Bible verses about helping the poor are found throughout the Old and New Testaments and cover every type of Biblical literature.
Popular Bible verses about helping the poor include "He who has pity on the poor lends to the LORD; he will reward him" (Proverbs 19:17) and “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (Matthew 19:21)
How Many Bible Verses Are About Helping the Poor?
This post includes 61 passages (not 61 Bible verses) that talk about helping the poor. Some of these are individual verses, for example, the ones from Psalms and Proverbs. Other passages, such as sections from the Mosaic Law or Paul's Epistles, are longer. The topics include how God helps the poor, the benefits of helping the poor, and Biblical commands about helping the poor. We also point out special circumstances in which it's better NOT to help the poor. This passage list is meant to be thorough but not comprehensive.
Number of Passages
Psalms and Proverbs
other Old Testament
other New Testament
God Loves to Help the Poor
What is the main reason why we help the poor? Because God does. We are made in his image and want to be like him, so as his Holy Spirit dwells in us we will desire to help the poor.
- “Because of the oppression of the weak and because of the groaning of the needy, I will now arise,” says the LORD; “I will set him in safety from those who malign him.” (Psalm 12:5)
- You frustrate the plan of the poor, [but] the LORD is his refuge. (Psalm 14:6)
- All my bones shall say, “LORD, who is like you, who delivers the poor from him who is too strong for him; yes, the poor and the needy from him who robs him?” (Psalm 35:10)
- But I am poor and needy. May the Lord think about me. You are my help and my deliverer. Don’t delay, my God.
- Your congregation lived therein. You, God, prepared your goodness for the poor. (Psalm 68:10)
- But I am poor and needy. Come to me quickly, God. You are my help and my deliverer. LORD, don’t delay.
- He has dispersed, he has given to the poor. His righteousness endures forever. His horn will be exalted with honor. (Psalm 112:9)
- He raises up the poor out of the dust, and lifts up the needy from the ash heap, (Psalm 113:7)
- I know that the LORD will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and justice for the needy. (Psalm 140:12)
- Don’t exploit the poor because he is poor; and don’t crush the needy in court; 23 for the LORD will plead their case, and plunder the life of those who plunder them. (Proverbs 22:22–23)
- so that they caused the cry of the poor to come to him. He heard the cry of the afflicted. (Job 34:28)
- As it is written, “He has scattered abroad. He has given to the poor. His righteousness remains forever.” (2 Corinthians 9:9)
- He has filled the hungry with good things. He has sent the rich away empty. (Luke 1:53)
Bible Verses on Benefits of Helping the Poor
The book of Proverbs explains the benefits of helping the poor:
- The poor person is shunned even by his own neighbor, but the rich person has many friends. 21 He who despises his neighbor sins, but he who has pity on the poor is blessed. (Proverbs 14:20–21)
- He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for his Maker, but he who is kind to the needy honors him. (Proverbs 14:31)
- Whoever mocks the poor reproaches his Maker. He who is glad at calamity shall not be unpunished. (Proverbs 17:5)
- He who has pity on the poor lends to the LORD; he will reward him. (Proverbs 19:17)
- Whoever oppresses the poor for his own increase and whoever gives to the rich, both come to poverty. (Proverbs 22:16)
- He who increases his wealth by excessive interest gathers it for one who has pity on the poor. (Proverbs 28:8)
- One who gives to the poor has no lack; but one who closes his eyes will have many curses. (Proverbs 28:27)
Bible Verses that are Commands to Help the Poor
Commands to help the poor are found throughout the Bible.
New Testament Commands
Jesus, James, John, and Paul all exhorted their disciples to take care of the poor and needy.
- Be careful that you don’t do your charitable giving before men, to be seen by them, or else you have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. 2 Therefore, when you do merciful deeds, don’t sound a trumpet before yourself, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may get glory from men. Most certainly I tell you, they have received their reward. 3 But when you do merciful deeds, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand does, 4 so that your merciful deeds may be in secret, then your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. (Matthew 6:1–4)
- Sell what you have and give gifts to the needy. Make for yourselves purses which don’t grow old, a treasure in the heavens that doesn’t fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. (Luke 12:33)
- But when you make a feast, ask the poor, the maimed, the lame, or the blind; 14 and you will be blessed, because they don’t have the resources to repay you. For you will be repaid in the resurrection of the righteous.” (Luke 14:13–14)
- And if a brother or sister is naked and in lack of daily food, 16 and one of you tells them, “Go in peace. Be warmed and filled;” yet you didn’t give them the things the body needs, what good is it? (James 2:15–16)
- But whoever has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, then closes his heart of compassion against him, how does God’s love remain in him? (1 John 3:17)
- But now, I say, I am going to Jerusalem, serving the saints. 26 For it has been the good pleasure of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor among the saints who are at Jerusalem. 27 Yes, it has been their good pleasure, and they are their debtors. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, they owe it to them also to serve them in material things. (Romans 15:25–27)
- Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I commanded the assemblies of Galatia, you do likewise. 2 On the first day of every week, let each one of you save as he may prosper, that no collections are made when I come. (1 Corinthians 16:1–2)
- For this is not that others may be eased and you distressed, 14 but for equality. Your abundance at this present time supplies their lack, that their abundance also may become a supply for your lack, that there may be equality. 15 As it is written, “He who gathered much had nothing left over, and he who gathered little had no lack.” (2 Corinthians 8:13–15)
- And when they perceived the grace that was given to me, James and Cephas and John, those who were reputed to be pillars, gave to Barnabas and me the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcision. 10 They only asked us to remember the poor—which very thing I was also zealous to do. (Galatians 2:9–10)
- [Contribute] to the needs of the saints, and [show] hospitality. (Romans 12:13)
- We exhort you, brothers: Admonish the disorderly; encourage the faint-hearted; support the weak; be patient toward all. (1 Thessalonians 5:14)
Multiple gospels record the story of the Rich Young Ruler. He was a faithful Israelite who obeyed the Law, and came to Jesus seeking approval. Jesus told him to sell everything he had and give to the poor. Unfortunately, the rich young ruler found it too hard to part with all his wealth:
- Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (Matthew 19:21)
- Jesus looking at him loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack. Go, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me, taking up the cross.” (Mark 10:21)
- When Jesus heard these things, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute it to the poor. Then you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” (Luke 18:22)
Historical Books and Prophets
Israel was often reprimanded for not helping the poor and needy. Not only did they not help, but they would actively oppress and exploit the poor to add to their own wealth.
- Please restore to them, even today, their fields, their vineyards, their olive groves, and their houses, also the hundredth part of the money, and of the grain, the new wine, and the oil, that you are charging them.” (Nehemiah 5:11)
- Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to him for whom nothing is prepared, for today is holy to our Lord. Don’t be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)
- For you have been a stronghold to the poor, a stronghold to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shade from the heat, when the blast of the dreaded ones is like a storm against the wall. (Isaiah 25:4)
- Isn’t this the fast that I have chosen: to release the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke? 7 Isn’t it to distribute your bread to the hungry, and that you bring the poor who are cast out to your house? When you see the naked, that you cover him; and that you not hide yourself from your own flesh? (Isaiah 58:6–7)
- The people of the land have used oppression and exercised robbery. Yes, they have troubled the poor and needy, and have oppressed the foreigner wrongfully. 30 “I sought for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I would not destroy it; but I found no one. 31 Therefore I have poured out my indignation on them. I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath. I have brought their own way on their heads,” says the LORD. (Ezekiel 22:29–31)
- Hear this, you who desire to swallow up the needy, and cause the poor of the land to fail, 5 saying, "When will the new moon be gone, that we may sell grain? And the Sabbath, that we may market wheat, making the ephah small, and the shekel large, and dealing falsely with balances of deceit; 6 that we may buy the poor for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals, and sell the sweepings with the wheat?” (Amos 8:4–6)
The Mosaic Law
There were numerous laws designed to ensure that Israelites who became poor would have a way out. Laws such as the Gleaning Law, the Tithe, the 7th Year Release of Slaves, and the 50th Year Jubilee provided a path back to prosperity for individuals and families who had fallen into poverty.
- If your brother has become poor, and his hand can’t support himself among you, then you shall uphold him. He shall live with you like an alien and a temporary resident. 36 Take no interest from him or profit; but fear your God, that your brother may live among you. 37 You shall not lend him your money at interest, nor give him your food for profit. 38 I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to give you the land of Canaan, and to be your God. 39 If your brother has grown poor among you, and sells himself to you, you shall not make him to serve as a slave. 40 As a hired servant, and as a temporary resident, he shall be with you; he shall serve with you until the Year of Jubilee. 41 Then he shall go out from you, he and his children with him, and shall return to his own family, and to the possession of his fathers. (Leviticus 25:35–41)
- At the end of every three years you shall bring all the tithe of your increase in the same year, and shall store it within your gates. 29 The Levite, because he has no portion nor inheritance with you, as well as the foreigner living among you, the fatherless, and the widow who are within your gates shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied; that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do. (Deuteronomy 14:28–29)
- If a poor man, one of your brothers, is with you within any of your gates in your land which the LORD your God gives you, you shall not harden your heart, nor shut your hand from your poor brother; 8 but you shall surely open your hand to him, and shall surely lend him sufficient for his need, which he lacks. 9 Beware that there not be a wicked thought in your heart, saying, “The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand,” and your eye be evil against your poor brother and you give him nothing; and he cry to the LORD against you, and it be sin to you. 10 You shall surely give, and your heart shall not be grieved when you give to him, because it is for this thing the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you put your hand to. 11 For the poor will never cease out of the land. Therefore I command you to surely open your hand to your brother, to your needy, and to your poor, in your land. (Deuteronomy 15:7–11)
- When you reap your harvest in your field, and have forgotten a sheaf in the field, you shall not go again to get it. It shall be for the foreigner, for the fatherless, and for the widow, that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. 20 When you beat your olive tree, you shall not go over the boughs again. It shall be for the foreigner, for the fatherless, and for the widow. 21 When you harvest your vineyard, you shall not glean it after yourselves. It shall be for the foreigner, for the fatherless, and for the widow. (Deuteronomy 24:19–21)
Examples of Helping the Poor
Zacchaeus, Cornelius, the early church, and David all made helping the poor a priority:
- Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, half of my goods I give to the poor. If I have wrongfully exacted anything of anyone, I restore four times as much.” (Luke 19:8)
- All who believed were together, and had all things in common. 45 They sold their possessions and goods, and distributed them to all, according as anyone had need. (Acts 2:44–45)
- For neither was there among them any who lacked, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, 35 and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and distribution was made to each, according as anyone had need. (Acts 4:34-35)
- Now there was a certain man in Caesarea, Cornelius by name, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment, 2 a devout man, and one who feared God with all his house, who gave gifts for the needy generously to the people, and always prayed to God. 3 At about the ninth hour of the day, he clearly saw in a vision an angel of God coming to him and saying to him, “Cornelius!” 4 He, fastening his eyes on him and being frightened, said, “What is it, Lord?” He said to him, “Your prayers and your gifts to the needy have gone up for a memorial before God. (Acts 10:1–4)
- As any of the disciples had plenty, each determined to send relief to the brothers who lived in Judea; (Acts 11:29)
- David said to him, “Don’t be afraid, for I will surely show you kindness for Jonathan your father’s sake, and will restore to you all the land of Saul your father. You will eat bread at my table continually.” (2 Samuel 9:7)
An important part of Job's defense against his accusers involved explaining how he took care of the poor and needy:
When the ear heard, it called me blessed, and when the eye saw, it approved,
because I delivered the poor who cried for help, and the fatherless who had none to help him.
The blessing of him who was about to perish came upon me, and I caused the widow’s heart to sing for joy.
I put on righteousness, and it clothed me; my justice was like a robe and a turban.
I was eyes to the blind and feet to the lame.
I was a father to the needy, and I searched out the cause of him whom I did not know.
I broke the fangs of the unrighteous and made him drop his prey from his teeth
Helping the Poor Is Not Always About Money
Sometimes we have gifts to give the poor which are far more valuable than money:
Peter and John were going up into the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. 2 A certain man who was lame from his mother’s womb was being carried, whom they laid daily at the door of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask gifts for the needy of those who entered into the temple. 3 Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive gifts for the needy. 4 Peter, fastening his eyes on him, with John, said, “Look at us.” 5 He listened to them, expecting to receive something from them. 6 But Peter said, “I have no silver or gold, but what I have, that I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, get up and walk!” 7 He took him by the right hand and raised him up. Immediately his feet and his ankle bones received strength. 8 Leaping up, he stood and began to walk. He entered with them into the temple, walking, leaping, and praising God. 9 All the people saw him walking and praising God. 10 They recognized him, that it was he who used to sit begging for gifts for the needy at the Beautiful Gate of the temple. They were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. (Acts 3:1–10)
Bible Verses on Respecting the Poor
Every human being is made in the image of God. This means everyone has equal dignity and is equally worthy of respect. We must be careful not to imagine that helping the poor elevates us above them.
- Better is the poor who walks in his integrity than he who is perverse in his ways, and he is rich. (Proverbs 28:6)
- The rich man is wise in his own eyes; but the poor who has understanding sees through him. (Proverbs 28:11)
- The poor man and the oppressor have this in common: the LORD gives sight to the eyes of both. 14 The king who fairly judges the poor, his throne shall be established forever. (Proverbs 29:13–14)
- He doesn’t respect the persons of princes, nor respect the rich more than the poor, for they all are the work of his hands. (Job 34:19)
- My brothers, don’t hold the faith of our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with partiality. 2 For if a man with a gold ring, in fine clothing, comes into your synagogue, and a poor man in filthy clothing also comes in, 3 and you pay special attention to him who wears the fine clothing and say, “Sit here in a good place;” and you tell the poor man, “Stand there,” or “Sit by my footstool” 4 haven’t you shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my beloved brothers. Didn’t God choose those who are poor in this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the Kingdom which he promised to those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Don’t the rich oppress you and personally drag you before the courts? 7 Don’t they blaspheme the honorable name by which you are called? 8 However, if you fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well. 9 But if you show partiality, you commit sin, being convicted by the law as transgressors. (James 2:1–9)
When to Avoid Helping the Poor
There are times when we should resist helping some "poor" people.
They Are Able But Unwilling to Work
The next three passages are all written by the Apostle Paul. He explains that people who are "idle" or who "don't work at all" should not be included in the church's distribution of food. Especially in the 1 Timothy passage he makes a clear distinction: some people who are poor truly cannot help themselves, but others are able-bodied and simply choose not to work. In that case truly "helping" them involves letting them go hungry until they are motivated to get back to work.
- Let him who stole steal no more; but rather let him labor, producing with his hands something that is good, that he may have something to give to him who has need. (Ephesians 4:28)
- Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw yourselves from every brother who walks in rebellion and not after the tradition which they received from us. 7 For you know how you ought to imitate us. For we didn’t behave ourselves rebelliously among you, 8 neither did we eat bread from anyone’s hand without paying for it, but in labor and travail worked night and day, that we might not burden any of you. 9 This was not because we don’t have the right, but to make ourselves an example to you, that you should imitate us. 10 For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: “If anyone is not willing to work, don’t let him eat.” 11 For we hear of some who walk among you in rebellion, who don’t work at all, but are busybodies. 12 Now those who are that way, we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ, that they work with quietness and eat their own bread. (2 Thessalonians 3:6–12)
- Honor widows who are widows indeed. 4 But if any widow has children or grandchildren, let them learn first to show piety toward their own family and to repay their parents, for this is acceptable in the sight of God. 5 Now she who is a widow indeed and desolate, has her hope set on God and continues in petitions and prayers night and day. 6 But she who gives herself to pleasure is dead while she lives. 7 Also command these things, that they may be without reproach. 8 But if anyone doesn’t provide for his own, and especially his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. 9 Let no one be enrolled as a widow under sixty years old, having been the wife of one man, 10 being approved by good works, if she has brought up children, if she has been hospitable to strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has relieved the afflicted, and if she has diligently followed every good work. 11 But refuse younger widows, for when they have grown wanton against Christ, they desire to marry, 12 having condemnation, because they have rejected their first pledge. 13 Besides, they also learn to be idle, going about from house to house. Not only idle, but also gossips and busybodies, saying things which they ought not. 14 I desire therefore that the younger widows marry, bear children, rule the household, and give no occasion to the adversary for insulting. 15 For already some have turned away after Satan. 16 If any man or woman who believes has widows, let them relieve them, and don’t let the assembly be burdened, that it might relieve those who are widows indeed. (1 Timothy 5:3–16)
The Poor And Jesus
Helping the poor should never be a higher priority than honoring God himself. In the following passage, some of the disciples get angry at what they perceive to be a "waste" of resources. Their main objection is that the money would have been better spent helping the poor. But Jesus affirms he is a higher priority than the poor, especially because the disciples have limited time left with him.
A woman came to him having an alabaster jar of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he sat at the table. 8 But when his disciples saw this, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? 9 For this ointment might have been sold for much and given to the poor.” 10 However, knowing this, Jesus said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? She has done a good work for me. 11 For you always have the poor with you, but you don’t always have me. (Matthew 26:7–11)
Elsewhere Jesus more than affirms helping the poor. In this passage he identifies with the poor to the point that helping them is the same as helping Jesus himself:
"For I was hungry and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you took me in. 36 I was naked and you clothed me. I was sick and you visited me. I was in prison and you came to me." 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, "Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink? 38 When did we see you as a stranger and take you in, or naked and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and come to you?" 40 The King will answer them, "Most certainly I tell you, because you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me." (Matthew 25:35-40)
To learn more, check out all of our articles on Bible Verses About Money which includes other types of giving like tithes and offerings.
Bible version: the public domain World English Bible (WEB) has been used throughout this post. The WEB translation of "Yahweh" has been changed to "the LORD" which is more familiar to most readers.