jesus say?

Jesus speaks directly to the poor, but He also speaks to those who can help and bless the poor.

Of course, in His Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes – the attitudes we should adopt – He says directly:

God blesses those who are poor and realise their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.”

Matthew 5:3 (NLT)

Wow – don’t you want to be poor right now?   Maybe you are poor?   Then the Kingdom of Heaven is yours!   But you realise from this that it’s not just the state of being poor – there’s an ‘and’ in the statement (which is not found in Luke’s version – Luke 6:20).   Jesus says: “and realise their need for him.”   God blesses those who realise their need for Him.

Of course, there is a deeper meaning to all of this.   We are ALL poor.   We are poor in Spirit; we suffer from a lacking in our relationship, a lacking in our understanding, a lacking in our knowing Him.   We don’t know Him well enough; we don’t have a deep understanding of Him, and we don’t have a close enough relationship with Him.   We can’t – because we are flesh and blood, and we have all sinned and done things wrong in our lives.  

But when we realise how poor we are, because of this lack and because of our wrong-doings, we are blessed; because the Kingdom of Heaven is ours.

You will always have the poor among you.”

Matthew 26:11 (NLT)

Jesus said that the poor will always be with us.   Does this mean that it’s meaningless to try and help the poor?   After all, if we lift them out of their poverty, they will no longer be blessed!   No, of course not!  

When you put on a luncheon or a banquet … invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.”

Luke 14:12-13 (NLT)

We should help the poor – and if you remember the commandment to love your neighbour (see the second booklet in the Discipleship Series – Love Your Neighbour) you will realise that this is not optional!  It’s a command!

May we pray: Thank You, Lord, that You bless the poor.   Help us, also, by showing us what we can do ourselves to help the poor.   Help us realise that we, ourselves, are also poor in Spirit and that we need You.   We ask this in the precious name of our Saviour, Christ Jesus; Amen.


If you want to make a real difference in people’s lives, and in the community you live, by helping those who are experiencing poverty, why not get in touch?   We have a charity that does just that.   May God Bless You.

You can read more about Jesus and His teachings in our Discipleship Programme.