Breakfast with Solomon - Proverbs 28:3
"A poor man who oppresses the lowly is like a driving rain that leaves no food"
poor: This is the Hebrew word rus which means poor, poverty; in many cases it means destitution – one who does not have the means to sustain life in its most basic level. There is food, water, and shelter that is missing from this person's life.
oppresses: This is the Hebrew word asaq which means to oppress, defraud, gain through deceit. This word carries the idea of an abuse of power and/or some form of fraud or deception in which the one party gains while the other party loses. This “I gain while you lose” form of getting ahead is what the Bible calls stealing. No matter how clever the person does it or how subtle it is, it is still stealing. If your gain is because of my loss, then it is stealing. It is oppression.
There is the intimation in this idea of the word oppression that when a person who is destitute moves into positions of authority over another and uses its gain at the lowly's expense, it is doubly bad for they have been betrayed by one of their own. And there is no benefit at all for having been driven or used. There is not even any profits for the poor person has squandered or consumed those. There is not even anyone to sue and gain just compensation.
lowly: This is the Hebrew word dal which means one who is low; those who for various reasons are knocked down. It could be physical, spiritual, emotional, mental, and/or financial reasons that have them at this point down and low; but it is this type of person whom the destitute person in the proverb comes and oppresses, comes and swindles.
These are the tragic stories that we constantly hear on the news. A person who is on the margins of life – elderly, poor, mentally challenged, physically handicapped – is the target of the person who swindles them. They are conned or defrauded of the one area that they had going for them. This is so tragic. This is so wrong.
like a driving rain that leaves no food.
Solomon's comparison is telling. The literal translation is a driving rain that leaves no bread. The idea being that when the rains come and they are terrible to be out in and you are miserable, one can at least look forward to the wheat and other crops that will use this driving rain to grow. But when there are no seeds in the ground to turn the driving rain into some kind of profit, you are left having been driven and with nothing to show for it.
Solomon is pointing out that there is no good that comes from this type of conduct. There is no God allowing this because there is good coming down the road. This is just flat wrong and demands justice. It screams out for the perpetrators to be caught. It is true that God is so powerful that He can turn these incidents to become good things in the life of the person who loves Him (Romans 8:28). But this is not a good; it is a grievous evil. This is where Solomon is trying to train us, who will be leaders, to speak out against this; to demand justice to the perpetrators. It is not okay to just say that this is too bad; these people should be more careful. They were oppressed. If the leaders of a country or city or region are not willing to protect the rights of the lowly, then these completely unprofitable criminal acts will multiply and the society will become full of injustice.
Many people want to blame God. How could He let this happen? But He, through Solomon, is screaming back at us. How could you let this happen? We cannot allow the people who are at the margins to be killed, raped, conned, abused, etc. The strength of the society is shown on what it allows people to do to its vulnerable people: the elderly, the unborn, the minority, the children, the physically or mentally challenged.
This proverb is a lesson in justice and who is to blame for these travesties of righteousness. It is not God. It is the person who does this, and it is the society who does not prosecute this type of crime fully.