by Pastor Mark Hudson
One of the themes in the Bible is God’s care for the poor. Verse 7 reminds us that, “A righteous man knows the rights of the poor; a wicked man does not understand such knowledge.” Then in v. 14, “If a king faithfully judges the poor, his throne will be established forever.” We may find this quite unusual if we have been reading the Bible all our lives. But the fact that God loves the poor is unusual. Why?
The poor are often not seen. Of course, they are seen in one sense, but they are overlooked, regarded as unimportant nor worthy of our attention. We don’t really see in terms of comprehend, appreciate, or understand the poor. We often look past them not out of hatred but due to a lack of concern. Why spend time thinking about the poor?
The poor have no real advocacy or authority. That woman who serves you at a restaurant, does your dry cleaning or cleans your house is a person who does a job for you. The man who changes your oil, works in a grocery store, or fixes your lawnmower is just one of many people in your life that, frankly, is not important to you. They are easily overlooked with no negative consequence to you.
We do not aspire to drive their vehicle, live in their home, take their vacation, or have their job. We do NOT want to be poor, nor do we want our children to be. Yet the poor are all around us. We should have compassion on the poor. Why? Everyone human being is created in God’s image. That alone is a reason for care for every person we meet. They bear the image of God. This is a glorious thought that we are image-bearers of God.
Proverbs 29 says that a righteous person knows the rights of the poor. The poor have God-given rights. This is a significant verse. The poor have rights that should be protected and respected. We see this in the Old Testament. God commands farmers to leave some crops for the poor to gather so the poor can work and therefore eat. Here are a few verses to read in the first few books of the Bible where you see God’s concern for the poor.
Ex. 22:25 “If you lend money to any of my people with you who is poor, you shall not be like a moneylender to him, and you shall not exact interest from him.
Ex. 23:3 nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his lawsuit.
Ex. 23:6 “You shall not pervert the justice due to your poor in his lawsuit.
Ex. 23:11 but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, that the poor of your people may eat; and what they leave the beasts of the field may eat. You shall do likewise with your vineyard, and with your olive orchard.
Ex. 30:15 The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less, than the half shekel, when you give the LORD’S offering to make atonement for your lives.
Lev. 14:21 “But if he is poor and cannot afford so much, then he shall take one male lamb for a guilt offering to be waved, to make atonement for him, and a tenth of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil for a grain offering, and a log of oil;
Lev. 19:10 And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the LORD your God.
Deut. 15:7 “If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother,
Deut. 15:9 Take care lest there be an unworthy thought in your heart and you say, ‘The seventh year, the year of release is near,’ and your eye look grudgingly on your poor brother, and you give him nothing, and he cry to the LORD against you, and you be guilty of sin.
Deut. 15:11 For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’
Deut. 24:12 And if he is a poor man, you shall not sleep in his pledge.
Deut. 24:14 “You shall not oppress a hired worker who is poor and needy, whether he is one of your brothers or one of the sojourners who are in your land within your towns. 15 You shall give him his wages on the same day, before the sun sets (for he is poor and counts on it), lest he cry against you to the LORD, and you be guilty of sin.
Observe that God’s care includes God’s concern that the poor have food, that their rights in court are respected, how fair it is for them to pay as much as others for sacrifices, the treatment of the poor in work, ones attitude toward the poor, and yet, the people of God were not to overcompensate by being partial to the poor in Ex 23:3.
These verses are important for us since our Lord was poor and the early church continued this same concern for the poor. Of course, there were godly people in the Old and New Testament who were wealthy. So, we must be careful that we keep the emphasis on what happens on the inside. I’m sure we have seen many poor who are proud and many wealthy who are humble.
I wonder what impact churches would have if they demonstrated, in tangible ways in their communities, God’s care for the poor, widows, and orphans. Wouldn’t that be a great ministry? One, we would be serving people we know God cares for. Second, serving others is a road to happiness and joy if we serve for the glory of God. Third, maybe people would join us in helping the poor and come to Christ.
Father in heaven, give us wisdom as we look at others who are less fortunate than ourselves. We see Your compassion for the poor so soften our hearts to be generous and to see them as people with the same dreams we have for our children, dignity, and desire to be significant. We pray for the poor in Flint especially on cold days when it is hard to get around or keep their homes warm. Give us creative ways to help the poor. Thank you for the efforts some of our members are doing now for the widows and the poor. Thank you for people who visit, write cards, pray, and call others who can easily be forgotten. In the name of the One who has riches untold in heaven. Amen.