‘Those who oppress the poor insult the Creator, but those who are kind to the needy honour him.’ [Proverbs 14:31]
Tweet from my good friend, Sean du Toit that I saw this morning as I logged in.
And it’s the part of Christianity many of us don’t gravitate to quite as quickly. Give me worship [me], good teaching [me], fellowship with my friends at church on Sunday [me], weekly small group meetings [me], encouraging promises from God [me] and eternal life [me, and maybe you if you live right] but turn the volume down just a little when you start focusing on the looking-after-the-poor aspect if you don’t mind.
But James, the brother of Jesus, had quite a lot to say about our treatment of the poor as well in chapter 2 of his letter:
14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”
Even earlier on in that chapter, he encourages us not to discriminate, with a reminder that it is usually not the poor who are the ones giving the rest of us a hard time:
1 My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. 2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. 3 If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
5 Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. 19 You believe that there is one God.Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.’
In fact he ends chapter 1 with this verse:
27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
While it doesn’t mention the poor specifically there, it is understood that orphans and widows would have been among the poorest of the poor, because not only do they not have money, but they don’t have anyone to look after them either. Worthy religion is the type that makes sure that they are well taken care of.
Which brings us back to our original Proverb and the writer is pretty specific about the implications of not treating them well. Here are two other translations of the same verse:
You insult your Maker when you exploit the powerless;
when you’re kind to the poor, you honor God.
Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker,
but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.
I think it’s pretty clear. And I’m sure none of us are looking to insult or show contempt to our Creator and Father God. But let’s be honest for a second – those people who really needed to hear this stuff more than likely stopped reading at the first mention of the poor…
For those of you who didn’t though, there was an article that Val linked to yesterday on the Two Cents blog page that takes this question to a whole other level for those of you who employ domestic workers. Moving the discussion from the point of “good enough” to actually “good”. We would love to hear your thoughts on that one, having been reminded of these words in the Bible.
Can it really be ‘Good News’ before it is Good News for the poor as well?