I have in recent years been quite uncomfortable with discussions within the Christian community about poverty. The reason for this is that the discussion often seems to be so heavily weighted towards politics, and with just a patina of Christianity. I've seen this attitude from both the left and the right, and it is just not biblical.
It seems the way to determine what the Bible says about the poor and our responsibility toward them is to, well, read the Bible. So for quite a few months that's what I've been doing, reading from Genesis to Revelation and marking down every passage I believe is directly relevant to understanding poverty and what God wants us to do about it.
I hope to share some thoughts about this later, but right now, without commentary, the list, directly below, with my attempted summary of each passage. I am sure there are other passages that I have missed, and if you know of any, please let me know. But this is a starting point, and I hope that by putting these verses together so they are easy to study that it will give a broad view of what the Bible teaches about poverty and immunize people against those who pull out one or two selected verses from the Bible to try to prove their point.
Genesis 21:12-16 - Hagar is driven out and thereby made poor.
Genesis 27:39 - Isaac's curse of Essau to poverty.
Genesis 47:13-26 - During a famine the people of Egypt buy grain with money, then with their cattle, and then with their land and bodies. Joseph buys these poor people, gives them grain and requires that 20 percent of what they gain be paid to Pharoah.
Exodus 22:3 - Poor criminals can be sold into slavery.
Exodus 22:22 - Do not afflict a widow or orphan.
Exodus 22:25 - Do not charge interest to poor Israelites.
Exodus 22:26-27 - Return a cloak used by a poor neighbor as security for a loan before nightfall.
Exodus 23:3 - Do not be partial to the poor in a dispute.
Exodus 23:6 - Do not be partial against the poor in a dispute.
Leviticus 5:7,11 - Lesser-cost offerings for the poorer.
Leviticus 19:9 - Leave some of the harvest to be gleaned.
Leviticus 19:13 - Do not oppress the poor; pay a hired man daily.
Leviticus 19:15 - Show no partiality to the poor or the great.
Leviticus 23:22 - Leave the corners of fields unharvested for the poor and alien.
Leviticus 25:25 - A near relative should buy back land sold by a poor person, or (25:28), it will be returned on Jubilee.
Leviticus 25:35-36 - Help the poor; don't charge them interest.
Leviticus 25:39-43 - The poor can sell themselves to their debtors and the buyer must treat them as a hired person. They must be released at the Jubilee. (44-46 - A foreigner can be a slave for life.)
Leviticus 25:47-54 - Israelite poor has the right to be redeemed from a foreigner. He will be released on the Jubilee.
Leviticus 27:8? - If a person is too poor to pay a vow price, the priest will set the price.
Deuteronomy 14:28-29 - A tithe every third year is for food for the Levites, alien, widow and orphan.
Deuteronomy 15:1-18 - Every seven years there is a remission of debts.
Deuteronomy 24:10-15 - Don't keep the security for a poor man's loan (a cloak) overnight; pay the poor worker his wages before sunset daily.
Deuteronomy 24:17 - Do not pervert justice for the alien, orphan, or widow.
Deuteronomy 24:19-21 - Don't be too thorough in harvesting; leave some for the orphan, widow and alien.
Deuteronomy 26:12 - The third-year tithe is for the Levite, stranger, orphan and widow.
Deuteronomy 27:19 - Cursed is the one who distorts the justice due to an alien, orphan or widow.
Deuteronomy 28:20-44 - The Lord will take away good things (make people poor) if they forsake Him.
Ruth 1:5 - Women bereft when husband died.
Ruth 1:20-21 - Naomi laments her poverty.
Ruth 2:2-23 - Ruth, in her poverty, gleans in the field.
1 Samuel 2:7 - The Lord makes poor and rich.
1 Kings 17:9-24 - Elijah and the widow of Zarephath.
1 Kings 18:4 - Obediah provides the prophets with bread and water.
2 Kings 4:1-7 - Elisha provides oil for the poor widow to sell and repay her debt.
2 Kings 4:38 - Elisha provides stew for the famine-stricken sons of the prophets.
Nehemiah 5:1-13 - Famine and taxes and usury have made the people poor.
Job 5: 15-16 - Eliphaz says God rescues the poor from the hand of the mighty so the helpless have hope.
Job 20:18-19 - Zophar says the wicked cannot enjoy his riches because he has oppressed and forsaken the poor.
Job 24:9-10 - Job says evil people take from the poor.
Job 24:14 - Job says the murderer kills the poor.
Job 31:16-22 - Job defends himself by citing his kindness to the poor.
Job 34:19 - Elihu says God does not show partiality for the rich over the poor.
Job 34:27-28 - Elihu says God strikes the wicked for turning from Him and causing the poor to cry out to Him.
Psalm 34:6 - The poor man cried out and God saved him.
Psalm 37:14 - The wicked attempt to cast down the poor and afflicted.
Psalm 37:16 - The little of the righteous is better than the abundance of the wicked.
Psalm 41:1 - Blessed is the man who considers the helpless.
Psalm 49:1-2 - The psalmist calls on all to listen, rich and poor.
Psalm 68:5 - God is a father to orphans and a judge for widows.
Psalm 69:33 - The Lord hears the needy.
Psalm 70:5 - A needy man calls on the Lord.
Psalm 72:4 - May the king vindicate the afflicted, save the children of the needy and crush the oppressor.
Psalm 72:12-14 - The king will have compassion on the poor and rescue from oppression.
Psalm 82:3-4 - An appeal for God to save the afflicted, destitute, weak and needy, and deliver them from the wicked.
Psalm 94:6 - An appeal for God to save the widow, orphan and stranger.
Psalm 107:35-38 - God makes a place in the wilderness for the poor to dwell.
Psalm 107:40-41 - God blesses the needy.
Psalm 109:9-12, 15-16 - David prays for poverty for the wicked who oppressed the needy.
Psalm 109:21-22 - David asks for help since he is afflicted and needy.
Psalm 109:30-31 - God saves the needy.
Psalm 112:9 - The man who fears the Lord has given freely to the poor.
Psalm 113:7 - God raises up the poor and needy.
Psalm 132:15 - The Lord promises to satisfy the needy with bread.
Psalm 140:12 - God will uphold the cause of the afflicted and justice for the poor.
Psalm 146:7,9 - The Lord gives food to the hungry, protects strangers, fatherless and widows.
Psalm 147:6 - The Lord supports the afflicted.
Proverbs 3:27-28 - Do not withold good to those to whom it is due, such as neighbor, when you can do it.
Proverbs 6:6-11 - Laziness results in poverty.
Proverbs 6:30-31 - Nobody despises you if you steal because you are hungry, but you must pay it back sevenfold.
Proverbs 10:3-5 - Negligence results in poverty, diligence in wealth.
Proverbs 10:15 - The rich man's wealth is his fortress, the ruin of the poor is poverty.
Proverbs 10:21 - Good advice feeds many. Fools die for lack of understanding.
Proverbs 11:24-26 - Generosity [perhaps to the poor?] is rewarded. Selling what people need is blessed.
Proverbs 12:9 - Better to be well off but not esteemed, than one who honors himself but is poor.
Proverbs 12:11 - Diligence leads to wealth but the pursuit of vain things does not make sense [makes poor?]
Proverbs 12:24 - The diligent rule; the lazy will be put to forced labor.
Proverbs 13:7 - Some people pretend to be rich but are poor, and vice versa.
Proverbs 13:8 - The rich can pay a ransom, but nobody even tries to get the poor to pay a ransom.
Proverbs 13:18 - Poverty comes with lack of discipline; honor by accepting a reproof.
Proverbs 13:21 - Sin leads to poverty, righteousness to prosperity.
Proverbs 13:23 - The poor has abundant food in the ground, but injustice sweeps it away.
Proverbs 13:25 - The righteous have enough to eat, the wicked go hungry.
Proverbs 14:20-21 - The poor is hated even by his neighbor and the rich are loved, but it is sin to despise your neighbor and good to be gracious to the poor.
Proverbs 14:23 - Work leads to profit; mere talk to poverty.
Proverbs 14:31 - Oppressing the poor is an insult to God. Graciousness to the poor honors God.
Proverbs 15:6 (?) - The righteous have wealth but the wicked have trouble.
Proverbs 15:16 - Better is a little with the fear of God than treasure with turmoil.
Proverbs 15:17 - Better vegetables with love than a fattened ox with hatred.
Proverbs 15:25 - The Lord opposes the proud but protects the widow.
Proverbs 16:8 - Better is little with righteousness than much with injustice.
Proverbs 17:1 - Better a dry morsel with quietness than feasting with strife.
Proverbs 17:5 - He who mocks the poor insults their Maker.
Proverbs 18:23 - The poor plead; the rich answer roughly.
Proverbs 19:1 - Better a poor man of integrity than a fool of perverse speech.
Proverbs 19:4 - Wealth adds friends; poverty separates a poor man from his friend.
Proverbs 19:7 - A poor man's brothers hate him, and his friends avoid him.
Proverbs 19:15 - A lazy man will go hungry.
Proverbs 19:17 - Being gracious to the poor is lending to the Lord, who will repay.
Proverbs 19:22 - Better to be poor than a liar.
Proverbs 20:4 - The sluggard does not plow, so he begs at harvest-time.
Proverbs 20:13 - Sleep and grow poor; open your eyes and you will have food.
Proverbs 21:9 (?) - Better to live in a corner of a roof than in a house with a contentious woman.
Proverbs 21:13 - He who closes his ear to the cry of the poor will cry out and not be answered.
Proverbs 21:25-26 (?) - The sluggard refuses to work and craves more, but the righteous does not hold back in giving.
Proverbs 22:2 - God made both rich and poor.
Proverbs 22:7 - The rich rules the poor. The borrower is a slave to the lender.
Proverbs 22:9 - The generous gives some food to the poor and is blessed.
Proverbs 22:16 - He who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth, or who gives to the rich, will come to poverty.
Proverbs 22:22-23 - Do not rob the poor or crush the afflicted.
Proverbs 23:21 - Heavy drinking, gluttony and drowsiness will bring a man to poverty.
Proverbs 24:30-34 - The sluggard comes to poverty.
Proverbs 25:24 (?) - Better to live in a corner of a roof than in a house with a contentious woman.
Proverbs 28:3 - A poor man [alternate reading, "ruler"] who oppresses the lowly is like a driving rain that leaves no food.
Proverbs 28:6 - Better to be poor with integrity than rich and crooked.
Proverbs 28:8 - Getting rich by charging high interest gathers money for someone who will be kind to the poor.
Proverbs 28:11 - The rich think they are wise, but a poor man of understanding sees through him.
Proverbs 28:19 - Farm your land and have plenty; follow fantasies and have poverty.
Proverbs 28:27 - He who gives to the poor will never want; those who shut their eyes to the poor will have curses.
Proverbs 29:7 - The righteous are concerned about the rights of the poor.
Proverbs 29:13 - God gives light to the eyes of both the poor man and the oppressor.
Proverbs 29:14 - If a king judges the poor with righteousness, his throne will be established forever.
Proverbs 30:8-9 - Agur prays for neither poverty nor wealth lest he be in want and steal or be full and deny God.
Proverbs 31:6-7 - King Lemuel says that strong drink is for those who are perishing, whose life is bitter and in poverty.
Proverbs 31:8-9 - King Lemuel says kings should speak for those who can't, for the destitute, and should judge fairly and defend the rights of the poor.
Ecclesiastes 4:1 - The preacher sees the oppressed who have no one to comfort them. [I assume the oppressed are frequently the poor.]
Ecclesiastes 5:8 - Don't be shocked if you see the poor oppressed by government officials.
Ecclesiastes 5:12 - The poorer working man sleeps well, while the rich man with a full stomach does not.
Ecclesiastes 9:14-16 - The preacher recalls a poor but wise man who saved a city, but was forgotten. The wisdom of the poor is despised.
Isaiah 1:7 - Isaiah describes the land, cities and fields of Israel as a desolation.
Isaiah 1:17 - Defend the orphan, plead for the widow.
Isaiah 1:23 - The rulers do not defend the orphan or listen to the widow's plea.
Isaiah 3:14-15 - The elders and princes of Israel have plundered the poor and grind their faces.
Isaiah 10:1-2 - Isaiah pronounces woe on rulers who deprive the needy of justice, who take away the rights of the poor so they can take advantage of widows and orphans.
Isaiah 11:4 - A shoot from the stem of Jesse will judge the poor with righteousness.
Isaiah 14:30 - A prophesy regarding Philistia: The helpless will eat and the needy will lie down safely.
Isaiah 30:20 - The Lord tells the people of Zion that the Lord has for a time given them bread of privation and water of oppression.
Isaiah 32:6 - A fool lets the hungry go empty and withholds water from the thirsty.
Isaiah 40:20 - A poor idolator makes an idol from wood rather than gold or silver.
Isaiah 58:3 - Those who say they are seeking God at the same time drive their workers hard.
Isaiah 58:6-7 - God's fast is to loosen the chains of injustice, to let the oppressed go free, to share food, clothing and home with the poor.
Isaiah 58:10 - If you help the hungry and afflicted, you will be rewarded.
Isaiah 59:13 - Isaiah lists promoting oppression as a sin.
Jeremiah 2:34 - Israel chastised for killing the innocent poor.
Jeremiah 5:3-4 - Jeremiah defends Israel to God by saying the bad examples are the poor who don't know the way of God.
Jeremiah 5:28 - The wicked do not plead the cause of the orphan, or defend the rights of the poor.
Jeremiah 7:6-7 - God says that if the people do not oppress alien, orphan, or widow, or follow other Gods, they may remain in the land.
Jeremiah 8:10 - God promises to bring to poverty (give their wives and fields to others) to those who have rejected the Lord's word.
Jeremiah 17:5 - God curses the one who trusts in man, saying he will not see prosperity but will live in stony wastes.
Jeremiah 22:3 - Do not mistreat stranger, orphan, or widow.
Jeremiah 22:16 - It is good to plead the cause of the afflicted and needy.
Jeremiah 34:15-17 (?) - The people are condemned for promising to release their neighbors from servitude but not doing so.
Jeremiah 39:10, 40:7 - Some of the poorest people were left when the rest of the population was taken to Babylon.
Jeremiah 52:15-16 - The poor people are now taken off to Babylon, but some of the very poorest are left to work the land.
Ezekiel 16:49 - Sodom sinned by not helping the poor and needy.
Ezekiel 18:7, 16-17 - God blesses the one who (among other things) does not oppress and who gives food to the hungry and clothing to the naked.
Ezekiel 18:12 - God curses the one who (among other things) oppresses the poor and needy.
Ezekiel 22:7 - Jerusalem sinned by (among other things) oppressing alien, orphan and widow.
Ezekiel 22:29 - The people wronged the poor and needy and oppressed the sojourner.
Ezekiel 34:18-21 - The fat sheep mistreat the lean. They drink their fill but needlessly muddy the water and trample the grass for the rest.
Daniel 4:27 - Daniel urges the king to show mercy to the poor, and thereby prolong his prosperity.
Amos 2:6 - Israel sinned by selling the needy for a pair of sandals.
Amos 4:1 - Condemnation of women who oppress the poor and crush the needy.
Amos 5:11-12 - Condemnation of those who trample on [or, NASB, impose heavy rent on] the poor, and exact grain from them, and turn aside the poor at the gate [or, NIV, deprive them of justice in court].
Amos 8:4 - A condemnation of those who trample the needy and do away with the humble.
Amos 8:6 - A condemnation of those who buy the poor with silver and the needy for a pair of sandals.
Micah 2:1-2 - Woe to those who seize a man's fields, home and inheritance [i.e.- who make him poor.]
Micah 3:2-3 - Condemnation to those who strip their fellows of everything, down to skin and flesh and bones.
Zechariah 7:10 - Do not oppress widow, orphan, stranger or the poor.
Malachi 3:5 - God will judge the one who defrauds the wage earner of his wages, who oppresses the widow and orphan, who turns aside the alien [NIV, deprives the alien of justice].
Matthew 5:3 - Blessed are the poor in spirit.
Matthew 5:42 - Give to the one who asks [Perhaps the poor are more likely be in need and ask.]
Matthew 6:2-4 - Give to the poor quietly, without fanfare.
Matthew 11:5 - Jesus answers John's messengers about himself, saying (among other things) that the poor have the gospel preached to them.
Matthew 15:5 - Jesus condemns people who refuse to help their [poor?] parents by saying that anything they have that may help them is devoted to God.
Matthew 18:23-34 - Parable of two men who cannot repay their debts and the forgiveness shown and not shown.
Matthew 19:21-22 - Jesus tells a rich young man that if he wants to be complete [NIV, perfect] to sell all he has and give the money to the poor.
Matthew 23:14 - Jesus says woe to those who devour widows' homes while making long prayers.
Matthew 25:35-40 - Jesus says he will welcome the kindly, and compares their caring for the hungry, thirsty, and stranger to caring for Him.
Matthew 25:41-46 - Jesus says he will send away the unkind, comparing their lack of caring for the hungry, thirsty, stranger to not caring for Him.
Matthew 26:8-11 - The disciples say the perfume the woman poured on Jesus could be sold for the poor. Jesus defends her, saying the poor you will always have.
Mark 10:21-22 - Jesus tells the rich man to sell all he has and give it to the poor.
Mark 12:41-44 - The poor widow gave more than the rich people because she gave all she had.
Mark 14:3-7 - The disciples say the perfume the woman poured on Jesus could be sold for the poor. Jesus defends her, saying the poor you will always have.
Luke 3:11 - John says the man with two tunics should share one with the man who has none. And also with food.
Luke 4:25-26 - Jesus says there were many widows in the time of Elijah, but Elijah was only sent to one of them.
Luke 7:22 - Jesus answers John's messengers about himself, saying (among other things) that the poor have the gospel preached to them.
Luke 9:58 - Jesus says he is homeless, unlike the foxes, which have holes, and the birds, which have nests.
Luke 10:4 - Jesus tells his disciples to go out in a poor manner, with no purse, not bag, no shoes.
Luke 11:40-41 - Jesus urges Pharisees to give that which is within them to the poor.
Luke 12:33-34 - Sell your possessions and give to the poor.
Luke 14:33 - No one can be one of Jesus disciples unless he gives up all his possessions. [Become poor?]
Luke 16:19-25 - The rich man and Lazarus. The rich man received his reward on earth; Lazarus received his in Abraham's bosom.
Luke 18:22-23 - Jesus tells the rich man to sell all he has and give it to the poor.
Luke 19:8 - Zaccheus gives half of his possessions to the poor.
Luke 19:26 - The one who has will be given more; the one without will have even even the little bit he has taken away.
Luke 20:47 - Jesus condemns the scribes who devour widows' houses.
Luke 21:2-4 - The poor widow gave more than the rich people because she gave all she had.
Luke 22:35-36 - Jesus says when he sent out the disciples without purse or bag or sandals [in a poor state], that they didn't lack. But now he tells them to take along their purse and bag and sword.
John 5:5-8 - Jesus heals a sick man who has nobody to put him in the healing pool. [I assume he was poor or he would have hired someone to put him in the pool.]
John 12:4-8 - Judas objects to putting perfume on Jesus, saying it could be sold for the poor. He was not concerned for the poor but was a thief.
John 13:29 - At the last supper, the disciples thought Jesus may have asked Judas to give some money to the poor.
Acts 3:2-8 - A lame beggar asked Peter and John for money, but Peter said they had no money and healed him instead.
Acts 6:1-3 - The widows of the Greek Jews were being overlooked in the distribution of food, so Stephen and six others were selected to organize it.
Acts 11:28-30 - The prophet Agabus predicts a famine, so the people who could sent relief to the brethren in Jerusalem.
Acts 20:33-35 - Work hard to help the weak [poor?].
Romans 12:16 - Associate with the lowly [poor?]
Romans 15:25-27 - The church in Macedonia and Achaia send a contribution to help the poor saints in Jerusalem.
1 Corinthians 13:3 - If you give all your posessions to feed the poor but do not have love, it profits nothing.
2 Corinthians 8:1-4 - The poor Macedonian church begged to give, and gave beyond their ability.
2 Corinthians 8:9 - Jesus was rich but became poor that through his poverty we might become rich.
2 Corinthians 8:13-14 - Paul urges the Corinthian believers to contribute to help other believers in want, that those believers may help the Corinthians when they are in want.
Galatians 2:10 - The council in Jerusalem asks Paul to remember the poor.
1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 - Work that you may not be in need.
2 Thessalonians 3:8-9 - Paul worked for a living so as not to burden the people, and to be an example.
2 Thessalonians 3:12 - Paul says if a person won't work, neither let him eat. He condemns the undisciplined, who are acting like busybodies.
1 Timothy 5:3-5 - Honor widows who are widows indeed. But those who have families, their families need to take care of them.
1 Timothy 5:8 - Believers should provide for their own family members who are in need.
1 Timothy 5:9-10 - Widows should be put on a list (for support) if at least 60 years old, have had one husband, a reputation for good works, brought up children, shown hospitality to strangers, washed the saints feet, assisted those in distress, and devoted herself to good works.
1 Timothy 5:11-14 - Younger widows should not be put on the list (for support) because (in part) they become idle, gossips and busybodies. They should marry and raise a family.
1 Timothy 5:8-16 - A believing woman with a widow in her family should assist that widow and not let the church be burdened, so the church can help those who are widows indeed.
1 Timothy 6:17-18 - Rich people should be generous and ready to share [with those in need, I assume].
Titus 3:14 - The people should help to meet needs.
Hebrews 13:16 - God wants us to share [with those in need, I assume].
James 1:9 - The brother in a humble circumstances [poor?] should rejoice in his high position.
James 1:27 - Pure religion involves visiting widows and orphans in their distress.
James 2:2-6 - Do not treat the rich differently from the poor when they come to church.
James 2:15-16 - Blessing a brother or sister who needs food or clothing but not giving them what they need is not good.
James 5:4 - The rich have sinned by withholding the pay of their laborers.
1 John 3:17 - If you have material possessions and see a brother in need but don't help, how does God's love abide in you?
Revelation 2:9 - The church of Smyrna is in poverty, yet is rich.
Revelation 3:17 - The church of Laodicea says it is rich, but is wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.
Revelation 13:16 - All people, including rich and poor, receive a mark on their right hand or forehead.