Proverbsby David Cook
The poor, along with those who are weak and vulnerable, have always had a special place in God's heart. In the Bible, they are also often compared to the rich. Proverbs 28 makes six observations of the poor:
One, the poor are at the mercy of leaders, who can be a source of blessing or curse to them. Thoughtless policies can be devastating to the vulnerable, just as heavy rains can destroy crops (v. 3). Some Bible versions refer to a ″poor man″ oppressing the poor rather than a ″ruler″, reflecting a possible alternative translation of the original Hebrew word. In this case, the observation is of a poor man who oppresses the poor-even though we would expect him to have greater sympathy for his fellows.
Two, it is better to be poor and blameless and to keep one's integrity, than to be rich and crooked (v. 6). This verse stresses the value of integrity and virtue over wealth.
Three, the poor may suffer when the unrighteous seek to grow rich by charging them exorbitant interest. Ultimately, however, these rich people will not be able to hold onto their wealth, as it will end up in the hands of the virtuous who will distribute it back to the poor (v. 8). While this verse does not say how this will happen, we can surmise that God, who cares for the poor and vulnerable, will ensure justice will prevail.
Four, the poor may possess a wealth of wisdom that the rich lack (v. 11). The rich may have a false sense of security and are blind to their true needs and condition, whereas the poor have the discernment to see wealth and arrogance for what they really are (see 23:5).
Five, poverty can also be a result of daydreaming-or hoping for shortcuts to wealth-instead of working hard (28:19). Or it can result from a selfish greed that will eventually lead to poverty (v. 22).
Six, generosity will be rewarded (v. 27; see also 11:24-25). Our God is a generous God: He gives graciously, even though we do not deserve it and so, He expects us to show compassionate generosity too. We give because God gave (2 Corinthians 8:7-9). This is why Israel was to recognise God's ownership and generosity by giving a tithe of 10 per cent. Without being legalistic, this is a good proportion for giving, though we ought to feel free to give much more.
Britain's great post-war builder John Laing, a man of firm Christian conviction, made millions from his construction company, but was known for his generosity. It was said of Laing that ″the man who had handled millions had given them all away″. Laing was also known for living frugally; he once said: ″Everyone should have a home just big enough to serve its purpose.″8
The sluggard never has anything to share; one of the blessings of work is that it gives us the opportunity to give. The three key points of a well-known sermon by the founder of the Methodist church, John Wesley, on the use of money were: earn all you can; give all you can; save all you can. Remember: ″God loves a cheerful giver″ (2 Corinthians 9:7).
8Garry J. Williams, Silent Witnesses (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Publishers, 2013), 148-149.
Reflect on what Proverbs 28 says about the poor and the rich. How does it compare to your own views on wealth? And what would it say about your attitude towards your personal wealth and possessions?
How can you be more generous today? Think of some practical ways to give.