“Do not rob the poor, because he is poor, or crush the afflicted at the gate, for the Lord will plead their cause and rob of life those who rob them. (Proverbs 22:22-23)
“And the word of the Lord came to Zechariah, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.’” (Zechariah 7:8-10)
In the providence of God, we find ourselves studying oppression of the poor while the USA is, unfortunately, dealing with a dramatic situation of biblical injustice. It has never been, nor will it ever be my intention to state political views or opinions on this blog. The Bible, however, is always relevant to life, in every age, for every nation. Between May 2 and June 9 over two thousand children were taken from their parents and held in separate government centers, according to the Department of Homeland Security, per today’s news reports. This is a glaring illustration of oppression of the poor and immigrant (sojourners). As Dr. Tata, my pastor stated today, as Christians “we take our cues about the treatment of immigrants and refugees from the Bible, not from society.” In the Proverbs verse above, crushing “the afflicted at the gate” refers to injustice in the courts toward the vulnerable, since the gate is the place where people held legal tribunals. In the story of Ruth, Boaz takes his case to the gate where the elders have the authority to judge Boaz’s right to be Ruth’s redeemer. God worked on Boaz’s and Ruth’s behalf to give Ruth justice.
There are many other ways that the world takes advantage of the poor; one is moneylenders who charge ridiculous interest for loans to those who have no collateral. This is robbing the poor and explicitly forbidden in Scripture. The poor and elderly are also snared by telephone solicitors, questionable advertising, and misleading offers.
In the story of Ruth, Boaz provides a beautiful example of how we are to treat the poor. Ruth, a poor, foreign widower is met by Boaz with greetings of blessings and given the opportunity to work at gleaning in his field, as prescribed by the Bible. So rather than give her wheat, she has the dignity to work for it and is also then offered a place at his table. Boaz looked beyond Ruth’s poverty to her character. He treated her with kindness, justice, and the love of God. We should do the same for the poor in our midst.
As we explore our care for the poor, widows, orphans, and aliens (immigrants and refugees), we will need to have discernment about causes of poverty, since some distress is self-inflicted and other is by circumstances beyond the individual’s control. Did Naomi and her husband bring on their problems by leaving Bethlehem in search of a more comfortable life? We cannot rule out this possibility. However, since Boaz did not hold this against Ruth, neither should we. The Lord not only honored Ruth in her marriage to Boaz but provided for her inclusion in the family line of Christ, through their son, Obed (Ruth 4:17-22).
When you give to ministries, NGOs, or missionaries, do you consider how they are helping the poor with dignity? Will you look beyond the emotional appeal or political arguments to biblical principles for your contributions?