1.1 Background of the Study
Poverty is scarcity of human basic needs or man’s inability to acquire his basic needs for existence due to scarcity of resources. Man’s basic needs are generally understood to include food, shelter and clothing. Therefore, when man is incapacitated to make provisions for his food, shelter and clothing, he is regarded as a poor person. Poverty could affect an individual, a group, a community or a nation. Undoubtedly, poverty with its detrimental tendencies has become a global problem and has also attracted global measures to combat it.
Poverty in Nigeria remains significant as many researches such as the work of Olatomide (2012) reveal that seventy (70) percent of Nigerians are living below the poverty line. Some of the causes of poverty have been identified as unemployment, illiteracy, ignorance, laziness, natural disasters, violence, and indiscipline. The high level of poverty in Nigeria alarms every sector in our society particularly the government as concerted efforts have been made by various administrations to annihilate this anomaly. This work appreciates the efforts of the Federal government which has introduced various poverty alleviation programs such as Operation Feed the Nation (OFN), Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP), Directorate for Food, Road and Rural Infrastructure (DEFRI), Poverty Alleviation Programme (PAP), Poverty Eradication Programme (PEP) but it is glaring that the level of poverty is on the increase.
Interestingly, this paper discusses how poverty can be reduced among Nigerians in the light of the Old Testament patterns of poverty reduction. This implies that the all – important passages of the Old Testament recognized the presence of the poor and also addressed how they could be helped. In fact, the three divisions of the Old Testament: The Law, The Prophets and The Writings, present various principles which could also be employed in reducing poverty in Nigeria.
While references could be made to other passages of the Old Testament, the specific pericope under study is Deuteronomy 15:7-18. This pericope is considered appropriate for this discourse because it contains various sayings aimed at ensuring that the poor people were not neglected in the Old Testament times. The major finding of this work indicates that the high level of poverty among Nigerians can also be reduced if the principles of poverty reduction reflected in various Old Testament passages and specifically in Deuteronomy 15:7-18 were applied by both individuals and the society.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Existing problems are often thought to give birth to research. A meaningful research always aims at improving a condition or eliminating a difficulty. On this, Ituma (2013:1) restates that “a research is a systematic inquiry into the status quo with the aim of finding better ways of solving problems. The status quo might be dissatisfaction or a problem”. The problem which gave rise to this research is the high level of poverty among Nigerians. Poverty in Nigeria is characterized by hunger, homelessness, diseases, malnutrition, high child mortality rate, family disintegration, unemployment, human trafficking, child labour, kidnapping, killing, sexual assault, drug abuse, prostitution, and high mortality rate. Among others, this has been attributed to the problem of insecurity, corruption, and poor resource management.
The concerted effort of the government and various non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in fighting this problem is well appreciated. However, the thrust of this work is to present that in as much as the roles and contributions of the government in alleviating poverty is not in doubt, it is also verifiable that some other principles can reduce poverty to the barest minimum. Therefore, this work unequivocally asserts that there are salient contributions that the Old Testament passages can make in combating poverty in Nigeria.
- Aim of the Study
It cannot be overemphasized that this research is both apt and contemporary because the manifestation of poverty in Nigeria is both conspicuous and ubiquitous. The research work’s major aim is to establish that the Old Testament is a veritable tool in fighting poverty in Nigeria, while it appreciates what the government and various non-governmental organizations have done so far. More so, this work intends to add to the scholarly contributions made to the issue of poverty reduction in Nigeria. By implication, this work appreciates the ideas which numerous eminent scholars have put so far in a bid to nip this problem.
- Scope of the Study
Among all the problems facing most contemporary societies, this work singles out the menace of poverty. More so, although poverty is a pandemic problem, this paper focuses on the Nigerian society. While the thrust of this work is on reducing poverty in Nigeria, the causes and effects of poverty in Nigeria would also be laid bare. In finding a solution to the problem of poverty in Nigeria, the pericope Deuteronomy 15:7-18, would be exegetically studied while references could be made to other Old Testament passages. The lessons implied by the several sayings contained in Deuteronomy 15:7-18 would be employed as a panacea to poverty in Nigeria.
- Significance of the Study
This work is another contribution to knowledge. It is significant in that it will expose readers to other tips that are helpful in reducing poverty in Nigeria. This knowledge is equally fundamental to the government, organizations, religious groups, families, individuals etc in ensuring that the poor are not neglected but assisted or even empowered where possible. In addition, this study will act as a reference point for further studies concerning this subject.
- Research Methodology
The methodology adopted in this research is rhetorical analysis which according to Mundele (2012:11) is “the art of composing discourse in order to persuade, most of the time, auditors, but also readers”. This is considered most appropriate because the pericope which forms the core of this discourse contains persuasive sayings. However, The Pontifical Biblical Commission (1993) points out that rhetoric analysis is important for the interpretation of the Bible because all the biblical texts are persuasive in nature. It assumes that all discourse is aimed at influencing a particular audience at a particular time.
The data for this research was drawn from both primary and secondary sources. While the primary source consulted is the Bible, the secondary sources included books, journals, internet materials, magazines and newspapers.
- Definition of Terms
The intention here is to explain the concepts within the context in which they are used, in order to avoid misunderstanding. The following operational terms in this work are defined thus:
Poverty: Poverty is the condition of having little or no wealth or material possessions. Furthermore, this is referred to the state of one’s inability to acquire the basic needs of life due to lack of resources. Ityoban (1999) notes that every human being expects to acquire certain basic needs in order to live a comfortable life or at least sustainable life. Generally, man’s basic needs are food, shelter and clothing; the inability to have these life necessities is known as poverty. In view of the above standpoint, Njoku (2008:175) argues that “poverty can be seen as deprivations which encompass a short fall and inadequacies in basic human needs”. Poverty emerges from the lack or absence of financial and physical necessities of creating a suitable environment for sustainable living standard and from the disparities and inequalities in access to, control of, and benefits from economic, social and political resources (Okoroafor and Nwadiaro, 2011).
Poverty Alleviation: In this work, poverty alleviation would be interchangeably used with poverty reduction. Poverty alleviation describes strategies employed to eradicate poverty. Njoku (2008:176) avers that “any strategy adopted to improve and sustain people by providing basic needs necessary for existence could be termed as poverty alleviation” while according to Mainsah (2007), it is any process which seeks to reduce the level of poverty in a community, or amongst a group of people or countries. Poverty alleviation programmes are efforts aimed at improving and sustaining the lives of the poor by removing factors that contribute to poverty. They are also aimed at removing social and legal barriers to income growth among the poor. Some poverty alleviation methods are empowerment through education /skills acquisition, economic development, and income redistribution.
Church: This is generally accepted to mean a body of Christians; a community of believers. To Ononogbu (2010:137),
A Church consists of all those who profess their faith in Christ and obedience to Him in all things according to the teachings of the Bible. She is an important social advocate for members of the society, who look up to her for succor.
Church is a movement which arose from the life, ministry and teachings of Jesus Christ. Onwu (2002:11) notes that “the Church is a new community characterized by righteousness taught by the Lord Jesus Christ”. Christians generally believe that God founded the Church through the work of Jesus and that it is sustained by the continual presence of the Holy Spirit. In the New Testament Greek, the most common word for Church is ekklesia, meaning ‘assembly’. In the Greek version of the Old Testament, the word ekklesia was used to render the Hebrew qahal, which denoted the gathering of people for worship (Price, 2009). In support of this standpoint, Achunike (1996:18) notes that a Church is a “repeated concrete event, coming together of people who acknowledge their fellowship in faith for purposes of worshiping God”.