Psalm 26:7--That I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all thy wondrous works.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Helping the Poor

Proverbs 14:31--He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker: but he that honoureth him hath mercy on the poor.

Treatment of the poor is frequently discussed in the Bible, especially in Proverbs (Pr. 14:20; 19:7; 17:5; 30:14). The Bible is also very clear about how God views our treatment of the poor: He absolutely despises it when the poor are oppressed, looked down upon, or left without help. In the verse above, an interesting tool called chiasmus is used to clearly express God's view of the poor. Chiasmus is a type of parallelism where two elements are presented, and then they are presented again in reverse order to emphasize the point. In this particular case, the repetition of the elements includes antithesis as well, presenting the opposite of the first statement.

In the general sense, it goes like this:
Treatment of the poor--->Attitude toward God
Attitude toward God--->Treatment of the poor

Specifically, with the antithesis included, it looks like this:
Oppression of the poor--->Reproach toward God
Honor toward God--->Mercy on the poor

So when the world often looks down on the poor and leaves them as outcasts, why would God care so much about them? I think this is answered by one of the key words in this verse: Maker. This identifies God as our Creator--not just the Creator of the well-to-do or the rich, but of the poor also. God has made the rich and poor alike, and when we look down on the poor, we're saying God did a bad job when He made that person. Also, God is in control of who's rich and who's poor. It's in His power to govern all the money in the world and decide who has what, so when we decide that the poor are not as good as others, we're once again judging God, saying He has foolishly judged and distributed. God does not take that lightly. Not only should we help the poor because God has created us all, but because of who we are as God's creation.

Every person on this planet, poor or rich, is made in God's image. Who we are as humans has nothing to do with how much money we have, but everything to do with the fact that we are made in the image of our loving Creator. When we neglect to help the poor, we reject that God's image is in that person. We see them as something besides human and therefore unworthy of our help. This goes beyond whether or not we help them. What's the first thing that pops into your mind when you think of a poor person? Smelly? Stupid? Lazy? Untrustworthy? Unclean? I hope not. That is definitely not what God intends, and it certainly does not please Him in the slightest. The poor are humans just as much as we are. We should view them as beautiful bearers of God's image. They are loved by God just as much as every other person; therefore they deserve our love and help too.

Lastly, when we help the poor, it shows them God's love and mercy. By helping the poor, I'm not talking about putting everybody on welfare or emptying our bank accounts to give money to every person who asks. There are people who are simply lazy and won't work to earn money. That is also heavily discussed in the Bible and heavily disliked by God. What I mean is helping those who have no other options, those who, by divine will and providence, have been rendered poor. God has put them in that position so we will help them, because when we do, we are representing God's love and mercy. We reenact the way God helped us in our helpless estate.

You see, by nature, humans are spiritually bankrupt. We're all sinners, and therefore have an unpayable debt we owe God. But not only is the debt unpayable, we don't have anything to pay with to begin with. The only way our debt could be settled is for a perfect sacrifice to be offered. That Sacrifice was Jesus. He became poor for our sakes, shed His blood on the cross for our sins, and rose from the grave for our eternal salvation. Only by putting your complete trust and faith in Him can you get to Heaven. If you don't know Him as Lord and Savior, please click the Salvation tab above for more information.

So, how do you treat the poor? Often around the holidays our giving goes up, but what do you do the rest of the year? The poor are God's creation, and they too are bearers of God's image. They shouldn't be oppressed or neglected. They should be loved and helped. When we do that, it is another way to display God's amazing love and mercy to them and the world.

Thank you for reading. God bless you as you seek to grow closer to our Lord and Savior!

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