Proverbs 22:22-23 struck me this morning, and since I already had a plan for the Proverbs Blog today, you’re getting these thoughts over here. These two verses are addressed to Solomon’s sons initially, but by extension we see all Scripture as valuable for all people. So, this is valuable for you and me as well.
These two verses warn against oppressing the poor because he is poor, and not to make the afflictions of the afflicted worse. The reasoning is that God Himself will plead their cases against you, and you will not win.
Let us break this down and note a few things:
First, the poor man: note that poverty is not something to be mocked or oppressed. Throughout the Proverbs, we see that laziness is not to be tolerated. We see that greed or foolishness may be punished, but poverty is no crime.
We have to be very cautious that we do not oppress those who are poor simply for their poverty. It is one thing to punish the guilty, but another to punish the helpless. Societally, we need to evaluate this. Do our social structures punish generations simply for being born poor? If so, something needs to change.
Second, the afflicted: here’s where I get grumpy with governments and businesses. Take this situation here (savingsarahsspine.wordpress.com) about how a company refuses to do what it takes money to do. And don’t think it would be any better with the government in charge of everything—look at some of the other stories (like this one about a boy needing medication) about how FDA regulations cause problems.
We crush them in the city gate. We deny life needing care because it’s too much trouble, or too much cost, or too much risk. Not for the afflicted, but for ourselves.
That’s only the physically ill. Consider those with invisible health problems who are crushed by a society that cannot cope with them. A veteran comes home with PTSD, loses his job because he can’t work it anymore, and our response is to medicate him and hope it gets better. Should we not do something different?
I’m not saying we should do more. The call to “do more” is usually a call to just throw some money at an issue, then throw more money at an issue. It’s never really a solve thing: you can “do more” for kids with learning disabilities simply by letting teachers and parents be the ones to determine what “success” looks like at school instead of a bureaucrat who doesn’t know the kid. Free the teachers to teach—and that for all kids, rather than the ones designated as “problems” for the system. End “test well or die!” at your local school system and see what happens. You’ll have “less” because the federal government will take away the deficit money they are sending you, but you’ll find “more” is the result of effort.
Third, YHWH will plead their case: here is where I will lose some of you.
The Lord God has already spoken, and we have that. In print, available in multiple translations and many languages. It’s called the Bible. Anything beyond that is man’s efforts to speak clearly about what God has already said.
Which means that when the poor and afflicted need their case spoken for, it falls to the people of God to do it. Not to the government or the charity, not to the media or to the social media. To the church and the people who make up the church.
This is not a call to abandon the Gospel that we proclaim, that Christ Jesus died for sinners and rose again.
This is a call that we should live as God’s people while calling out others to salvation in Christ. It is not that we stand for the poor in hopes they’ll be saved. It is not that we stand for the poor because it’s nice or looks good.
It is that we are the voice of the Lord. It's time we started speaking.