... about justice for the poor.
The book of proverbs has two themes / warnings regarding the poor, the first being a strong emphasis on personal responsibility / warning against laziness (10v4). The second theme / warning is the abuse of the poor by the wealthy & powerful (13v23). Whilst we must take note of both themes, it is the latter that I have been exploring.
Proverbs 29v7 states 'The righteous care about justice for the poor, yet the wicked have no such concerns'.
It is helpful to understand the context that the book of Proverbs was set in. God called out the lower working class of Egypt (the slaves) and set them in a Theocracy (a society governed & structured by God).
This new theocratic state had many laws & provisions to safeguard the poor:
- Justice system – Judicial Equality, Lev 19v15
- Preservation of Land – Jubilee, Lev 25v23-24
- Voluntary servitude – Sabbath Year Dt 15v13-14
- Access to harvest - Gleaning & Sabbath Yr Crops Lev 19v9, Ex 23v10-11
- Interest free, forgiveable loans – God’s people & Sabbath Year, Lev 25v35, Dt 15v1
- Collections – every 3 years, Dt 14v28-29
These together reveal something of Gods concern for the poor but unfortunately Israel failed to safeguard them, a common theme of the OT Prophets (Is 58v6-7).
Jesus transcended this theocracy & its social mechanisms, all of which pointed to his first (& ultimately second) coming. Jesus indentified with the poor, disadvantaged & oppressed, His focus was on their plight & meeting their needs (Luke 4v18-19). Acts 4v32-36 and 2Cor 8-9 describes communities of Christ followers expressing this same concern. How much more should we also follow Jesus’ example.
Proverbs 29v7 tells us that the righteous care about justice for the poor. By 2015, 1in5 children in UK will be in relative poverty; rising to 1in4 by 2020. Our economy is increasingly structured so that the best deals goes to those with greater resources, thereby reinforcing the poverty trap (buy 2 get 1 free deals at your supermarket is the tip of a big iceberg). Is this OK given true equality is the ‘haves’ meeting the needs of the ‘have nots’? (2Cor8v13-14)
So what? Let's at least be open thinking about this stuff. Justice for the poor can be expressed in our judicial system, health care, education, diet, housing, state benefits, transport systems and their dignity & place in church life.