Jesus is quite clear about his concern for the poor in the Gospels. He even goes so far as to assert that what you do for the least of mankind is what you do for him. Proponents of the Social Gospel take Christ's concern for the poor and attack conservative Christians who reject social programs for the poor. This seems like a fair attack. But is it?
I would assert that it is not. First, there is a question to ask about the nature and role of government. Is government's role to force altruism on its citizens? I would say no. Christ clearly commands people to help the poor. What he does not command is for us to take the money of others and give it to the poor. If I came with a gun, and demanded that you give me all of the money in your wallet for a wonderful charity such as the Salvation Army or Convoy of Hope, would I be in the wrong? Absolutely. Why is it any different to send an IRS agent to your house on behalf of the poor? Further, does government have the right to force a non-Christian to conform to the morality of a Christian? Does an atheist need to feel any compulsion to give to the poor? Should we force him to? No. He is wrong not to give, but he has the right to dispense his property as he sees fit.
Second, I would assert that welfare is actually harmful to the poor. A basic principle of economics is that anytime you make the cost of an action more beneficial (0r less harmful) to the individual, more people will choose to take that action. So, when government pressures lending houses to make low interest loans to poor people to buy a house they cannot afford at any interest rate, and offers massive tax deductions for homeownership, it is understandable that many poor people decide to buy homes. Or when a store puts an item on sale, they sell more of those items. The same principle applies to welfare. Subsidizing the act of not working makes it more likely that people will engage in that action. This is not to say that everyone who is on welfare is a lazy bum. But some of them are. And all of them are enjoying the fruits of another man's labor. Government should not encourage unemployment, whether voluntary or involuntary.
I think that the two biggest causes of poverty are absentee fatherhood and working few hours. This Heritage Foundation shows data which supports this conclusion: http://www.heritage.org/Press/Commentary/ed092204a.cfm
People are poor for any number of reasons. But many poor people just happen to share the two conditions of a single parent home, where the parent works low hours. Why enact a system which encourages people to work lower hours by subsidizing idleness?