I find this a little perplexing in light of the claim of "moderate Christians" that our primary concern ought to be the poor. Jesus's disciples made the very same objection that some of today's Christians are making. "Our #1 priority ought to be to the poor!" Jesus thought otherwise. In fact, Jesus said, "You always have the poor with you."
Some well-meaning Christians believe that it is our duty to work at stamping out poverty in the world. I think it's a nice idea ... but impractical. And if the task is impractical and impossible, is it really our job to pursue it?
So, if the Bible did not command us to elminate world poverty, what are we instructed to do? It seems to me that the commands in Scripture regarding the poor are not on a global or, especially, impersonal scale, but in the realm of the personal. Look at some of these commands:
"Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you" (Matt. 5:42).Two important points: 1) We are commanded to be concerned about and to take care of the poor. There is no doubt about that. And there is no doubt that we aren't doing this. 2) The poor that we are commanded to be concerned about and to take care of are those with whom we have contact. Notice that nothing is said about "food banks", taking care of people we don't know, fighting poverty, or any such thing. All of the commands in Scripture for Christians to take care of the poor are for Christians to take care of the poor with whom they come in contact, not the poor "in general".
"For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me" (Matt. 25:35-36).
Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world (James 1:27).
If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and be filled," and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that (James 2:15-16)?
Whoever has the world's goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him (1 John 3:17)?
I'm not against working against poverty. I'm not against supporting organizations that feed the poor. I'm not suggesting in the least that this isn't a "Christian thing to do". What I'm suggesting is that the commands of Scripture are to individual Christians to tend to individual people in need -- the ones with whom the individual Christian has contact. When some try to force on Christianity a command to stamp out poverty or tend to the poor in general, I think they're pressing on Christians a command that God hasn't given. They may be led to do so, and they must, then, act on that, but to suggest that the Bible requires all Christians to work on eliminating worldwide poverty isn't supported in the pages of Scripture.