“The righteous considers the cause of the poor, but the wicked does not understand such knowledge” (Proverbs 29:7).
Jesus said, “For you have the poor with you always….” (Matthew 26:11). There will always be poor people among us which are in poverty for a number of reasons. Some of the reasons are terrible circumstances such as health problems which have created huge medical expenses, family tragedies such as a parent leaving the family and creating financial hardship for the surviving parent, and economic reasons such as losing one’s job because of job cutbacks from one’s prior employer. However, other reasons for one’s experiencing poverty are self-inflicted such as choosing to drop out of school, engaging in sexual activity before marriage and having children before one is financially prepared to do so, or engaging in harmful activity such as drug and alcohol use.
How should one view the poor? The book of Proverbs warns us about mistreating the poor. First, we should not oppress the poor: “He who oppresses the poor reproaches his Maker, but he who honors Him has mercy on the needy” (Proverbs 14:31). Furthermore, we should not look down on the poor: “He who mocks the poor reproaches his Maker; he who is glad at calamity will not go unpunished” (Proverbs 17:5). Moreover, we should not shut our ears to the cry of the poor: “Whoever shuts his ears to the cry of the poor will also cry himself and not be heard” (Proverbs 21:13).
As the opening verse above indicates, we should “consider” the cause of the poor (Proverbs 29:7). We should not be hasty to assume the reason for a person’s poverty is self-inflicted. Instead, we should approach the poor with an attitude of empathy realizing but by the grace of God we also could be inflicted with poverty: “He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord, and He will pay back what he has given” (Proverbs 19:17). We need to remember the Lord made us both: “The rich and the poor have this in common, the Lord is the maker of them all” (Proverbs 22:2).
Our desire must be to help the poor by supplying what they need: “He who has a generous eye will be blessed, for he gives of his bread to the poor” (Proverbs 22:9). Solomon also states that God will bless those who give to the poor: “He who gives to the poor will not lack, but he who hides his eyes will have many curses” (Proverbs 28:27). Moreover, he notes, “There is one who makes himself rich, yet has nothing; and one who makes himself poor, yet has great riches” (Proverbs 13:7).
Supplying what one who is in poverty needs is not always easy to determine. For example, if the poor person’s poverty is self-inflicted because of drug or alcohol use, is giving them money what they really need? Again, this doesn’t mean we should prejudge every poor person and assume their poverty is self-inflicted. The point is we need to pray for wisdom and discernment regarding how best to help someone who is struggling in poverty. Today, I will guard against looking down and prejudging those in poverty. I will remember that God is the Maker of both those who are afflicted with poverty and me. I realize that but by the grace of God terrible circumstances could have happened to me that would have led me to poverty. I will have a generous disposition towards the poor and “consider” their cause and pray for God’s wisdom to know how best to help them.
“There is one who scatters, yet increases more; and there is one who withholds more than is right, but it leads to poverty. The generous soul will be made rich, and he who waters will also be watered himself. The people will curse him who withholds grain, but blessing will be on the head of him who sells it” (Proverbs 11:24-26).