Originally published by the Theology of Work Project.
The proverbs do not stop with commending generosity but go further to claim that caring for the poor is a matter of justice. First, the proverbs recognize that people are often poor because the rich and powerful defraud or oppress them. Or, if they were already poor, they have become easy targets for further fraud and oppression. This is abhorrent to God and he will bring judgment against those who do it.
Those who oppress the poor insult their Maker, but those who are kind to the needy honor him. (Prov. 14:31)
Oppressing the poor in order to enrich oneself, and giving to the rich, will lead only to loss. (Prov. 22:16)
Do not rob the poor because they are poor, or crush the afflicted at the gate, for the Lord pleads their cause and despoils of life those who despoil them. (Prov. 22:22-23)
Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity, and the rod of anger will fail. Those who are generous are blessed, for they share their bread with the poor. (Prov. 22:8-9)
One who augments wealth by exorbitant interest gathers it for another who is kind to the poor. (Prov. 28:8)
The bottom line is found in Proverbs 16:8, “Better is a little with righteousness than large income with injustice.”
Second, even if you have not defrauded or oppressed the poor, God’s justice requires that you do what you can to set things right for them, beginning with meeting their immediate needs.
Photo by Nate Harrison, FULLER Studio.