“The rich and the poor meet together; the Lord is the Maker of them all…Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him…Whoever oppresses the poor to increase his own wealth, or gives to the rich, will only come to poverty.” (Proverbs 14:31; 22:2, 16)
“‘And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” (Matthew 25:38-40)
Have you ever met a destitute person, who without help would not eat their next meal or have clothing to wear? If you are comfortable, can you imagine being born into poverty? If you are poor, imagine what it would be like to grow up in a family where all your needs were met without asking for help. Today let’s consider God’s sovereign and rightful determination that some of us are born into wealth, some into a comfortable middle-class economy, some into borderline poverty, and others into extreme scarcity. The Lord has his reasons for our predestination. “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:11-12) No matter what our material birthright, we have a more significant, permanent inheritance in Christ.
So what are we to do about the fact that there are so many needy among us? Proverbs and Matthew answer the question: do not oppress the poor, be generous, welcome the stranger, clothe them and visit them when they are in prison. Proverbs teaches us that oppression of the poor is an insult to God who created us all. Mocking, criticizing, using, or punishing those who are impoverished by circumstance is a great offense to the Lord. In contrast, having tender mercy on those who are in need and are made in the image of God honors and serves the Lord. The rich and the poor come together, perhaps in the way that the poor seek help from wealthy folks, or maybe because the Lord created us all. Here is a picture of dependence, one upon another. The poor may be dependent upon others for their material wellbeing, but the wealthy are dependent upon the poor for their spiritual prosperity as they fulfill their obligation to assist them. Those who are wealthy also have a need for minimally educated staff to help maintain their homes and businesses; many missionaries and expatriates employ staff in their homes as a means to assist them with dignity. Of course, the poor and the rich meet at the throne of grace and the foot of the cross, in Christ’s mercy, where earthly treasures are irrelevant. God’s generosity there will surpass all human benevolence.
How do you exalt God with your generosity and compassion for the poor, who deserve our honor and respect? What more can you do to meet together with your needy brothers and sisters in Christ?