Who are the poor?


I've been reading about John Chrysostom, and in particular his theology and ideas about wealth and possessions in the 4th century.

In particular he is credited as helping establishing the Christian notion of the 'poor' as a new social category. Whereas the polis (state) had no such conception, Christians defined and talked and identified with the 'poor' as deserving of attention, due to their shared humanity. All people possess, made in the image of God.

Aside from any analysis of his ideas of total wealth redistribution (which I don't think would help the poor in the long run, and is complex argument), something else struck me.

Namely that the wealthy people of the 4th century that he rebukes, would by todays standards be considered to be living an unbearable life of poverty by western standards. And that most of his argument centers around possessions and economic standing.

Whilst we undoubtably have poverty where I live, we also have a welfare state, that provides in a way Chrysostom could not imagine. As I and our church community try to attend to 'the poor', we need to ask, who are the poor?

Is it just those who have less economically? What about the emotionally poor, relationally poor, time and life poor? The new credit and debt laden, money skills poor?

What resources do church communities have in addition to 'alms' giving, to help the poor? Who are the emerging poor in my western context? Our church community had been developing a series of resources alongside our community projects and giving, title 'the rough guide to...'.

We've had the rough guide to life, money, marriage as we seek to give and resource these other areas of 'poverty'.