Breakfast with Solomon - Proverbs 22:22
"Do not rob the poor because he is poor, or crush the afflicted at the gate"
This is a part of the proverbs which again emphasizes a large number of things which should not be done. Solomon writes a number of prohibitions that need to be heeded. These are actions that will most likely present themselves to you at some time during your early adulthood that need to be avoided. This section begins with this verse in Proverbs 22:22 and runs until 24:34. These prohibitions form the last part of the continuous section that Solomon wrote in one collection. The next sections of the book of Proverbs are other collections of Solomon and other wise people whom God chose to inspire and include their writings in the canon of Scripture. It is significant that Solomon specifically chose to conclude his "book" of proverbs with this section that lists over 30 things to make sure that you do not do.
This is the first of the prohibitions that are required for true wisdom: Do not rob the poor, because he is poor or crush the afflicted at the gate.
do not rob the poor because he is poor
This is the Hebrew word gazal, which means to tear away, to seize, to rob. The idea here seems to be that when you are in a position of power or stability, you will be presented with situations where you can increase your stability and power by depriving those who do not have much of what they have. This may be in the form of actually taking what they have because they can't defend themselves. It may take the form of intimidating them to sell or donate or release to you what they have because you are in a position of power over them.
This is the Hebrew word dal, which means low, weak, poor, thin, helpless. The idea here is these people are not in a position to help themselves, and so you are presented with an opportunity to relieve them of some portion of what they have and they cannot successfully resist you – whether this is some land they inherited, some money they have saved, some skill they have, some possessions they have.
Unfortunately, this type of robbing the helpless takes place all the time. The powerful take advantage of their wealth to use the talent of the poor by having them sign a contract that pays the wealthy handsomely for the talent but the artist poorly. The powerful use their power to "take" the land of a person who owns one parcel through delayed payments and partnerships. There are hundreds of examples of what Solomon is saying here. It is important to note that Solomon says that God is watching, and He will take the joy and abundance and even the physical life from the person who does this.
Remember, Solomon is saying that you will most likely be offered opportunities to take advantage of people who have little and/or are helpless. Those around you may be encouraging you to do it, but it is not wise. God is watching. He will suck the life out of your life if you start down this road.
or crush the afflicted at the gate
This clearly refers to the courts and city government officials that sat at the gate of the city conducting business and deciding guilt and innocence. Solomon is saying that you may find yourself in the place of deciding over others’ actions, situations, and even justice. If you find yourself in that situation and you have the power to crush people, do not do that just because you can.
This is the Hebrew word ani, which means poor, afflicted, humble. This is a person who has some deep care or problem or difficulty which is crushing them. They come to you, their boss, their lawyer, their pastor, their councilman, their coach, their accountant, etc. What you say and how you say it can squeeze the life out of them. You can be proud and look down on them, saying through every look you give them, “I am better than you and would not have ever put myself in this situation.” You can let them know that there is no hope for their situation. You can give up on them because of the difficulties they are under.
Solomon is saying to be very careful when you use your position of influence, power, or authority. If you – through arrogance, greed, sloth, or revulsion – crush these people who need your help, remember God is watching. They will come to you for help and you can help them, but instead you add to the weight of the things that are crushing them. This is serious. Do not go down this road. You will prove your superiority, but God will suck the life out of your life.
Solomon has clearly seen the powerful use authoritative abuse of their power for their own advantage. He has watched what happens next enough to know that the short-term gain that takes place does not equal what God begins to do in judgment. You cannot go down the abuse of your power-path without consequences that you did not intend because there is a God.
When you find your power and your authority increasing, do not be tempted to use it for personal or corrupt reasons.