- Dr. Stieglitz
Breakfast with Solomon - Proverbs 14:31
"He who oppresses the poor taunts his Maker, but he who is gracious to the needy honors Him"
gracious: This is the Hebrew word chanan, which means to show favor, be gracious, show pity. This word is verbally connected to the word taunt in Hebrew in its sound, charaph. Don't charaph God but instead chanan the poor, which praises Him.
Solomon is trying to counter the idea that it is okay to exploit the poor because it is their own fault that they are poor.
There are a number of themes that run through the Scriptures that seem to be contradictory. One of the themes is that everyone can love God, obey God, and enjoy a relationship with God no matter what one's circumstances of life. Another theme is that God blesses those who follow His rules and punishes those who do not. Another theme is that God has allowed people to be born into confined circumstances that they will never escape. This has been called one's lot in life. The confining issues could be their abilities, their backgrounds, their experiences, their heritage, etc. They can and should maximize their lot in life but will not be able to escape that confinement.
There was in Solomon's day and even in the Lord Jesus' day an overemphasis on the idea that rich people are blessed by God; if you are poor it is your own fault. This meant that many people felt that if you were rich, you were blessed by God and if you were poor, you were cursed by God. Therefore, the corollary is that poor people are poor because of their own choices. This is not true as a comprehensive statement. Solomon, in this proverb, is injecting a balancing truth into the followers of wisdom. The poor are not always poor because of an individual judgment on them. Some are poor because God has allowed them to be created in that circumstance. Some are poor because of other people's selfish choices. Some are poor because of a lack of opportunities.
Do not oppress the poor just because you can is the message in this proverb. Oppression can take the form of unfair wages, unfair working conditions, unfair social conditions, unfair access to justice, social stereotyping, insults, and unfair hiring practices. When you do this, you insult God. The word taunt is the Hebrew word charaph, which means reproach, insult, taunt, revile. Some people believe that they have the right to insult the poor because the poor carved out this place for themselves. This is not true in many cases.
Solomon is trying to uphold the value of being generous and gracious to the poor. This is a crucial value in the world today. One adds value to God by gracious actions to the poor and by recognizing their standing as humans.
The wise person is one who realizes that they must be positive, beneficial, gracious, and kind to all of God's creations, especially those who have known the deprivation of this world's goods.
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