I did a random and uncharacteristic thing. The context was that I was explaining to a friend how there are plenty of verses in the Bible uplifting the poor, exhorting charity, and condemning wealth that we should use to combat the twisted I-got-mine-screw-you theology of the Religious Right.
Then I sat down and spent my entire Saturday night researching just those kinds of verses in the Bible.
So below you will find some of the gems, which I pulled out because of the incisive or ferocious language or because of their poetic beauty. The Bible can indeed be used for good, as I hope these verses will demonstrate. I grew up Christian, and my first inklings of social justice concepts came from reading Bible verses such as these. Though I am no longer Christian, I still find them inspiring.
Below the fold, you will find a massive compilation of verses that deal with poverty, charity and wealth.
He hath swallowed down riches, and he shall vomit them up again: God shall cast them out of his belly.
Will [God] esteem thy riches? no, not gold, nor all the forces of strength.
[T]he needy shall not always be forgotten: the expectation of the poor shall not perish for ever.
Man is a mere phantom as he goes to and fro:
He bustles about, but only in vain;
he heaps up wealth, not knowing who will get it.
He will defend the afflicted among the people
and save the children of the needy;
he will crush the oppressor.
[R]iches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven.
There is a generation, whose teeth are as swords, and their jaw teeth as knives, to devour the poor from off the earth, and the needy from among men.
Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more.
The sleep of a laborer is sweet,
whether he eats little or much,
but the abundance of a rich man
permits him no sleep.
It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats?
Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you.
A hella lot more verses below! The majority come from the King James Bible, except where noted. I went with the New International version whenever the language of King James got too obscure for me.
34For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
7If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren within any of thy gates in thy land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother:
8But thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth.
9Beware that there be not a thought in thy wicked heart, saying, The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand; and thine eye be evil against thy poor brother, and thou givest him nought; and he cry unto the LORD against thee, and it be sin unto thee.
10Thou shalt surely give him, and thine heart shall not be grieved when thou givest unto him: because that for this thing the LORD thy God shall bless thee in all thy works, and in all that thou puttest thine hand unto.
11For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.
1 Samuel 2
5They that were full have hired out themselves for bread; and they that were hungry ceased: so that the barren hath born seven; and she that hath many children is waxed feeble.
6The LORD killeth, and maketh alive: he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up.
7The LORD maketh poor, and maketh rich: he bringeth low, and lifteth up.
8He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory: for the pillars of the earth are the LORD’s, and he hath set the world upon them.
2 Samuel 12
1And the LORD sent Nathan unto David. And he came unto him, and said unto him, There were two men in one city; the one rich, and the other poor.
2The rich man had exceeding many flocks and herds:
3But the poor man had nothing, save one little ewe lamb, which he had bought and nourished up: and it grew up together with him, and with his children; it did eat of his own meat, and drank of his own cup, and lay in his bosom, and was unto him as a daughter.
4And there came a traveller unto the rich man, and he spared to take of his own flock and of his own herd, to dress for the wayfaring man that was come unto him; but took the poor man’s lamb, and dressed it for the man that was come to him.
5And David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, As the LORD liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die:
6And he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.
15He hath swallowed down riches, and he shall vomit them up again: God shall cast them out of his belly.
16He shall suck the poison of asps: the viper’s tongue shall slay him.
17He shall not see the rivers, the floods, the brooks of honey and butter.
18That which he laboured for shall he restore, and shall not swallow it down: according to his substance shall the restitution be, and he shall not rejoice therein.
19Because he hath oppressed and hath forsaken the poor; because he hath violently taken away an house which he builded not;
20Surely he shall not feel quietness in his belly, he shall not save of that which he desired.
Job 24 (New International Version)
1 “Why does the Almighty not set times for judgment?
Why must those who know him look in vain for such days?
2 Men move boundary stones;
they pasture flocks they have stolen.
3 They drive away the orphan’s donkey
and take the widow’s ox in pledge.
4 They thrust the needy from the path
and force all the poor of the land into hiding.
5 Like wild donkeys in the desert,
the poor go about their labor of foraging food;
the wasteland provides food for their children.
6 They gather fodder in the fields
and glean in the vineyards of the wicked.
7 Lacking clothes, they spend the night naked;
they have nothing to cover themselves in the cold.
8 They are drenched by mountain rains
and hug the rocks for lack of shelter.
9 The fatherless child is snatched from the breast;
the infant of the poor is seized for a debt.
10 Lacking clothes, they go about naked;
they carry the sheaves, but still go hungry.
11 They crush olives among the terraces [a] ;
they tread the winepresses, yet suffer thirst.
16Though he heap up silver as the dust, and prepare raiment as the clay;
17He may prepare it, but the just shall put it on, and the innocent shall divide the silver.
18He buildeth his house as a moth, and as a booth that the keeper maketh.
19The rich man shall lie down, but he shall not be gathered: he openeth his eyes, and he is not.
20Terrors take hold on him as waters, a tempest stealeth him away in the night.
21The east wind carrieth him away, and he departeth: and as a storm hurleth him out of his place.
22For God shall cast upon him, and not spare: he would fain flee out of his hand.
23Men shall clap their hands at him, and shall hiss him out of his place.
16If I have withheld the poor from their desire, or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail;
17Or have eaten my morsel myself alone, and the fatherless hath not eaten thereof;
18(For from my youth he was brought up with me, as with a father, and I have guided her from my mother’s womb;)
19If I have seen any perish for want of clothing, or any poor without covering;
20If his loins have not blessed me, and if he were not warmed with the fleece of my sheep;
21If I have lifted up my hand against the fatherless, when I saw my help in the gate:
22Then let mine arm fall from my shoulder blade, and mine arm be broken from the bone.
23For destruction from God was a terror to me, and by reason of his highness I could not endure.
Job 34 (New International Version)
17 Can he who hates justice govern?
Will you condemn the just and mighty One?
18 Is he not the One who says to kings, ‘You are worthless,’
and to nobles, ‘You are wicked,’
19 who shows no partiality to princes
and does not favor the rich over the poor,
for they are all the work of his hands?
5Behold, God is mighty, and despiseth not any: he is mighty in strength and wisdom.
6He preserveth not the life of the wicked: but giveth right to the poor.
7He withdraweth not his eyes from the righteous: but with kings are they on the throne; yea, he doth establish them for ever, and they are exalted.
8And if they be bound in fetters, and be holden in cords of affliction;
9Then he sheweth them their work, and their transgressions that they have exceeded.
10He openeth also their ear to discipline, and commandeth that they return from iniquity.
11If they obey and serve him, they shall spend their days in prosperity, and their years in pleasures.
12But if they obey not, they shall perish by the sword, and they shall die without knowledge.
13But the hypocrites in heart heap up wrath: they cry not when he bindeth them.
14They die in youth, and their life is among the unclean.
15He delivereth the poor in his affliction, and openeth their ears in oppression.
16Even so would he have removed thee out of the strait into a broad place, where there is no straitness; and that which should be set on thy table should be full of fatness.
17But thou hast fulfilled the judgment of the wicked: judgment and justice take hold on thee.
18Because there is wrath, beware lest he take thee away with his stroke: then a great ransom cannot deliver thee.
19Will he esteem thy riches? no, not gold, nor all the forces of strength.
1 Kings 3
5In Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night: and God said, Ask what I shall give thee.
6And Solomon said, Thou hast shewed unto thy servant David my father great mercy, according as he walked before thee in truth, and in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with thee; and thou hast kept for him this great kindness, that thou hast given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day.
7And now, O LORD my God, thou hast made thy servant king instead of David my father: and I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in.
8And thy servant is in the midst of thy people which thou hast chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude.
9Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people?
10And the speech pleased the LORD, that Solomon had asked this thing.
11And God said unto him, Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life; neither hast asked riches for thyself, nor hast asked the life of thine enemies; but hast asked for thyself understanding to discern judgment;
12Behold, I have done according to thy words: lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart; so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee.
17The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God. For the needy shall not always be forgotten: the expectation of the poor shall not perish for ever.
Psalm 12 (New International Version)
5 “Because of the oppression of the weak
and the groaning of the needy,
I will now arise,” says the LORD.
“I will protect them from those who malign them.”
6 And the words of the LORD are flawless,
like silver refined in a furnace of clay,
purified seven times.
Psalm 39 (New International Version)
6 Man is a mere phantom as he goes to and fro:
He bustles about, but only in vain;
he heaps up wealth, not knowing who will get it.
7 “But now, Lord, what do I look for?
My hope is in you.
8 Save me from all my transgressions;
do not make me the scorn of fools.
9 I was silent; I would not open my mouth,
for you are the one who has done this.
10 Remove your scourge from me;
I am overcome by the blow of your hand.
11 You rebuke and discipline men for their sin;
you consume their wealth like a moth—
each man is but a breath.
1Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the LORD will deliver him in time of trouble.
2The LORD will preserve him, and keep him alive; and he shall be blessed upon the earth: and thou wilt not deliver him unto the will of his enemies.
16Be not thou afraid when one is made rich, when the glory of his house is increased;
17For when he dieth he shall carry nothing away: his glory shall not descend after him.
5God shall likewise destroy thee for ever, he shall take thee away, and pluck thee out of thy dwelling place, and root thee out of the land of the living. Selah.
6The righteous also shall see, and fear, and shall laugh at him:
7Lo, this is the man that made not God his strength; but trusted in the abundance of his riches, and strengthened himself in his wickedness.
Psalm 72 (New International Version)
2 He will [a] judge your people in righteousness,
your afflicted ones with justice.
3 The mountains will bring prosperity to the people,
the hills the fruit of righteousness.
4 He will defend the afflicted among the people
and save the children of the needy;
he will crush the oppressor.
1Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart.
2But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped.
3For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
4For there are no bands in their death: but their strength is firm.
5They are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other men.
6Therefore pride compasseth them about as a chain; violence covereth them as a garment.
7Their eyes stand out with fatness: they have more than heart could wish.
8They are corrupt, and speak wickedly concerning oppression: they speak loftily.
9They set their mouth against the heavens, and their tongue walketh through the earth.
10Therefore his people return hither: and waters of a full cup are wrung out to them.
11And they say, How doth God know? and is there knowledge in the most High?
12Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase in riches.
7There is that maketh himself rich, yet hath nothing: there is that maketh himself poor, yet hath great riches.
8The ransom of a man’s life are his riches: but the poor heareth not rebuke.
21He that despiseth his neighbour sinneth: but he that hath mercy on the poor, happy is he.
13Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard.
16He that oppresseth the poor to increase his riches, and he that giveth to the rich, shall surely come to want.
4Labour not to be rich: cease from thine own wisdom.
5Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven.
Proverbs 28 (New International Version)
3 A ruler who oppresses the poor
is like a driving rain that leaves no crops.
4 Those who forsake the law praise the wicked,
but those who keep the law resist them.
5 Evil men do not understand justice,
but those who seek the LORD understand it fully.
6 Better a poor man whose walk is blameless
than a rich man whose ways are perverse.
7 He who keeps the law is a discerning son,
but a companion of gluttons disgraces his father.
8 He who increases his wealth by exorbitant interest
amasses it for another, who will be kind to the poor.
…27 He who gives to the poor will lack nothing,
but he who closes his eyes to them receives many curses.
28 When the wicked rise to power, people go into hiding;
but when the wicked perish, the righteous thrive.
7The righteous considereth the cause of the poor: but the wicked regardeth not to know it.
14 There is a generation, whose teeth are as swords, and their jaw teeth as knives, to devour the poor from off the earth, and the needy from among men.
4It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink:
5Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted.
6Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts.
7Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more.
8Open thy mouth for the dumb in the cause of all such as are appointed to destruction.
9Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy.
Ecclesiastes 5 (New International Version)
8 If you see the poor oppressed in a district, and justice and rights denied, do not be surprised at such things; for one official is eyed by a higher one, and over them both are others higher still. 9 The increase from the land is taken by all; the king himself profits from the fields.
10 Whoever loves money never has money enough;
whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income.
This too is meaningless.
11 As goods increase,
so do those who consume them.
And what benefit are they to the owner
except to feast his eyes on them?
12 The sleep of a laborer is sweet,
whether he eats little or much,
but the abundance of a rich man
permits him no sleep.
13 I have seen a grievous evil under the sun:
wealth hoarded to the harm of its owner,
14 or wealth lost through some misfortune,
so that when he has a son
there is nothing left for him.
15 Naked a man comes from his mother’s womb,
and as he comes, so he departs.
He takes nothing from his labor
that he can carry in his hand.
11As the partridge sitteth on eggs, and hatcheth them not; so he that getteth riches, and not by right, shall leave them in the midst of his days, and at his end shall be a fool.
14The LORD will enter into judgment with the ancients of his people, and the princes thereof: for ye have eaten up the vineyard; the spoil of the poor is in your houses.
15What mean ye that ye beat my people to pieces, and grind the faces of the poor? saith the Lord GOD of hosts.
5The vile person shall be no more called liberal, nor the churl said to be bountiful.
6For the vile person will speak villany, and his heart will work iniquity, to practise hypocrisy, and to utter error against the LORD, to make empty the soul of the hungry, and he will cause the drink of the thirsty to fail.
7The instruments also of the churl are evil: he deviseth wicked devices to destroy the poor with lying words, even when the needy speaketh right.
8But the liberal deviseth liberal things; and by liberal things shall he stand.
9Rise up, ye women that are at ease; hear my voice, ye careless daughters; give ear unto my speech.
10Many days and years shall ye be troubled, ye careless women: for the vintage shall fail, the gathering shall not come.
49Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.
14Now, lo, if he beget a son, that seeth all his father’s sins which he hath done, and considereth, and doeth not such like,
15That hath not eaten upon the mountains, neither hath lifted up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, hath not defiled his neighbour’s wife,
16Neither hath oppressed any, hath not withholden the pledge, neither hath spoiled by violence, but hath given his bread to the hungry, and hath covered the naked with a garment,
17That hath taken off his hand from the poor, that hath not received usury nor increase, hath executed my judgments, hath walked in my statutes; he shall not die for the iniquity of his father, he shall surely live.
11Forasmuch therefore as your treading is upon the poor, and ye take from him burdens of wheat: ye have built houses of hewn stone, but ye shall not dwell in them; ye have planted pleasant vineyards, but ye shall not drink wine of them.
12For I know your manifold transgressions and your mighty sins: they afflict the just, they take a bribe, and they turn aside the poor in the gate from their right.
21Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.
22But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.
23Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.
24And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
25When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved?
26But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.
27Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?
28And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
29And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.
30But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.
52He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.
53He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.
20And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God.
21Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh.
22Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake.
23Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets.
24But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation.
25Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep.
26Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.
27But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you,
28Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.
29And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloak forbid not to take thy coat also.
30Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again.
31And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.
32For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them.
33And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same.
34And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again.
35But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.
36Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.
37Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:
38Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.
32Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
33Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth.
12Then said he also to him that bade him, When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee.
13But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind:
14And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.
1 Timothy 6
5Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.
6But godliness with contentment is great gain.
7For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.
8And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.
9But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.
10For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
… 17Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy;
18That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate;
19Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.
9Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted:
10But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away.
11For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways.
1My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons.
2For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment;
3And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool:
4Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?
5Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?
6But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats?
7Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called?
8If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well:
9But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.
… 15If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,
16And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?
17Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
1Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you.
2Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten.
3Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days.
4Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth.
5Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter.