Hunger and poverty cannot be separated in analyzing the biblical material. Hunger accompanies poverty. Famine can strike an entire land, rich and poor alike, but it is still the poor who go hungry while the well-to-do buy food from other lands (cf. Gen. 12:10; 42:1-2). In both the Old and New Testaments hunger is linked with other terms describing those who have been forced by societal conditions into a marginal existence — the poor, the needy, the widow, the orphan, the oppressed.
God especially loves and cares for the poor: “‘Because the poor are despoiled, because the needy groan, I will now arise,’ says the Lord; ‘I will place him in the safety for which he longs’” (Ps. 12:5). “The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the Lord and the poor among men shall exult in the Holy One of Israel” (Isa. 29:19). “For thou hast been a stronghold to the poor, a stronghold to the needy in his distress” (Isa. 25:4). God will not forget or forsake the poor or the needy (Ps. 9:12, 17-18, 10:12; Isa. 41:17).
It is important to note that God’s love for the poor does not imply an acceptance of their condition. He loves them in order to deliver them from poverty. It is regarded as an evil (Prov. 15: 15), and God’s response is to deliver his people from it. God promises not merely to love the poor and the hungry but to be active in their behalf: “I will satisfy her poor with bread” (Ps. 132:15).
Because God has identified himself with the poor, so too the community of faith is called to special concern for these persons. In Israel care of the needy was not regarded as an act of voluntary benevolence. The poor were entitled to such benefits. Underlying this practice was the assumption that poverty and need were due to a breakdown in the equitable distribution of community resources or to a social status over which an individual had no control (widows, orphans). Thus, the responsibility for action lay with the privileged rather than with the poor themselves. By contrast, in our society it is commonly assumed that the poor and the hungry of the world ought to bear the major burdens of bettering their own condition.”