Luke’s Poor: an African reality from a Kenyan perspective

I.             Can we define Poverty?

The word poverty draws attention from many quarters due to the concerns it has attracted in today’s world. John Shao during a Keynote address noted ‘poverty in Africa as a reality with which we live on daily basis.’[1] To stress this point he goes on to say that, ‘one does not need to venture far to see the nakedness of poverty in Africa. A few steps outside this building will be enough to bring the reality of poverty to the senses of any curious visitor.’[2] Poverty as we know it in Africa is therefore characterized by low income, disease, famine, low literacy levels amongst other factors.

In majority Africa it has become everyday way of life. African Christian scholars have engaged various efforts from economical view point and religious circle to alleviate or eradicate poverty but not much has been resolved.  Professor Adeyemo has tried to explain much about this in his book is Africa Cursed?

From a common African view, poverty can be defined as lack of material and partly social needs. The greater part of this view compounds poverty to lack economically.  In other words people who have no access to basic needs and any other social requirements considered primary for human being to function normally are termed to as poor.

Nevertheless, elsewhere in the world poverty has been given different perspectives; these are attended to in other areas in this essay. But even with that we are compelled to understand from history that poverty has had an impact both in the world past and the world present. This can be validated in many ways and from many sources including the Bible.

The poor and poverty appear in both the OT and NT accounts. Time and space does not allow an engagement in these areas. However a Key figure in the NT accounts, Jesus of Nazareth did mention and teach about poverty and the poor. A keen reading to the four gospels will ascertain these. The gospel accounts were authored by four of his disciples hence one of them took a key interest on this subject of the marginalized and the poor.

But how does Luke do that? Whom does Luke refer to as the poor?  What do others say about poverty? And is there a relationship between it and Luke’s? Does this fit within the context of the present day society? In other words is it possible to identify “the poor” in Luke’s gospel? Who would they be in today’s terms?

This article seeks to address the questions above with the view of bringing an understanding of poverty from Luke’s account and His Jesus. The poor are examined and explained from some passages of scripture in Luke. The essay will relate these to practical views on poverty in relation to the church and Christians at large.  Practical lessons are drawn on what the church in Africa needs to do in helping solve the equation of poverty; this latter stage underscores the need and relevancy of Luke’s account on poverty in today’s society.

The whole article can be down loaded between now and friday, after which I will withdraw it.


[1] John Shao., Transformation, An International Evangelical Dialogue on Mission and Ethics: “Alleviating Poverty in Africa: Keynote address.” Vol 17 No 4, October/December 2000. p.126

[2] John Shao., Transformation,