Jesus summed up God’s law by commanding us to love God with all that we are and to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:35–40). By deed and parable, Jesus taught that anyone in need is our neighbor (Luke 10:29–37). God created all people in his image. The inherent dignity that rich and poor alike possess leads us to share our resources with one another — particularly with those in need.

God identifies with the poor and says that those who “are kind to the poor lend to the Lord” while those who oppress the poor “show contempt for their Maker” (Psalm 146:5–9; Proverbs 19:17, 14:31). Jesus said that those who do not care for the needy and the imprisoned demonstrate by such lack of action that they are not his followers (Matthew 25:31–46). The vulnerable include not only the poor, but those with less power, such as women, children, the aged, persons with disabilities, immigrants, refugees, minorities, the persecuted, prisoners and victims of human trafficking.

Moreover, God measures societies by how they treat the vulnerable and powerless. His prophets call his people to create just and righteous societies (Isaiah 10:1–4, 58:3–12; Jeremiah 5:26–29, 22:13–19; Amos 2:6–7, 4:1–3, 5:10–15). The prophetic teaching insists on both a fair legal system, which does not favor either the rich or the poor, and a fair economic system, which does not tolerate perpetual poverty. It also forbids usury and predatory lending that harms the poor (Exodus 22:25; Deuteronomy 15:7–11; Ezekiel 18:7–9). Economic justice includes the mitigation of suffering, the promotion of equality of opportunity and the restoration of wholeness.

The Bible condemns gross disparities in opportunity and outcome that cause suffering and perpetuate poverty. God wants people to have access to productive resources, so they can care for their economic needs and contribute to their community. For example, children need a high-quality education in order to fully develop their God-given talents. Access to proper nutrition, shelter and health care are also important ingredients in helping people transcend poverty.

Our social safety net must aim to provide opportunity and restore people to self-sufficiency. Adequate funding for food, shelter and health care should be maintained so that those who cannot care for their families and themselves receive the support they need. We urge Christians who work in the political realm to shape wise laws pertaining to the creation of wealth, wages, education, taxation, immigration, consumer protection and health care that will protect those trapped in poverty and empower them to improve their circumstances.

Since family systems are also important for nurturing healthy individuals and overcoming poverty, public policy should support families and marriages. Governments should hold parents responsible for the maintenance of their families, enforcing the collection of child-support payments, and should protect family members from physical and sexual abuse. Immigration policies should prioritize family unity and avoid separating families by deportation or detention. Criminal justice reform should consider how over-incarceration breaks up families.

We further believe that care for the vulnerable should extend beyond our national borders. American diplomacy and trade policies impact the poor. We urge our leaders to negotiate trade agreements that broadly benefit those of modest means while protecting human rights and the environment. We also believe effective aid and other initiatives for the reduction of global poverty should be a central concern of American foreign policy. We support strategies that encourage honesty in government, correct unfair socioeconomic structures, empower the poor, promote local entrepreneurship and grassroots economic development, protect refugees, and welcome immigrants. Government should continue to partner with effective international aid agencies, including those that are faith-based.

In many parts of the world, extreme poverty, disease, famine, environmental degradation, persecution, civil war, and weak or corrupt government create the conditions in which large populations become vulnerable. We support Christian agencies and government policies that promote healthy communities and just, democratic structures.